Getting cheeky about low back pain
More precisely, I want to talk about your gluteal muscles–these are your butt muscles and they play a significant role in low back pain. The gluteal muscles work in concert with the many other muscles of the hip to power your legs through running, jumping, walking, squatting, climbing stairs and even standing out of a chair. They are the strongest muscles in your body.
Or at least, they’re supposed to be the strongest.
Most of us sit all day on our behinds. This sitting causes our gluteal muscles to become tight and weak. Then, when we go to the gym, go for a run, or simply get out of our chairs we experience all kinds of dysfunction and low back pain. Movements such as running and squatting, even simply bending over to pick something off the floor become difficult when your muscles are tight and not working properly. Furthermore, strong gluteals, or “glutes”, means huge improvements in movement efficiency, as well as reduced risk of injury to your low back and your knees.
Since the back and gluteal muscles are all connected, short and tight gluteal muscles can cause tension and contribute to low back pain. If your gluteal muscles are weak, your body will over-compensate for lack of strength in your hips by using your back muscles. Relying on the wrong muscles can cause imbalances over time and lead to injury. Chances are that you are not even using your glutes properly when walking!
How do we fix the problem?
While it would be nice to eliminate all of those sitting activities in our day, for most people this is unrealistic. If your company allows it, working with an ergonomics expert to create a standing desk can do wonders for increasing mobility and reducing pain.
I suggest strengthening and stretching the gluteal muscles. To work out the tightness and knots in the muscles, I recommend purchasing a solid, firm ball such as a lacrosse ball (hollow or spongy ones such as tennis balls are less effective) then,
- place the ball beneath one of your buttocks and sit on the ball
- relax and allow the ball to sink into the muscle, hovering around tight and painful areas
- remain in this position for as long as you can tolerate or until you feel the muscle relax and release
- move around one side of the buttock while sitting on the ball
- then move toward the side of the hip and the top of the glutes near the low back
- as with any deep tissue massage, this can leave the area sore the next morning
Now that your glute muscles are looser, it is important to make sure they are strong. If you cannot squeeze your glute muscles when you are standing, you need to learn to activate them. Glute bridges, for example, are a good start, but there are many strengthening and activating exercises to choose from. A skilled health professional can create the perfect plan for you.
Unless you are incredibly active in your job and generally avoid sitting, everyone can benefit from some gluteal therapy to unlock power and potential of your glutes and free you from low back pain. Pay some attention to your butt muscles now in order to help fix or prevent low back pain down the road.