In the first two parts of this series we looked at common causes for back pain, but those causes may just be the symptoms of a problem further down the chain.
This part, in my opinion, highlights the single most common cause for all soft tissue related back pain:
Your glutes consist of 3 muscles – Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.
Your glute max is the biggest, most powerful muscle in your body and its main jobs are to extend, abduct and outwardly rotate the hip.
Slightly above and behind it is glute medius and together these muscles maintain a mild contraction to keep you upright when standing and work to stabilise the pelvis when walking. This is just a fraction of what these muscles do so you can imagine the consequences wouldn’t be good if they weren’t firing properly – compensatory patterns of movement, imbalances and overuse injuries will occur elsewhere resulting in low-back pain in a lot of cases.
A weak Glute max will leave your sacroiliac (SI) joint susceptible to injury. Your SI joint is where your top half connects to your bottom half and weakness here will cause compensation further up the chain. The opposing latissimus dorsi will try to maintain the tension required, compressing the joint and causing pain there.
As mentioned previously, one of the glutes' main jobs is to extend the hip, think of bending down to pick something up off the floor without bending your knees, the hamstrings and lower back also assist with this movement and if the glutes aren’t doing their job then the hamstrings and lower back are going to become overworked and chronically tight, causing pain in these areas.
The fix? Squeeze your buns!
You need to wake the glutes up and start using them. You can do this by clenching your butt as hard as you can whenever you get the chance or something a bit more conventional such as lying bodyweight glute bridges or squats and lunges.