We Are Made To Move
As we’ve shifted to a more technological society, people are becoming more sedentary due to the many conveniences. Our tech devices, chairs, Uber, and other advances are great and have allowed us to do much more than ever before. While we're advancing as a society, humans as a whole are becoming more unhealthy and overall we don’t move as we’ve evolved to. With that being the case, studies have shown that upwards of 80% of humans will develop chronic lower back pain at some point in their lives. Majority of the cases are lifestyle related. We develop many muscle imbalances due to our tendency to be sedentary (sitting on our butts). Our focus in this article will be on a common muscle imbalance called Lower Cross Syndrome (LCS).
Basics of Lower Cross Syndrome
- Tightness of the lower back (erector spinae, multifidus, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi) on the dorsal / back side crossing with tightness of the hip flexors (rectus femoris, iliopsoas, tensor fascia latae [TFL]);
- Weakness of the deep abdominal muscles (transverse abdominis) ventrally crossing with weakness of the gluteal muscles (mainly the glute maximus and glute medius) is what’s known as Lower Cross Syndrome.
Experiencing lower back pain now-a-days is a common symptom of LCS. We develop an anterior pelvic shift which is caused by glute inhibition due to the tight hip flexors (specifically TFL). We tend to focus on the symptom (lower back pain) instead of the root cause of the problem (lack of movement & muscle inhibition). Our muscles work as a unit - not individually. By focusing on the symptoms, we never cure the problem in the long run. When our glutes become inhibited it causes a chain reaction with muscles to overcompensate. An example is the hamstring muscles compensating for an anterior pelvic tilt; while the deep stabilizing muscles (transverse abdominis) become inhibited causing the superficial muscles (rectus abdominis) to compensate for spinal stabilization.
When we inquire this muscle imbalance it leads to joint dysfunctions. An imbalance can lead to ligamentous strain and increased pressure taking place in the L4-L5, L5-S1 segments (two places where about 95% of disc injuries take place). Other notable areas include the sacroiliac joint ("SI joint" which is a key area of proprioception where forces are transmitted from lower extremities to the trunk), hip joints and knee joints. Some postural changes occur like anterior pelvic tilt, increased lumbar lordosis, lateral lumbar shift, external rotation of the hip, and knee hyperextension. For adults, muscle imbalances tend to begin distally in the pelvis (often dysfunction found at the SI joint) and continue up the body to the shoulder and neck area, while in children the progression of imbalances typically is reversed.
We can improve LCS or avoid it, by stretching the quads to loosen up the rectus femoris, stretching the hip flexors and focusing on strengthening up the glutes during our training. Also focusing on compound movements such as squats and deadlifts if there isn’t such a huge imbalance of these muscles to begin with. We also can avoid staying in one position for an extended amount of time especially sitting. Dr. Shirley Sahrmann stated that we shouldn’t remain in one posture for more than 20 minutes in order to avoid the onset muscles imbalances, but other sources have stated at least every 45-60 minutes. Since we all have phones glued to us majority of the time, the last recommendation can easily be done by setting your phone on a timer that alerts you to move. We also suggest using a stand up desk. Some of our corporate wellness clients have changed to the standing desk option.
For more info of lower cross syndrome or any other fitness related questions contact us via:
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 1 (419)-906-0204
Don't forget we have an exercise database where you can find some recommended exercises for LCS.
Author: Wendell Christian Jr., M.S., CSCS, CPT