The posterior chain is a group of oft-neglected, yet crucial muscles that define the backside of your body, including muscles of the lower back, the glutes, hamstrings and calves. Sit-heavy lifestyles conspire to wreak havoc with this muscle chain, leaving our hip flexors and quads shorter and tighter and creating a domino effect which destabilizes the lower back. The glutes are key muscles in this process- when they become weak or inhibited, it is a clear sign that the posterior chain is at least partially compromised. Range of motion must be accounted for somewhere, and the lower back, a region already well known for the burden it supports, is called upon to take on even more responsibility. While rotating and lifting should be done with the hips, many people use their lower backs to initiate these movements, which is a perilous proposition.
No matter the object, whether it be a cat toy or a dumbbell, lifting is an action that should be performed with the legs and not the back. To be more specific, it should begin by sitting or squatting with the hips to lower, then lifting with a hip thrust forward. At Community Chiropractic & Acupuncture, we focus on helping people restore function and range of motion to the posterior chain so that the hips can be fully utilized as the powerful force that they are.
This means relearning what has been lost: proper body mechanics so that you know how to move. This means awareness that sitting for hours on end causes chronic tightness and the shortening of muscles that need to be mobile. This means treating those tight muscles with soft tissue work and, finally, it means strengthening and stretching these muscles regularly to keep them in prime condition so that they don't burden the lower back further. All of these elements will make a difference in pain that is caused by the lower back compensating for muscles that are firing short in the posterior chain.
Dr. Karen Thomas, D.C.