Increase Hip Mobility, Reduce Back Pain


“When someone’s back hurts they don’t want to blame their lifestyle, fitness level, or daily patterns.  Instead, they want to blame their back pain on starting the lawn mover last week,  which, in reality, is probably just the straw that broke the camel’s back.” ~Gray Cook, physical therapist and author of Movement.

Few medical or  fitness professionals address low back pain by examining other joints, such as how your ankles and hips move, that may contribute to the pain. Chiropractor Evan Osar, founder of O.S.A.R. Consulting in Chicago, Illinois, explains that restricted hip movement contributes to many movement dysfunctions and pain in other joints, such as your lower back. If you can not rotate, flex, or extend your hip joints properly, your lower back will compensate for their immobility. Your lower back’s job is to stabilize your hip and torso when your body is moving in different directions. It should not have a large range of motion, like your upper spine and neck.

For example, weak hip flexors  cause your lumbar spine to flex, which causes it to lose its natural curve. In opposition, weak buttocks cause your lumbar spine to hyper-extend, which causes it to exaggerate its curve. In either case, your lower back loses its strength and stability, leading to back problems, such as degenerative disc disease and herniated disc.

Courtesy of Function First

There is no single method or exercise to address hip immobility, back pain, or any movement dysfunction because everyone have different bodies, experiences, emotions, and attitudes. Your back pain could be an acute problem, such as falling down the stairs or someone hits your back with a pipe. It can be chronic,  caused by years or decades of poor movement patterns and bad habits. It is only a matter of time before your back gives out from one simple task–like picking up a quarter off the ground.

There are some simple things you can do to increase hip mobility and reduce back pain. First: SIT LESS, MOVE MORE. That includes exercise. How many people do you see in the gym sitting? After an 8 to 10-hour workday and driving in a chair, how much benefit would you get if you sit on a machine and move one body part at a time? Where’s the logic?

Second: Try these two basic exercises that moves your hip joints within YOUR full range of motion. Notice that you begin on the ground and gradually transition to a standing position.

Supine 3-D Hip Rotation.

Lie on the ground on the back with your feet together and your arms out to your sides. Lift your right leg straight up until it is perpendicular to the ground. Flex your foot toward your face.

Bring the leg out to the side to your right, and lower it as low as you can without moving your left leg. Hold the position for three seconds. Bring your right leg across your body until your lower back almost lift off from the ground. Hold the position for another three seconds. Bring the leg straight up, and lower it to the ground. Perform 5 to 6 reps for two sets per leg. If one side of your body is stiffer than the other side, perform an extra set.

Three-Point Hip Rotation

This exercise forces your torso to stabilize itself  as you move your hip joint. Kneel on the ground on your hands on and knees. Put your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hip joints.

Lift your left knee off the ground and move it toward your ribs. Bring your knee out to your left side in a circular motion, and extend your left leg behind you. Point your left foot away from you and tighten your left buttock. Bring your knee back up to your ribs again.

Perform 10 reps counter-clockwise and 10 reps clockwise on each hip. Do not move your spine.

Once you have completed the exercise, do some bodyweight squats, step-ups, and lunges. Jog around your neighborhood for five minutes. Do you have less back pain when you move?

As mentioned before, there is no single method when addressing low back pain or hip immobility. If you experience stiff hips or mild low back discomfort, have us perform a movement screening to see what is causing your problem. Call us at 858.722.5216 for an appointment.

Thank you, Anthony Carey of Function First for providing the pictures.

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