Over the past few years, lower back pain (LBP) has become a significant health concern in Canada. It is estimated that up to 85% of working people will experience LBP at some point in their lifetime. This leads us to a few questions:
– What causes low back pain?
– What can we do about it?
Causes of Low Back Pain
While there are several contributing factors in LBP, the most common seem to be related to increasingly sedentary lifestyles, the steady growth in obesity rates over time, and an increased number of hours that people are putting in sitting at a desk.
For the purpose of this discussion, let’s look at the increased number of hours that people are logging at desks, behind the wheels of their vehicles, and time spent on the couches at home. We will briefly examine the physiological and mechanical causes of LBP and how massage therapy can assist in relieving this condition.
When we assume the typical seated posture whether at a desk or behind the wheel of a vehicle there are a few biomechanical changes that take place:
– Prolonged flexion of the hip joint can lead to a shortening of the hip flexor muscles, when not adequately stretched during the day.
– This shortening of the deep hip flexors can cause the hip flexors to become short and weak over time leading to an excessive lumbar curve.
– The tightness in the hip flexors can cause an inhibition of the glute Maximus (the opposing muscle group.) This leads to an imbalance in the hips and low back.
– Prolonged inhibition of the glute Maximus and excessive periods of sitting can result in atrophy of the muscle.
– The structural imbalance of the hips that is created can lead to pain in both the hips and lumbar spine. And there it is…Low Back Pain!
How can Massage Therapy Help?
When a muscle or group of muscles are tight and creating an imbalance in the body, there are several techniques the massage practitioner can use to help alleviate the hip flexor tightness. The most common way is to incorporate a passive or active stretch to the muscle and apply pressure at different points along the muscle (usually origin, insertion and belly of the muscle). By using the techniques to release the tight hip flexors, the imbalances that were in place can begin to be removed, and a path forward is created to eliminate low back pain.
Massage Therapy can be a very useful tool in removing the conditions that create low back pain, but there are other considerations that people can make on their own to assist the process. A dedicated stretching and mobility program along with lifestyle and ergonomic changes will go a long way in ensuring that you can help to avoid the conditions that can lead to low back pain!
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Written by Chris English,
Registered Massage Therapist