Is Your Low Back Pain Really Coming From Your Low Back?
A shade tree mechanic will tell you, “ If the parts wear together you need to replace them together” even if one part still seems fine. It is because chances are the other part was compensating for the weakness of the other part before that part broke. That compensation could have weakened or increased the wear and tear on the part that didn't break and shorten it's life. It's not so different with the human body.
One part of your body may be causing you pain but the human body is a very well balanced vehicle. If your low back is hurting the cause might be something else. In the case of your low back you might wake up and it's just another day, and swinging your legs off the bed, instantly you feel your low back aches, or later on you reach to lift something and there it is, that low back pain (often excruciating) and tightness again. You didn't do anything to cause it. It just happened.
Everyone will tell you, you need to strengthen your core and stretch to get rid of low back pain. While weak abdominal muscles are typically a contributor, there are other lessor known culprits; the hamstrings. They can reek havoc on your low back and your buns of steel, the glutes. The hamstrings are the group of three muscles located in the back of the thigh. The hamstrings attach to the bottom of your pelvic bones. If they get too tight they can pull down on the pelvis and increase the work for the pelvic muscles and low back. Normal activities rarely give that group of muscles the type of stretching they need to keep them from getting overly tight.
So what causes tight hamstrings? Well, typically, weak abdominals, (just like everyone assumed) caused your low back pain as well as tight hamstrings which in turn aided in causing your low back pain. See the cycle here? Or There are even more probable causes. Remember the shade tree mechanic? Poor posture, compensating changes in how you hold yourself due to pain in another part of your body can cause weakness or stiffness or over work in other areas of the body. The weakness of other muscles or another movement related issues can change the stress on the hamstrings. For example: The flexor muscles at the front of the hips can also contribute to the tightening of the hamstrings. And...if your gluteal muscles aren't really buns of steel, those weak muscles can contribute to the tight hamstrings and low back pain as well. Everything is related.
Stretching the hamstrings on a regular basis can help keep both this group of muscles of the low back, the glutes and even sciatica pain from ruining your day. Stretching will reduce tightness and keep you healthy. The stretches should be used to reeducate and elongate the hamstrings.
As always see a physician before trying any exercise or stretching program. The sciatic nerve can be irritated by some stretches.
Two of the stretches I recommend are:
A chair stretch for hamstrings
Sit on a chair
place legs straight in front of you on another chair.
Reach toward your toes.
Hold for 20-45 seconds
repeat 5-7 times
This is my favorite, but I use the end of a dog leash so I have more control.
Towel stretch for hamstrings
Lie on the floor
hold a small bath sized towel one end in each hand.
pull the leg up and straighten it into the towel held in your hands so that the body of the towel is behind the foot.
Push into the towel
You may alternate legs.
Hold stretch for 20 to 45 Seconds
repeat 5-7 times.
Deep tissue massage can do more than stretching alone:
Massage stretches the muscles obliquely and transversely which aids in increased circulation to the area and by relaxing the muscles so they can stretch with greater ease. This is something that can't be achieved by simple stretching alone. Massage also helps reducing scar tissue and adhesions by breaking it down.
So, to recap, stretching your hamstring muscles, being mindful of your posture and strengthening your abdominals, flexor hip muscles and your glutes as well as deep tissue massage can do wonders for low back pain.