Is Back Pain Keeping You Down?
Are you one of the millions of people suffering from low back? Back pain is probably the most common issue that is treated in most PT clinics and for good reason. 8 out of 10 people will suffer from back pain at some point in time during their life and 54% of those who experience back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. So what if I told you that your back is often not the source of your pain? What if told you that it in fact your hips, not your back are more likely the issue? Sounds crazy right? One of the most common issues I have found with my patients that have low back pain, many who also have sitting jobs, is tight hip flexors. So how does this relate to your back? I’m glad you asked!
First, I’m going to go a bit off topic to explain how they relate but I will bring it all together at the end, I promise. Lets talk about someone who has broken their arm. They are put into a cast for about a 6 weeks or so. If the cast covers the elbow and your arm is in a bent position for 6 weeks, what happens when the cast is removed? You are unable to straighten your arm because the tissue has adapted and tissue shortening has occurred. So what do you need to do to get your range of motion back? You need to work on your mobility and stretch to get the elbow extension back to its’ former state. Let’s go back to your hips now. You have a sitting job/computer job where you are sitting the majority of the day. Sitting can occur for up to 6-10 hours a day and this occurs day in and day out. A lot of people who come in have been at their job for years and some even decades. You are essentially doing the same thing the cast did to your hip mobility. So now we have a cause and effect relationship. Your hip flexors shorten over time and your new normal, the least stressful position, is now sitting. When you go to a standing position, your hip flexors are now being stressed. That stress from that tightness pulls you into certain postures that can take its toll on your knees, ankles, feet, and you guessed it, your back! Now something has to make up for the lack of movement in those hips, so movement must occur elsewhere – and because the hip flexors directly connect to every bone in your low back – this typically is your back. A common misconception is that people have bad backs, however, the back actually functions and works great but it is having to pick up the slack for your hip flexors which have now became lazy and tight! So now that your back is doing double duty, it starts to become overused. If overuse occurs long enough, advanced breakdown/injury is likely going to be the outcome. Wear and tear is normal part of aging, but this helps to explain why some 40 year olds have the spine of a 60 year old. If you have these imbalances from a young age and do not get them addressed, the chances of having issues at a younger age significantly increases. So what are some things you can do on your own that help keep your hips flexible if you have a desk job?
Just below are 4 of the best hip opener/mobility activities that can help you combat hip tightness (click to download them):
If you find that you are having difficulty performing these stretches, getting into the positions, and/or performing them cause pain, you may need some adjustments/ tweaks from a trained professional that can help make them more manageable. If that is the case, give us a call at 480-786-4969 or click the ORANGE button below and speak directly with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy so we can get you back to your working best!
Savannah Torrez, PT, DPT, COMT
“Today it hurts, tomorrow it works!”