Low Back Pain: Squeeze the Cheeks


“If my back was stronger, it wouldn’t go out all the time.”

Have you ever said this before? What if I told you your back might not be the culprit? Somewhere in the ballpark of 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives and will be given medications, possibly an MRI (See previous blog regarding low back pain correlation to MRI results), abdominal strengthening, or my personal favorite, the ol’ wait and see treatment. While some of these may be more appropriate than others, often times low back pain may not be caused by problems in the back all. In fact, your low back may be doing TOO much work!

Tell me if you’re guilty of this- You’re carrying in grocery bags from the car and on the last trip, you bend over to pick up the last couple bags, knees straight, back slumped, possibly twisted to one side to pick them up in just one hand… and OUCH. There was probably something missing in this equation and I’m not talking about the Totino’s Pizza Rolls. You didn’t squeeze the cheeks!

The cheeks, or gluteus maximus if you want to be technical, are those big meaty muscles of the tush. They attach into the tissue that supports the low back, hips and even down into the knees. Talk about triple dipping! The problem we often run into is that we often don’t use our glutes and if we aren’t using our them, something else has to take up the load = Low Back Pain.

That sounds weird, right? Why would we not use one of the biggest, strongest, most important muscles in our body? If you’re into percentages, 86% of Americans sit for 8 hours or more at work all day everyday. That’s not including time spent at home watching TV, eating, etc. Now consider the fact that applying direct pressure to a muscle can cause it to inhibit, or cease firing, so if you are sitting all day long, no wonder those darn glutes won’t kick on when they should. Not to mention that often times, it’s just easier to bend over to pick up the grocery bags and rely on passive structures in the low back, like ligaments, to hold us up rather than using muscles which require work. I call this the “lazy lift.” This gets us into bad movement patterns and, you guessed it, low back pain.

So now that you know what the problem is and what might cause it, how do you fix it? Squeeze the cheeks! Is it that simple? Probably not, but included below are a few simple exercises you can start with at home to help you relearn how to use these mighty muscles the way they were meant to be used. Click the image below to get it downloaded!

 

If you’ve given these exercises a shot and simply can’t figure out how to squeeze the cheeks, need progressions to make them a bit more challenging, or if your back pain is not improving, call us at 480-786-4969 to speak to a Doctor of Physical Therapy so that we can give you a thorough evaluation and get you back to your pain-free life.

Here at Chandler Physical Therapy, we also offer FREE Discovery Sessions that give you a chance to sit down 1 on 1 with a therapist to evaluate your issues. If this sounds like something you’d like, then click HERE to get in contact.

 

Talk soon,

Jake Kelso PT, DPT

Cheek-Squeeze Enthusiast