Lower Back pain


lower back pain : Common Muscle Imbalance Examples

Common Muscle Imbalance Examples
One of the most common examples of a muscle imbalance
that causes back pain occurs in many people today who work
in sedentary positions. We call it “forward-tipped pelvis.” All
(that sitting tightens the hip flexors (fronts of hips
Meanwhile, the stomach (abdominal), hamstring, and
buttock muscles become weak from being underused

Forward-Tipped Pelvis

Figure 1: Forward-tipped pelvis versus neutral pelvis

The tight muscles pull the pelvis down and forward,
creating an excessive curve in the lower torso and causing the
abdomen to protrude forward. The resulting pressure on the
lower spine can eventually cause dysfunction and injury, such
as sciatica, a herniated disc, or a muscle spasm.
Another widespread muscle imbalance is one we like to call
“forward head and shoulders.”

Forward Head & Neck

Figure 2: Forward head and neck versus neutral spine

This occurs frequently because people spend so much time
hunched over computers, steering wheels, office desks,
stoves—almost every activity we do requires us to lean
This causes the muscles in the chest and at the base of the
neck to tighten up, while the muscles in the upper back and
shoulders weaken and stretch out, putting pressure on the
upper spine and causing upper back and neck pain.
There are other common muscle imbalances, but perhaps
you can begin to see how our everyday routines work our
muscles unevenly, create bad posture, and eventually lead to

Your Muscle Strength: Use It or Lose It

The  body  is truly  an amazing  machine.  The  more you
work it, the stronger it gets. In contrast, if you drive your car
for thousands of miles, it’s not going to drive any faster or get
better gas mileage. If you play your upright piano for years,
it’s never going to grow intoa grand piano. The human body,
on the other hand, responds towork by becoming stronger
and more efficient—especially in the muscles.
As you go about your daily routine, using one hand, arm,
or leg more than the other, that part of the body becomes
stronger. Imagine if you lifted weights with only your left arm
for several months and did very little with your right arm.
Pretty soon you would notice a definite difference between
the two.
When  you  exercise  or  use  a  muscle,  the  fibers  are
stimulated, stressed, or slightly “damaged.” This is why you
may feel sore after a particular activity. During rest, the body
repairs the muscle, building it back up to withstand similar
work in the future. The fascinating thing is that the body goes
the  extra  mile  in  reconstruction,  building  the  muscle  up
stronger than  it  was  before,  so  you  can  handle  the  same
activity with greater ease.
However, the opposite also is true: When you don’t work a
muscle, it not only doesn’t growstronger, it actually grows
weaker, sort of like a basketball thatisn’t inflated regularly. If
you’ve ever had an operation on one leg or arm and had to
build the muscles back up again, you know this fact well!
Or, if you’ve ever been confined to bed for a week or two
due to a medical condition, you’ll remember how wobbly you
felt  when  you  tried  to  get  up  again.  This  is  because  your
muscles had already started toweaken from inactivity.
So, how do these uneven muscles result in a tug-of-war
inside your body

Striving for Balance

When we think of balance, we often imagine two things
working in opposition to one another. We may visualize two
children on a teeter-totter, for instance, or the two ropes that
lift and lower a flag on a pulley. Muscles work much the same
way—in twos. In order for you to be able to move forward
and back and side to side, each muscle needs a partner muscle
to pull the opposite way.
If you bend your elbow to touch your neck, your biceps
(the muscles on the front of the upper arm) pull, or contract
and shorten, and the triceps (the muscles on the back of the
upper  arm)  relax  and  go  into  a  stretched  position.  If  you
didn’t have the triceps muscles to pull your arm back out, it
would  remain  bent.  Fortunately,  when  you’re  ready,  the
triceps contract while the biceps relax to straighten your arm
again. This is why it’s so important to keep both muscles in
an opposing muscle group balanced.
I’m not saying here that both muscles need to be of equal
strength,  as  some  muscles  are  naturally  designed  to  be
stronger than others.

