Back pain is the number one issue that affects millions of people around the world today. Why? We have the best information and treatment available, so, why is the back not healthy? The problem is being addressed but the answer is being missed.
Modern life makes us a slave to its conveniences. We sit in front of computers for work and for leisure; and on the couch watching TV for hours everyday. We sit and use our smart phones hunched over mindlessly affecting our body’s position. The primary reason the spine loses alignment is because the hips lose their alignment from sitting. The cause is not primary the spine. Hold that thought. When the spine loses alignment, this is when imbalance and tension starts, producing strain, ache and pain. And furthermore, the spine misalignment produces a poor foundation for your neck, arms and shoulders to move.
Why Does Sitting Affect the Spine?
When you sit in a chair and sit back, the hips tilt back. When the hips tilt back, the spine rounds forward. When the hips tilt forward the spine hyperextends. When you move the hips forward in the seated position, you will feel the spine become more upright. The hips are the gyroscope for the spine.
Whatever position you hold yourself in when sitting becomes just that. The key to spinal alignment is the hips alignment; and the key to optimal mobility for the neck, shoulders and arms is the spines alignment. So yes, your shoulder and neck issues can be coming from your hips, ramifying misalignment through your body, likewise to your knees and ankles. Misalignment disrupts mobility and movement. The more force we place on misalignment through daily movement tasks, running, fitness and strength programs, the more we exacerbate the issue leading to pain and injury. Misalignment cannot withstand and distribute movement forces properly because your joints and muscles shift into a poor imbalanced stuck position. Over time it becomes worse. What is dysfunctional today malfunctions through time developing strain, pain, injury, disease or musculoskeletal disorder.
Become mindful of your breathing and body alignment especially when sitting. Try to sit with the hips forward on the sit bones. This will balance your hips to balance the center of gravity. You can see by moving the hips forward in comparison to the other photos that it straightens the spine. Sitting with the hips in this position prevents the spine from rounding forward.
Exercises that will help restore balance and alignment to the hips.
Lunge- Hip Bridge- Side Leg Raise - Face Down Leg Scissor- Lying Down Knee Bend Straight Leg Raise
The lunge is a great movement to restore alignment because the glutes contraction pushes the hips into an aligned and balanced position, reversing the hip from tilting forward. If you can’t contract your glutes then the hip flexors are too tight and imbalanced. You probably have what they call gluteal amnesia. This happens from sitting too much and long throughout the day because the gluteal muscles become weak from sitting. It happens to everyone. So, make the glutes remember and practice.
From the lunge position contract the glute and then focus on lowering the hip down to the floor, not lean the spine forward. You will feel a huge difference in your lunge by leaning the spine back, like in photo two, or maintaining an aligned position rather than moving the spine forward. In photo two, if you lean back, you will the effects through to your feet. The most important thing to do is to contract the glute first and stretch the hip flexor second. Hold the contractions for 5 seconds and relax and repeat. In order to increase the lunge the glutes need to contract, not just stretching the hip flexor/quads.
Hip bridges are great for the same reasons stated above, except here you have more involvement from the abdominals and lower back. Push your hips up into the air keeping your knees about a fist width apart. Contract the glutes. It is essential you breathe in and produce isometric contraction to the abdominals while contracting the glutes to feel the effects to the lower back. Hold for 5 seconds and relax and repeat.
The side leg raise strengthens the glute medius on the side of the hip. This muscle provides stability and balance to the knee and lower back. Laying on your side lift your leg into the air contracting the glute medius on the side of the hip. Slightly pull the toes toward the knee and contract the quads and glute. Breathe in and produce isometric abdominal contraction. You will feel the oblique and lower back stabilize. Hold all the contractions for 5 seconds and relax and repeat.
Face down leg scissors strengthen the buttock, glute medius' on the side of the hips and lower back at the same time. Laying face down on your elbows, straighten your legs by contracting the glutes and quads. You will feel the lumbar stabilize. Hold the contractions for 5 seconds and relax and repeat.
The knee bend straight leg raise contracts the quads and stretches the hamstrings as well as strengthens a small muscle on the front side of the hip in the 1 o’clock position that affects the lower back too. If you can’t straighten your leg the hamstrings are too tight preventing the quads from contracting or the quads are weak. This happens from sitting as well because of the knees in a bent position. Laying on your back lift your knee toward your chest contracting the hip flexor muscles. Slowly extend the leg contracting the quads, slightly pulling the toes down toward the knee. You will feel the quads and abdominals contact and the hamstring stretch. Hold for 5 seconds and relax by bending the knee and repeat by straightening the leg.
From doing theses exercises in this order you will eliminate the misalignment causing strain, pain and imbalance, restoring the hips alignment into a better position energetically and for the spines alignment to function optimally and safely move. You will develop more motion in the exercise and other joints will move better and feel better as well. Moving and exercising on misalignment adds more force to imbalance leading to affliction.
We influence the structure from habits and the work we do. That influences function and function dictates how we move. The better the body functions the better our health, well-being and energy will be. The better we move the safer we are to augment strength, fitness and exercise. Function first, move well and move frequently.
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