(You might be surprised by the answer)
We hear it all the time, “I was doing nothing different” when one day someone bent over and got horrible low back pain. Sometimes the pain shoots from their back and down their leg. Sometimes you know what caused your pain. Like picking up something very heavy and awkward. In this case well there is no mystery as to what happened. But what about those instances when you were “totally innocent” and had a sudden back pain attack? You did nothing very different, and nothing dramatic or traumatic. Well, you may have had a problem long before you felt the pain. The answer may be that you have a “hidden” muscle imbalance lurking that puts you in danger of low back pain attacks.
Here is how we help you fix the problem.
First we find out what the imbalances are
- We start from the feet up. If you have flat feet, or if your feet roll in, or if you have high arches… this sets up some muscle imbalances from the lower legs to the thighs up into the lower back. Correcting the foot imbalances allows the leg and lower back muscles to work more harmoniously. This reduces the likelihood of lower back pain attacks.
- We check for tight hamstrings behind your thigh and weak quadriceps over the front of your thing or vice versa. Muscles like these counterbalance each other. If one is over-tight, then the opposing muscle will automatically be weak. Because these two muscles attach at the back and front of your pelvic bones… an imbalance of their tension will alter your posture. This altered posture changes how your body weight is borne on your lower back. If the imbalance goes on long enough, you can suffer disc degeneration and early arthritis in your lower back joints.
- Next the buttock muscles called the gluteals are checked. Often these muscles are too weak. The gluteals besides working to help you walk, also stabilize your pelvis when standing. Again if they are too weak, your posture and thus your weight bearing on your spine suffers.
- The oddly named Psoas muscles attach to the front of your lower back vertebra and run down to attach at your inner thigh bones. These two muscles (to the right and left of your spine) work to bend your torso forward when your feet are planted. And, they raise your thighs towards your body. These are big muscles because they move big body parts. These muscles become over tight and shortened from prolonged sitting, such as working at a desk or from a driving job. If they pull too tight, they pull your spine forward in to a “sway back” position. This posture again causes your body weight to be borne more over your lower back joints. This leads to lower back pains and early arthritis in the lower back spinal joints.
- The Lower back muscles that run along each side of your spine hold you upright and extend your back when you lean backwards. These muscles can be too weak if the psoas muscles are too tight.
You also have little spinal muscles deep along your spine. These muscles hold your spinal joints in proper alignment when you move. These are usually very weak in people with chronic lower back pain and recurring low back pain attacks. MRI’s on low back pain patients show these deep muscles. When weak, they will look like a marbled piece of meat with a lot of fat in the muscle instead of healthy muscle fibers.
When you hear us speak of strengthening your spinal stabilization muscles, these are the ones we are targeting with some of the specialized exercises we give.
- Abdominal muscles: if too weak will not support your torso well from the front. If you have a large tummy, this again works to pull your lower back into a sway back position thus putting you in danger of low back pain attacks.
So what can you do about imbalanced muscles leading to low back pains?
- Find out what your postural and muscle imbalances are
- Find out if you need orthotics to correct any imbalances from your feet
- Learn proper ergonomics for your job and home life (such has not sitting for hours and hours at a time)
- Let us teach you the special exercises needed to stretch your overly tight muscles, while strengthening your weak muscles so you eventually improve your muscle balance
- Take to heart the advice we give you about which exercises to avoid at the gym so you are not over strengthening an already over-tight muscle.
- Keep your joints moving optimally with regular chiropractic adjustments. Stuck joints will cause muscles to stay tight.
- And, if you are ready to get in balance for better health … give us a call at 978-535-6155 for an evaluation to get started.
After all, May is Good Posture Month.