Life throws us a lot of curves that can really affect our backs. Moving, carrying children, groceries, luggage, working out, not working out; the list truly goes on and on. Therefore, it’s important not to forget to nurture your back and give it some love.
Back pain often occurs when certain muscles become tight, pulling the pelvis in one direction or another, while other muscles become weak making it hard to stabilize the pelvis and spine. A common posture seen in a high number of people is a flat back posture (posterior pelvic tilt shown in figure 1). Typically, the hamstrings become short and tight as well as the low back muscles, pulling the pelvis backward (flat back). Think of someone with a string attached to the bottom of your buttocks and they are pulling that string down toward the ground, bringing your pelvis with it. This can often lead to the glutes (buttocks) becoming weak and can no longer support the back.
Another typical posture that causes low-back pain is an anterior pelvic tilt posture as seen in figure 2. The hip flexors are short and tight pulling the pelvis forward often making the lower abdominal muscles long and weak causing the feet to pronate, which leads to knee pain. Further, the low back muscles also become weak, leaving the spine unstable and unprotected.
Stretching the hip flexors and strengthening the lower abdominals can help bring the pelvis back into alignment reducing back pain as well as knee pain.
Often back pain occurs in both scenarios because the body is out of alignment, and as soon as the body is loaded, be it from walking, running, or carrying children or groceries, the area where you deviate from good posture will absorb the load, leading to pain. This can also occur in the thoracic spine (upper spine) if the spine is rounded in the upper back (thoracic kyphosis in figure 2), or in some cases very flat.
Maintaining healthy ergonomics in your regular routine is essential to good posture, as well as doing things like being mindful of how we carry a purse or backpack. See my blog on ergonomics.
The stretches and exercises in this handout are designed to help bring the body back into balance and reduce the load on the spine and low back. Give them a try and let me know what you think. Remember, always consult a physician before starting any exercise program.