Weak Gluteus Muscles and Lower Back Pain

Did you realise that there is a strong link between lower back pain and weak glute muscles, or the muscles in your bottom?  Your osteopath at Restore can help you to retraining these muscles, and have a positive impact on hard to shift back pain.

The “glute complex” is comprised of three muscles that make up our bottoms – gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. These muscles have multiple important roles to play in assisting with the stabilisation of the lower back and pelvis, as well as extend, externally rotate the leg and adduct or abduct the hip. As osteopaths we are also aware of just how important they are to keeping away back, hip and leg pain

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With a large percentage of our population spending the majority of their day sitting, we are developing what has become known as “sloppy bottom”. A muscle that is continually being placed on stretch becomes harder to activate. At the same time health practitioners are finding a marked correlation between the lack of strength in this glute area and chronic pain in the lower back, hips, knees or ankles.

Some of the largest demands on the glute complex is with standing on one leg. Now even though no one spends their day standing on one leg, we all will occasionally run to catch the bus or walk up and down stairs. Others put this demand on repeatedly by running as exercise. These are activities that involve momentarily putting our entire body weight through one leg. If we do this, and the pelvis is not being supported through sufficient glute strength, forces are placed on muscles and joints which aren’t designed to tolerate this load.

The brain develops compensations, and without sufficient glute strength present, it will delegate their roles to other muscles. Depending on how well the body copes with these developed muscle recruitment patterns, is determine by whether compensation will break down and result in pain. However usually it’s these “easy” options or secondary muscle recruitments which are the cause of lower back pain that we see in our clinic.

The second problem with prolonged sitting, our patients come in with tight hip flexors as a result of positional shortening from the body becoming used to a prolonged posture. When a muscle is tight and short it has a lower activation threshold, meaning this muscle will activate before any other. Those of us who a relatively active may experience an increased activation of the quadriceps for example, and in others the hamstrings or muscles of the lower back due to the tightness in these areas.

So how do we solve this problem? Simply performing glute muscle exercises is not necessarily the answer, as the brain is already used to recruiting other muscles to the task. In fact, the first step must be to identify whether the glutes are tight and inhibited or in fact underdeveloped. Reprogramming the brain to utilise these muscles does take time as you have to strengthen the connection between the brain and the muscle.

In osteopathy we use hands on manipulation to loosen and calm down the overused muscle, encourage recruitment of weak muscle, and use muscle resistance work to strengthen the muscle in a controlled way. This speeds up the process of retraining the brain, as well as reducing the chase of injury to the lower back and pelvis.

 

Also beneficial is working glutes with a roller at home:

* Lying on the floor with the ball or roller under the target muscle

* Roll out the area until you find a tender area

* Maintain pressure on the tender point until pain decreases 50%

* Roll until you find another tender spot and repeat the process

* Avoid putting too much pressure on the tender spot

* Best after exercise or shower when the muscle is warm

 

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