By Mike Gibbs, NP, MSN, MBA, CSCS, RYT-200
I have a tremendous degree of back pain. Yes, I have numerous herniated disks which cause nerve pain traveling down my legs. That’s the pain we get from herniated disks—but what about this back pain. When there are herniated disks or degenerative disks, we expect nerve pain going down the legs or pain directly on the spine.
Frequently, however, people with bulging disks complain about pain along the back muscles like the Quadratus Lamborum as well as other back muscles. Most medical professionals identify this type of pain as disk related. But the cause of the pain is often something else entirely.
Tight butt muscles (gluteus maximus, Medius and piriformis) can cause significant lower back pain. Tight hip flexors, located in the groin, can cause someone to hunch forward, contributing to lower back pain. Tight hamstrings can also cause muscular, lower back pain. What happens is when these muscles are tight, they pull the body out of normal postural alignment. Poor posture takes the load from muscles and joints designed to support an individual’s bodyweight and activities, and it transitions the load to muscles and joints that are not designed for the load. These muscles will fatigue and become painful.
But, pardon the pun, the postural problems are only part of the problems. When the muscles are overloaded, they can develop mini-spasms. These mini-spasms called trigger points not only hurt, but they can refer pain to other locations. So, a cramp in the butt can also cause lower back pain.
What about stretching? Stretching is excellent. Studies show that exercise or yoga can be as effective as surgery in alleviating back pain. We always encourage stretching and exercise for individuals with lower back pain, according to their exercise tolerance and under the direction of their physician. However, stretching is often not enough. It takes some quality manual therapy (massage) to really loosen up those trigger points, muscles and fascia. And it’s not an ordinary massage. You need someone that can really get into the hip flexors, extensors, and external rotators. These muscles not only benefit from manual therapy in the muscle belly but the actual muscle attachments themselves. Where are these critical muscle attachments? You guessed it! The buttocks, groin and the lumbar aponeurosis. So that’s why I get my butt and groin rubbed as often as possible.
If your back hurts, and your physician agrees, try seeing a rolfer or qualified massage therapist to see if it helps your lower back pain, too.