Low back pain is amongst the most common injuries seen in Physiotherapy.
Some of the causes can be directly located in your spine (disc, vertebrae, nerve, etc) but lets not forget that the spine movements are also influenced by your pelvis/hips.
When actions of the spine are not accompanied by correct movement in the rest of the body, the spine and its surrounding muscles have to take up the slack and may become overworked and injured.
The glutes (maximus, medius and minimus) are the primary controller of movements in our hips and thighs and also play an important role in the stabilisation of the pelvis and support of the low back.
The Glute Medius and Minimus are in charge of the stabilization while the Glute Max is our powerhouse.
If you have lower back pain or your back feels tight frequently, then you are probably overusing your movers while your stabilizers are taking a break. It’s time to wake them up!
But wait…am i really using my stabilizers during a squat…?
Did you know your body can actually switch on the wrong muscles because the correct ones are weak or inactive? This is most common in our glutes and can be the reason for lower back pain, muscle spasms, and even nerve pain.
If your glutes are weak or inactive they cannot hold your pelvis in the right position or help maintain correct alignment.
How to start your glute awakening:
The basic process requires you to re-establish and strengthen neural signalling pathways that will correctly route the signals from your brain to the target muscle, and cause it to activate or ‘fire’ as it is supposed to.
This means that in the following exercises you must perform quality repetitions over quantity. This can and will take a surprising amount of concentration – but take the time to set up and focus your mind before each repetition.
Who doesn’t like brain teasers !
Make sure your glutes have the optimal environment to be activated. Your hips and pelvis should be in a neutral position and the surrounding muscles should the relaxed to avoid excessive tension.
Start by releasing your hamstring, hip flexors and buttock.
You can use a foam roller or a trigger point ball lying on the ground or against the wall.
Palpate, feel and visualize :
In the first stage of reactivating your glutes, you’ll be focusing on trying to feel the glute muscles working and actually getting them to fire correctly. This is also known as your mind-muscle connection.
From a standing position, place fingers on each side of your butt cheeks and attempt to contract the glutes by imaging squeezing your butt cheeks together (this may sound funny but picture yourself holding a fart or holding a pencil slotted between your butt cheeks !)
You should be able to feel a glute contraction without tucking your pelvis or locking your quadriceps/hamstrings into a straight leg.
Once you get more practiced with this exercise, try to increase your level of control to be able to activate one side of your glutes at a time.
Tried to recruit your glutes in a bridge position without contracting your hamstrings.
You should be able to recruit your core to stabilize the pelvis, squeeze your glutes, without any pelvic tilt, and then push through your heels to lift your buttock without gripping your legs (hamstring compensation).
Now that you are able to activate, feel that your glutes are being recruited without any surrounding muscle, you are able to integrate them in your favorite glute exercises : bridge, squat, leg lift etc.
This can be very challenging, so don’t hesitate to book with one of our physiotherapist to guide you through the proper process of glute activation without cheating.
Stay tuned for a full glute strength program. Work on activation first then build strength in the right place.