Body Wisdom for Low Back Pain
It’s all in the hips baby.
Pain in the low back can plague many of us, it is debilitating, confusing and frustrating. It can be a dizzying journey trying to figure out what is causing the pain, this article is one of the common movement dis-functions that contribute to the back pain dilemma.
There is a common thread that weaves through every one of us, we move. Often in regards to the low back, we bend over and we pick things up. When we are moving well this bending over, looks and feels like a hinge, but when the hips get stiff or disconnected the hinge transforms into more of a curling. There is a price to pay when the hips can’t tilt with a smooth hinge, the spine takes the burden of the upper body’s weight and over time we feel the repetitive stress.
Picture the hips like a deep bowl being supported by two stilts; these two stilts have round heads that fit into hollows at the bottom sides of the bowl. This ball and socket junction gives each stilt a wide range of angles and movement. At the same time, this deep bowl is also supported by a spring that is attached at the top ridge of the back of the bowl. As this spring moves with the bowl circling from side to side front to back, the stilts change angles in their sockets.
The relationship of the spring, stilts and deep bowl (spine, femurs, and pelvis) can be quite complex yet it is the foundation of how we move.
Take time to do these movements, as the more connected and aware you can become of the relationship of the pelvis, spine, and legs the more you can learn about how your body moves and functions.
Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet on the ground with your hips higher than your knees. Sit in an upright position with the front edge of your sit bones touching the seat.
Slowly rock your sit bones back so your pubic bone begins to lift up towards your belly button. Notice how the curve of your lower back has flattened and your chest slouched forward. Then return to your starting position and feel the pelvis roll forward as you return.
Now slowly roll the pelvis farther forward so the pubic bone comes closer down towards the seat. Feel how the lower back begins to arch, and chest may open up.
Now neither of these two extremes is inherently bad, it is when we habitually hold or get stuck in one of these extremes that can cause trouble. It is when the demands of movement can’t be met by the lack of function in the relationship between the spine, pelvis, and legs.
Now while standing keep slowly rocking the deep bowl of your pelvis back and forth. Noticing the arching and flattening of the lower back, even the subtle external and internal rotation of the femurs as they rotate in their sockets. This is the gateway to a smooth functioning hinge.
It is this relationship of the spine, the pelvis and femurs that facilitate our ability hinge the body. We hinge all day long, whether we are picking something up, leaning forward in a seat, or squatting down. For some of us we bend over hundreds of times a day, are you allowing for the rolling motion of the pelvis? If not often the spine will often take the weight of the bend.
Whether you are an athlete or a grandma the ability to hinge is not reliant on athletic ability or strength. Someone in the gym may do many sets of Deadlifts (a weighted hinge) with good form, then slouch down to pick up her bag off the floor while leaving, forgetting all about the function of the pelvis as a hinge.
Awareness is the key to shifting how we move, but the pelvis can bring baggage of its own. With the pelvis being the home to the sexual organs, excretion, birth, and not to mention spending our lives sitting, many of us have desensitized our awareness to the area. Patience and compassion are needed as we connect back to this area of our bodies, to re learn how our hips move and function.
When you change the function of the body the whole being shifts with it. For some becoming more intimate with how the pelvis functions may blossom past traumas that need to be skillfully navigated. It may be our habitual ways of holding ourselves that need to be questioned, a chest caved in to not expose oneself or a butt stuck out to attract eyes of attention. Perhaps it’s our habitual speed in which we move about our life that is preventing the awareness we need to pause before we hinge down, just to name a few…
The body is always telling you something and when it’s sending signals of chronic pain the body is telling you very loudly.
The journey of movement is an illuminating, messy and rewarding adventure.
Enjoy the ride!