Sunday, January 28, 2007

Strong stomach and glutes eliminate lower back pain

For my first post to this new blog, I want to share an e-mail conversation about lower back pain that I recently had with a relative. He was sharing with me how he has dealt with pain in the lumbar region over the years and I explained why that worked and how to further relieve and prevent lumbar pain:

HIM: I've always found, ever since I was in the furniture business, that when I have back pain or even discomfort, the first thing I do is start a regimen of sit-ups. Even the first 20 or 30 help things considerably, but if I do that for several days, that back pain just disappears completely. I think those muscles and bones in there need to be moved around and strained to help them get back into activity. I remember one time (my wife) and I were in New York City at the SOFA show, it was May. We'd been walking around this huge exhibition center all day. My back started giving me a problem, and it got worse as the day progressed. So when we got back to the room, I just laid down on the floor and went to work with about 30 situps, and that took care of the issue.

ME: What those situps are doing is pulling the front of your pelvis up, which straightens escessive curvature in the lower spine and provides relief to the overworked lumbar muscles. However, situps can also strengthen the psoas muscles, which attach to the inside of the lumbar, run through the pelvis and attach to the upper leg bones (femoris) which flex the hip joints. The psoas doesn't get stretched much, so it can pull excessively on the lumbar, thus contributing to excessive curvature and more lower back pain, especially when standing a lot. Strong muscles in the butt and hamstrings counteract the pull of the psoas by pulling down on the back of the pelvis and having the same effect as strong abdominal muscles. That's why I like deadlifts so much, they strengthen butt and hamstrings--and provide some real shapeliness in those areas for the female population!

Try this next time your lower back hurts from standing or walking: contract the stomach muscles and squeeze your buttocks so that the front of the pelvis tilts upward and straightens out the spine. The motion of the pelvis is similar to certain movements during sex, but is subtle enough that you won't get strange looks from those around you. You should experience some immediate relief.

For more information on how to relieve back pain related to muscle imbalances like the situations described above, look up this resource from the Healthy Back Institute:

Back Pain Relief Guide

John E. Fike, Fitness Writer

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