One thing I commonly find while treating low back pain is what I have come to call “gluteal amnesia”. That is, the individuals have at some point forgotten how to use the glutes correctly in coordination with the rest of the muscles of the body. When that happens other muscles must step up and take up the slack… typically it’s the lumbar extensor muscles and/or the hamstrings that step up, and since those muscles aren’t built for that specific function, eventually they become painful and injured.
Let’s talk about the glute for a second. The glutes’ primary function is to extend the hip… that is, to push you forward while your foot is on the ground. It’s also responsible then for pushing you up out of a chair and lifting heavy weights. The gluteus maximus itself is a fairly short and robust muscle that only crosses the hip joint and when the hamstring and lumbar extensors (two muscle groups that are long and thin and cross multiple joints) have to take up the slack, they simply can’t do it. This is one reason many people get hurt doing dead lifts or lifting anything in particular.
If you think you might suffer from “gluteal amnesia” the first thing to do is learn to activate your glutes before you start trying heavy lifting. Try a one-legged bridge and sense where you feel the most muscle contraction… is it in the glutes or the hamstrings? If you are having trouble creating an intense gluteal contraction you should talk with a trained professional. I’ve had high level athletes that have had to put in a lot of concerted effort in order to perform a low-weight dead-lift without feeling it in their back.
I am always available for questions and consultation. For a list of references or for more information or questions regarding chiropractic, please feel free to contact Pro-Motion Chiropractic and Rehab at 307-699-3170.