My Back Hurts! Why are You Telling Me to Work on My Glutes!?

Back pain

Lower back pain is a common complaint that affects 80% of the general population.

One of the top ways to prevent lower back pain is to address the glutes. The gluteal muscles are essential to the health of the lower back as well as the knees.

Anti gravity muscles, which are the muscles that have to act against gravity, namely the extensors –are inhibited most of the time due to the nature of our daily activities. Majority of jobs today require long periods of sitting, which inhibit the gluteal muscles due to inactivity. The primary job for the gluteus maximus, one of the largest muscles in the human body, is to extend the hip. Hip flexion, the opposite of extension, involves the shortening of the psoas muscle, one of the biggest hip flexors. Because the gluteus maximus is a hip extensor, prolonged sitting means you are in a constant state of hip flexion, which can inhibit hip extension over time. If the hip extensor muscles are not doing their job, the lower back muscles will compensate. Overcompensation leads to poor adaptations of the nervous system and therefore a dysfunction of the nervous system. Structurally there is nothing wrong with the lower back but it can only work so many hours of overtime before it fails or activates pain fibers in the nervous system. The key is to reactivate the glutes and get them back to work so that the lower back can stop working so hard.

Imagine it this way, you can take over for a sick co-worker for a day or two, but when it goes on for weeks you’re not doing either job well, you’re exhausted, the office isn’t running as well, and no one wins. Once your co-worker comes back, you start to feel better and the whole office is functioning better.

Moving should be easy and efficient. Too often in practice we see patients that say “I bent over to tie my shoe, and I threw out my back”, or “I slept in a weird position last night and I now I can’t move my neck”. I refuse to believe that we were designed so poorly that we can be injured so easily. Most of the time we are moving inefficiently or not at all, which can lead to injury. Most of the failed adaptations are not structural in nature, rather dysfunctions in the neurological and metabolic systems of the body.

Many patients seek therapies that ONLY address the lower back, either through manipulations, deep tissue massage, interferential current stimulation, etc. without addressing the root cause. Here at Endeavour, we use an effective method of treatment for lower back pain and movement disorders through the use of neurofunctional electro-acupuncture. Electro stimulation of acupuncture needles help to allow the normalization of function back into the tissues. We can target and stimulate, with precision, a dysfunctional nerve with the use of by testing the function of the tissue beforehand. Once proper function of the nerve has been restored, we can improve motor function, in this case the glutes.

Squat testing

One exercise that is often given to patients with lower back pain is the squat. Squatting is one of the foundational movements that we incorporate into our daily lives. Proper squatting involves movement at the levels of the hip, knee, and ankle joints, which are essential for the kinetic chain, as force is distributed via ground reaction forces. The ability to squat properly is dependent on the activation of the gluteal muscles. Neurofunction of the gluteal muscles must be restored BEFORE rehabilitation; otherwise you waste time rehabbing a DYSFUNCTION or ADAPTATION.

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