Do you struggle with back pain? You’re not alone. They say that about 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives.
Unfortunately, most people don’t have a treatable spinal disorder. This results in a diagnosis of non-specific-lower-back-pain. It’s incredibly frustrating to be told there’s nothing wrong when you’re in pain.
But that’s because people are usually looking in the wrong place to treat back pain. Most people only focus on the back muscles and spine, but in fact the function of your legs absolutely influences the health of your back.
Pain in the back is usually associated with instability below, meaning that the legs and feet are somehow imbalanced.
In fact, when a scoliosis patient brings his or her feet directly together, the spinal curvature usually worsens, indicating that the legs are really the causal factor.
Frequently, my clients come to my office and tell me they have a leg length differential, meaning one leg is shorter than the other. This is actually quite common.
Unfortunately, determining the source of the difference requires more than looking at a person’s feet when they are lying down to see if they line up. While that will give you an indication of the pattern, it tells you nothing about what the muscles and bones are doing inside the legs.
There are two kinds of leg length differentials: structural and functional.
Structural differentials occur when the actual bones of the leg are of different lengths. The ONLY way to be sure you have a structural leg length differential is to have x-rays taken and then measure the length of the bones.
If this is the case for you, you may need to have a lift put in your shoes on the shorter side to provide support for your pelvis and back.
Functional differentials, however,. are much more common. In this pattern, the muscles and tissues somewhere in the body have become short and tight, holding one leg higher off the ground than the other. This can easily be corrected through precise, structural bodywork.
Your illiacus and psoas muscles attach to the inside of the hip and the front of the spine. They line the inside of the pelvic bowl and both of these muscles flex the leg at the hip, like when you’re sitting in a chair. Illiopsoas tension can contribute to discomfort in the digestive organs and abdominal region. If one side becomes short and tight, it will pull that leg higher, making it appear shorter.
When your feet – the foundation to your entire body – are not balanced as happens when your legs are different lengths, your pelvis will be crooked. That puts torque on your sacrum, or tailbone, which is the bottom-most vertebra of your spine.
When your sacrum doesn’t move, neither does anything else above it, and that means BIG PAIN!
Additionally, your psoas attaches along your spine at the same junction as your diaphragm. If your psoas is too tight, it will constrict breathing; having your psoas released makes HUGE changes to breath capacity for athletes seeking improved performance.
Maintaining long, limber hip flexors is critical for back health. If you spend more than 2 hours a day sitting, make sure you include activities in your exercise routine that fully extend your anterior hip to keep back pain and stiffness at bay.
For a deeper discussion of posture and back pain, check out my ebook Perfect Posture for Life: How to Finally Stop Slouching, Stand Tall and Move Freely (Even If You Sit at A Computer All Day).
I go way more in depth on the anatomy of your back and all the unexpected areas of your body that can cause back pain that you wouldn’t necessarily think would be related. (Oh, but they are.)