One simple lifestyle change that can significantly reduce your back pain is a guest post from Tavistock Clinic in Crawley.
None of us are strangers to back pain.
It’s the leading cause of disability in the UK. In addition, 80% of the population experience back pain at one stage or another in their life and it is one of the most common causes for absence days at work.
Back pain is often a mystery. The reason being, it can be caused by such a wide variety of reasons.
You may twist your back whilst reaching something on the floor, and the pain is caused by overstretching the muscle. You may have had a car accident, where the pain is caused due to the physical impact to the muscle. You may even be getting back pain from emotional trauma or certain foods that you react to unknowingly.
Many of us also know the importance of ‘bending at the knees’ and not your back when lifting items.
This is staple (and correct) advice that everyone should follow. The notion is that you should use your leg muscles to pick something up off the floor, instead of putting the pressure into your back.
There’s something missing though: what about all the things you pick up from that mid-range area, between the knees and torso region?
I’m not sure about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in a squat position whilst lifting something off the kitchen counter, dining table, or when putting dishes into the dishwasher.
The vast majority of ‘bending’ we do is at the mid-line level – where squatting by the legs simply does not cross our minds, nor is it practical, or swift enough.
Yet, we still put the pressure into our backs, and not into our legs. How do we resolve this?
In truth, there is another posture of bending that everyone needs to know about, but no one actually does… yet.
‘Hip hinging’ is bending by your knees and ‘hinging’ by your hips at the same time.
It means you still get to bend down from your back and reach down (from the bend in the knees), without having to do a full squat (with your back perfectly upright) but without any undue stress into your spine.
Buffalo Rehab provides a picture-perfect demonstration of the difference between a normal pick up and a hip hinge:
Picture number 1 on this image slide is how the vast majority of people would pick something up from knee level.
Picture number 2 on this image slide shows the perfect position of lifting. You can see I the back is almost horizontal, which may make you think it’s terrible for the spine.
Picture number 3 offers a separate alternative of lifting, also known as the golfers’ grip, which is still safer for your spine than the first picture.
The question should always be, however, ‘why is the spine in that position?’
In picture number 1, the spine is bent because the spine itself and the spinal muscles are folding forward (flexing).
In picture number 2, the spine is not actually bent at all – it’s straight (no, it’s not an illusion!).
The reason it’s horizontal is that the hips are hinged forward.
This is a perfectly normal and safe movement for the hip to do, and when you lift an item from the ground the force goes into the hip and back of the legs primarily, with less stress on the lower and upper back.
There are a number of examples in the professional sporting and exercise world that demonstrates the importance of the hip hinge.
Whenever you see someone doing a squat in the gym, if done correctly, they will be hip hinging:
The same goes for if you are doing one of the staple back strengthening exercises, the deadlift:
Many people think this exercise is dangerous because you are not specifically ‘bending by the knees’ as much as you would think, but the truth is the spine is completely neutral in this position, so the stress is primarily on the hip and legs, where it is supposed to be.
At Tavistock Clinic we offer physiotherapy in Crawley and we advise strongly to every one of our sports and exercise clients to ensure they are hip hinging both during their rehabilitation from injury but as well as part of their prehabilitation to minimise the chance of future injuries.
So how do you learn to do the hip hinge?
The PTDC demonstrates, through use of video, a series of highly effective exercises to help you make the hip hinge second nature for you as much as possible.
With these exercises and awareness of your hip and spinal posture during any lifting activity, you are much more likely to save your spine in the future and prevent unnecessary and potentially severe back pain.
I hope you’ve found this article useful and informative. If you have any questions feel free to contact me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Hip Hinging!