Hip & Lower Back
Select a body area to learn more about specific anatomy
- Chest and Upper Body
- Neck and Upper Back
- Hip and Lower Back
- Quads and IT Band
- Foot and Lower Leg
ANATOMY OF THE HIP AND LOWER BACK
At least 80% of the population will experience some form of back pain. It is very common to see a chronic pelvic tilt and degenerating disks in either the L4/L5 or L5/S1 region of the low back due to dysfunctional biomechanics. To determine the exact cause of hip and lower back pain you must closely look at muscular structure and joint motion in everyday in life.
Back pain can radiate to different areas of the body. Most treatments only result in relief just for a day or two.
So, I thrust myself into this role of figuring out what was really going on. I wanted to understand my biomechanics and used my own body for my research. I had to address the way I sat and stood. I had to address so many of my biomechanical dysfunctions when I was not training.
Everyone thinks that pain and dysfunction occurs while they are training or exercising, but in actuality it's the activities of everyday life like sitting, standing, or driving a car that throw off biomechanics and compromise muscular structure.
Structure Integrity - a structure's uncompromised ability to safely resist the load placed upon it.
Muscles are designed to create and maintain structural integrity in the body. Structural integrity of the muscles keep us pain free. In order to have structural integrity you must have a solid foundation beginning with a full functioning foot. The biomechanical chain reaction beginning with the foot can take dysfunction from the lower leg all the way up to the lower back.
The foot is compromised when the soleus muscle in the back of the leg under the calf gets tight and forces you to lose dorsiflection or range of motion in the foot. This happens because the muscles in the lower leg connect in the bottom of the foot, thereby controlling the foot (like a puppet).
When you lose dorsiflection in the foot, the counter muscle on the front of the shin, the anterior tibialis, becomes tight and overworked which forces the knee to go forward. The body's natural reaction is to adjust for the shift in weight. This creates an unstable platform for the knee and puts added stress on the knee joint. All joints have muscles and tendons that support the functionality of the joint. When the knee joint is compromised, the muscles in the inner, mid, and outer thigh are forced to work harder to maintain the structural integrity of the leg.
When the knees go forward, the butt shifts back. This is when the muscles in the thigh area, the quadriceps, now take a lot of the impact and become overworked. The quads are the biggest muscle group and take the absorbtion of each step when you run or walk. As the quads become tight they pull up on the patella. Because they originate in the pelvic region, the quads will also pull down on the pelvis, forcing an even more dramatic pelvic tilt.
As the pelvis tilts, you may try to lift the upper body to counterbalance the weight. When you try to straighten your upper body and not lean forward, you end up arching your back, therefore, compressing the L4-5 area. The more compression there is on the L4-5 area, the more you compromise the neurological feed to the lower extremities.
Furthermore, when the quads lose their strength and flexibility and become tight and overworked they pull on the pelvis. The opposing muscles/tendons, the IT bands and hamstrings, then lengthen beyond their capacity subsequently creating their own unique aches and pains. Instead of just stretching and massaging the IT bands and hamstrings, you must take the pelvic tilt out of the equation. This will produce better long term results.
Also during this biomechanical chain of events, a muscle called the psoas is engaged. The psoas connects in the groin and at T12 in the middle of the back. It unites the front to the back.
When the psoas is strong and flexible, it facilitates good posture and prevents compression on the lower back. On the contrary, when the psoas is challenged it can contribute to the upper body leaning in-front of the pelvis which worsens the compression on the L4-5 area. It also has the capability of compressing the diaphragm consequently compromising your ability to breathe.
Next, the piriformis is a muscle set deep within the glut region. A tight piriformis is a by-product of the pelvic tilt, but more importantly the piriformis can be challenged by the way that you sit.
When you sit, the knees will splay out to the side. As the knees rotate outward, the piriformis will bind up and go into spasm.
As soon as you stand up and walk, the knees come out straight in front of the body, and the piriformis muscle elongates therefore causing pain in the general glut area.
The sciatic nerve runs directly through the piriformis muscle. When the piriformis goes into spasm or tightens it can impinge the siatic nerve.
If the piriformis and glut region is not managed regularly with massage, a build up of scar tissue and adhesions surrounding the sciatic nerve can compromise the neurological feed to the lower extremities. Overall, the body's posture and ability to function properly is influenced by the biomechanics and muscular structure. Here you can see the results of bad biomechanics and poor weight distribution.
Addressing the lower back independently, you can massage and strengthen the acute area in the back, but fundamentally, you must tackle the biomechanical chain to eliminate the root cause of this problem. Basically, you have to redefine the way your foot hits the ground and then eliminate the pelvic tilt.
In conclusion, it is important to remember that every bone has a muscle that surrounds it and every joint has a muscle and a tendon that supports it. If you do not strengthen and create elasticity (with massage) in the muscle, general aches and pains will result. By generating elasticity within the muscle, you are building a sound platform for structural integrity and positive biomechanics.
For more information on IT bands, check out the Quads" portion of our Anatomy section