Have you ever experienced a dull, achy pain, or even a sharp, stabbing pain in your low back after bending forward and wonder what happened? This is a common experience as low back pain itself is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. This is often the cause of strain to the muscles of the back, specifically either the muscles directly next to the spine (Paraspinals), or the deep muscles of the spine that connect vertebrae together (interspinal muscles). These muscles are commonly strained due to taking excessive load or force during movements such as bending forward. But when we take a deeper look as to why these muscles take so much strain during this motion it is often time because we are too tight in our surrounding joints such as our hips or thoracic spine (Mid back). The entire body is connected and that is true for our muscles, tendons, and ligaments as well. These connections are called chains and there are several chains throughout our body.
This picture highlights the posterior chain of muscles, posterior literally translates to back. The chain begins at the bottom of the foot in the plantar fascia and travels up the calf muscles, the hamstrings, into the pelvic muscles, and all the way up the spine to the top of the head! Can you believe all of that? If you are having a difficult time with this concept, keep reading and I will highlight how these muscles move together rather than as individual levers.
One of the most common injuries when bending forward therefore is a strain to the low back muscles. This is often times because the calf, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles are far too tight to allow the hips to hinge properly, thus putting all of the pressure on our spine as we bend forward. Hamstring tightness is a huge contributing factor, especially for people who sit in a chair at a desk for work all day, 40 hours a week. How is this possible?
This picture highlights how sitting causes the hamstrings and the hip flexors actually to be in a chronically tightened position. Imagine then, sitting for 40 hours a week, 50 weeks of the year, and you can easily see how your hamstrings can become very tight. Referring back to the posterior chain of muscles, tight hamstrings do not allow the hips to properly hinge like a joint to allow for full flexion, which thus results in added pressure and work load on the back muscles leading to a strained back. This usually results in sudden, severe sharp stabbing pain that lasts for the next few days before turning to a dull achy pain. Both severe enough that people seek care at Empower Chiropractic for often. Then how do we help with this problem? Chiropractic is great at making sure the joints in your spine and hips function the way they were meant to which allows for your nervous system and body to properly coordinate muscle activation and movement. But it is also important to maintain mobility in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments to allow for full range of motion throughout the body when we perform daily movements such as bending forward.
One great exercise for this is known as the hip hinge. This picture nicely depicts how to properly do a hip hinge also. You want to make sure your spine stays neutral or straight, so this person is using a dowel rod to ensure his spine does not move during this exercise. Next, you want to only bend at the hip joint, where the femur connects to the pelvis. You want to try to keep your knees straight UNTIL your hamstrings naturally pull on the knee causing them to bend. You will instantly feel a good stretch in your hamstrings from the thigh all the way to the knee and this is how you know you are successfully hinging at the hips. Do this everyday and over time your hamstrings will gain mobility and you will become more functional over time.
If you would like help with any of this, we are happy to help as we educate people on this exercise daily and help people improve their health and life! Call us today: 913-278-1598!