How many of you have low back pain? You probably would not be surprised to find that you are definitely not the only one. Did you know that, according to the National Institute of Health , 80% of adults experience back pain at some point in their lives, that it is the most common cause for job-related disability, and it is one of the leading reasons for absences from work?
Some of us experience this pain acutely. It does not last more than 12 weeks and seems to go away on its own. For those of us who have symptoms for over 12 weeks, it is now considered chronic low back pain. Regardless of whether your pain is acute or chronic, pain is your body's system of telling you that something is wrong and needs to change. Many times, the main contributor to back pain is poor posture.
However, regardless of whether we have any pain or not, it is good for all of us to be more aware of our posture in all positions. So what is good posture?
There are a million pointers for what good posture is, so I will just talk about pelvic awareness today. Many of us know that slouching and slumping in our seats when we are at our desks is bad posture. So we try to fix it. However, many of us tend to overcompensate by tilting our pelvis forward too much so that the lumbar spine curvature is exaggerated. In addition, many of us women have been taught that making our behinds look bigger is sexier, so we push our butts out when we walk. However, when we do that, we are also exaggerating that forward tilt of the pelvis. In these two situations, our pelvis is in anterior pelvic tilt.
In anterior pelvic tilt, your back muscles on either side of your lumbar spine, called back extensors, are working extra hard. The spaces between your vertebrae in your lumbar spine is also crunched up, and your abs are not working to stabilize the trunk. Not only will those constantly tightened back muscles cause pain, but the crunched up vertebrae can also cause nerve pinching. When the nerves in the lumbar spine are pinched, you might experience pain or tingling that runs all the way down your legs.
So how do you know if you are in anterior pelvic tilt?
- Reach behind you. If you can feel two tight bands of muscle that run down right next to your lumbar spine, your back extensors, you are most likely in anterior pelvic tilt.
- Find your ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine) and PSIS (posterior super iliac spine), which are bony landmarks on your pelvis. You can find the ASIS by tracing your hands forward over the round part of your pelvic (iliac crest) until you reach a bony notch. The PSIS are the two dimples on your back between your hip and your waist. Take a look at your profile in the mirror and see if your ASIS and PSIS are level.
Now that you know you are in anterior pelvic tilt, how do you fix it?
- Tighten your abs and relax your back muscles.
- Practice tilting your pelvis anteriorly (stick your butt out) and posteriorly (slouch) in the mirror to loosen up all the muscles.
- Find the even ground between those two extremes. Your PSIS and ASIS should be level.
After years of habitually going into anterior pelvic tilt, the muscles that are necessary to hold neutral pelvic tilt are probably weak. The following are suggested exercises that can help you strengthen the appropriate muscles. If any of these painful, please stop right away and inform your doctor.
Cat and Cow: While on your hands and knees in a crawl position, raise up your back and arch it towards the ceiling. Next return to a lowered position and arch your back the opposite direction. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Pelvic Tilts on Your Back: Lie on your back, bend your knees, and keep your feet on the floor. Use your stomach muscles to press your spine downwards towards the ground. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
So let's make the challenge this week about building your pelvic awareness.
For those of you with pain, notice if your pain has decreased at the end of the week! I would love to hear your comments below!