For those of you who have never experienced it, I hope you never do. But for those of us who have been through the torment of experiencing lower back pain, we know that it can be as frustrating as it is excruciating.
After years of not knowing the cause of my pain, I now see light at the end of the tunnel in the form of two words: piriformis syndrome.
The piriformis is a small muscle that is located in the gluteal region and is very close to where the sciatic nerve runs. It’s important to note that the sciatic nerve exhibits anatomic variability, which is just a fancy way of saying that it can either pass over or under the piriformis; it varies from person to person. However, in 17% of the population, the sciatic nerve actually runs THROUGH the piriformis muscle. That being said, any strain or spasm occurring due to weaknesses/imbalances of the piriformis muscle results in severe, debilitating pain known as sciatica. Unfortunately for me, I am part of that 17%.
This is just one example of many that illustrate how muscle imbalances and lack of flexibility in the lower back and thighs can result in lower back pain. As we age, our range of motion decreases unless we actively train to be flexible. Flexibility improves strength, posture, and balance while helping prevent injury.
Working on lower back flexibility as well as hamstring/gluteal stretching reduces the pressure put on our spine, thereby decreasing our risk for lower back pain. Another important facet of reducing lower back pain is improving core strength. A common misconception is that improving core strength solely revolves around abdominal exercises. Core strength refers not only to abdominal and oblique muscles, but also the muscles of the back such as the erector spinae and the quadratus lumborum.
Our bodies are complex, with seemingly unrelated muscle groups actually having a lot to do with each other when considering the biomechanics of how we move; everything is connected, and we need to be mindful of that when approaching muscular imbalances.
Whether you are new to working out or have been a weekend warrior for the better part of your life, incorporating stretching before and after your workouts can help keep you on the playing field and off the sidelines. Feel free to book a flexibility/stretching training session here at LAVA today!
Your friendly neighborhood lifestyle medicine doctor,