More Hamstrings = Less Back Pain

fitness workshop langley

Karen, Spencer and I recently ran a workshop for the Canada Post locations in Langley focusing on preventing and rehabbing injuries in the workplace such as back pain.

As many individuals in our gym deal with similar workspace issues, I thought it prudent to share this info with you as well.

So here is the info we shared with them:

Over time your body will figure out a way to make any repetitive task more efficient by adjusting your posture and musculature. Even though this is great for using less energy, unfortunately, it creates muscle imbalances and compensations which may lead to pain and injury.

So how do we combat this?

Awareness precedes change…

Our goal here today is to make you more aware of your body at work, learn some new exercises that you can do at home and be a resource for you moving forward.

So things to consider:

How you breathe – if you don’t breathe well, it leads to lower back and shoulder issues.

How you stand – if you stand on one hip, or stand on one leg for an extended period of time, it can lead to a tilted pelvis which will potentially lead to compensation issues at the knees, lower back, elbows, and shoulders.

You may even have a leg that is longer than the other. Think what this would do on every stride because your strides may not be even now as you walk…

Much of injury prevention and reduction is taking yourself through the 4 stages of learning:
1. Being unaware of what the issue is.
2. Awareness of the issue but without the knowledge to fix it.
3. Practicing corrective exercises and new positions.
4. Mastering the movement and the positions without thinking.

Here’s the exercises that we went over with them below…
hamstring exercise

Copyright © 2000-2017 Postural Restoration Institute®  

Now let’s discuss the above…

The 90-90 hip lift is a great exercise for anyone with lower back pain.

Here’s why:
Most muscles work in pairs. This allows for efficient and controlled movement.

They are referred to agonists (the working muscle), and the antagonist (the opposing muscle to the working muscle).

The most familiar example of this is the biceps (on the front of the upper arm), and the triceps (on the back of the upper arm).

Here’s how agonists and antagonists work:
When one muscle contracts the other relaxes.

So if you contract the antagonist muscle of a muscle you want to relax then it will have an effect on down-regulating the activation of that muscle via reciprocal inhibition (this is a complex process and I won’t bore you with the science).

Taking reciprocal inhibition into account, here’s why the below exercise is important:
You are activating the hamstrings while working on long exhales.

Long exhales are shifting you to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), so your brain can make an association with activating the hamstring at rest while having the full foot (heel and toe touching the wall).

This is akin to the gait cycle where you want your foot on the wall and turning on your hamstrings (instead of your hip flexors) when you walk.

This is good for long term mechanics. Most people’s hamstrings are so weak that the body actually makes them tight and inflexible to protect them.

But more importantly, in the short term, if you activate the hamstrings, you relax the hip flexors/quads (the antagonist muscle of the hamstrings).

Turning off the hip flexors and quads will relax the pelvic tilt at your pelvis (tight quads and hip flexors pull down your pelvis and cause an anterior pelvic tilt)

When you reduce this anterior tilt you reduce the stress on your lower back.

So that’s how hamstring activation helps with back pain!

Got any questions on these exercises? You know where to find us!

Committed to your success,
Josh Saunders, BS, CSCS

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