Tom Cotter, DC, DACRB
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but sitting all day isn’t so good for you. One of the reasons it becomes problematic is it places the hip flexors in a shortened state. All in all, that’s not a bad thing on a temporary basis. Where it becomes detrimental is when it becomes a chronic pattern. If a muscle is allowed to stay in a shortened state without being used in its elongated state, it will remodel into a shorter muscle. Wide range of motion and long muscles are very energy demanding for the body. So if the body thinks it doesn’t need part of that range of motion the body reduces it to conserve energy.
OK, OK tight hip flexors. I get it. But how does this affect my back. Well, when these muscles shorten, you lose hip extension. Hip extension is your leg being brought behind your body. Even though the hip can no longer move in that full range, the body finds a way to allow you to walk or stand up straight. It does this by hyperextending your low back. Every time you stand up or take a step, the joints in your low back end up being jammed together. Over and over. At which point, most people think they should rest their back by sitting or lying down more. This simply propagates the problem.
There are two things that must be done to help with this. The first is the glutes have to be strengthened. This can be done with squats, lunges, glute bridges etc. The second is the hip flexors have to be remodeled. Notice, I didn’t just say “stretched.” A stretch once a day or simply here or there will only yield a short term (15-20 min) increased length in the muscle. But, if we get it to remodel, that’ll yield a permanent fix. To get that permanent fix, we have to stretch A LOT! 4-5 times per day 15-30 reps each time, for 6-8 weeks. It sounds like quite a chore, but each time only takes a minute or so. So, let’s get on to it. The hip flexor stretch is very simple, but there are a couple of incredibly crucial components to it. You’ll start off by kneeling on one knee (use a pillow or pad if needed), then have the opposite knee up in front of you with the shin perpendicular to the ground.
At this point, tuck your tailbone underneath you (posteriorly tilt the pelvis) and now pull yourself forward with your front leg. Hold this for 1-2 seconds and repeat. The stretch should be felt on the front of the down leg hip. If you don’t feel that, you probably didn’t properly tilt your pelvis.This should be painless for the low back. If you’re feeling any low back pain, you’re likely extending your back instead of your hip.
If these exercises haven’t fully resolved your issue, or you know someone that might benefit from our services, be sure to schedule from our website www.activehealthKC.com or call 913-341 -1200.