Rather, each muscle should maintain the state of strength
and  flexibility  that  keeps  the  nearby  joints  functioning
optimally. This allows you to moveeasily in all directions in
the way the body was designed to move.
When it comes to eliminating and preventing back pain,
the goal isn’t necessarily to have muscles as strong and flexible
as possible—though that certainly helps. The goal, as we said
in Chapter 3, is balance: Your muscle pairs need balanced
strength  and  flexibility  to  support  your  body  height  and
weight and allow for normal movement.
Unfortunately, for most of us, keeping all the muscle pairs
equally balanced is a tall order. Not only do we suffer from
working some too much and others too little, we suffer from
stretchingsome too much and others too little. But the even
bigger challenge is that most people aren’t even aware of this.
While  this  basic  understanding  of  how  our  bodies  work
should  be  common  knowledge,  it  isn’t,  and  that’s why  so
many people struggle withnagging aches and pains

I Can’t Touch My Toes Anymore!”
Many of us, as we get older, become less flexible. When we
were  children  we  could  probably  touch  our  toes,  do
somersaults, and even perform splits. But as we get older, our
muscles seem to tighten up like boards. You may be surprised
to hear that age isn’t the main culprit.
-A muscle’s natural reaction is to contract. Just like a roly
poly bug that curls up when you touch it, the muscle—when
you ask it to work—will tighten.
Think of what happens when you touch a hot burner by
mistake.  The  muscle  contracts  to  pull  your  hand  away,
sometimes before you even realize what’s happened.
Similarly,  when  you  perform  an  activity,  the  muscle
contracts to help you perform it. That means for every activity
you do, some muscle, somewhere, is pulling or contracting.

Do the activity frequently and for extended periods of time,
and the muscle is required to stay in that short, contracted
If  the  muscle  is  stretched  during  a  resting  and  healing
period, it most likely will returnto its relaxed, elongated, and
more flexible state. (This is why most fitness trainers, like me,
recommend stretching after exercising, to elongate the muscle
again after it’s been tightened from physical activity.) If it’s
not stretched, it will stay tight, and at the end of the healing
process it will remain a little shorter than it was before.
For  most  of us  who  do  certain activities  over  and over
again, but fail to adopt a regular stretching routine, this is
how we lose flexibility.
Gradually,  our  muscles  get  so  used  to  being  in  a
contracted, tightened state that they tend to stay that way.
Suddenly,  we  can  no  longer  touch  our  toes—or  for  some
folks, even our knees!

Muscle Flexibility: Stretch It or Lose It

If  you’re  a  woman  who  wears  high  heels,  most  likely
you’ve heard the warnings: Wear them too much and the
muscles in the backs of your lower legs—the calf muscles
will shorten. And if you haven’t, here it is now: Wearing high
heels is asking for problems, and it’s one of the worst things
you  can  do  to  your  feet  and  body.  You  can  visualize  this
Just  imagine  your  calf  muscle  as  a  rubber  band  that
extends from the back of your knee to your heel. When you
wear high heels, the rubber band contracts (or gets shorter) to
accommodate  the  shorter  distance  between  your  heel  and
your knee. Over time—particularly if you wear these shoes up
to eight hours a day, five daysa week—the muscle adapts to
this shorter position, so that when you take the high heels off
you feel a pull as the calf muscle tries to lengthen again to set
your heel on the floor
The same thing can happen to the muscles in the backs of
your thighs, called the hamstrings. Visually, you can imagine
the hamstring “rubber band” at a certain length when you’re
standing.  What  happens  when  you  sit  down?  The  rubber
band—in  this  case,  the  muscle  in  the  back  of  the  leg—
shortens to allow you to sit.
If you sit too much, the muscle will adapt itself to that
position as normal and become permanently shortened, again,
reducing your flexibility and causing pain when you stand or
need to bend over. This shortening of the muscles happens
throughout  the  body,  with  any  muscle  that  is  required  to
remain  in  a  shortened  position  for  a  long  time—and  is
stretched too little.
Lack of stretching and overworkof muscles are a couple of
reasons why we lose flexibility. But there is another reason,
which you never hear health care professionals talk about:
excess fibrin. A more common termfor it is “scar tissue.” I’ll
talk more about fibrin in Chapter 6, but for now, understand
that when you work a muscle, some of the fibers are damaged.
This is a good thing, because when the body goes into repair
mode, it typically builds the muscle back stronger than it was
However,  part  of  that  rebuilding  process  involves
producing  fibrin  or  “scar  tissue,”  which  forms  a  sort  of
latticework on which the body can build new tissue. (Picture
the  crisscross  framework  on  a  building  undergoing
remodeling.) To provide maximum structural integrity for
your injured tissues and joints, fibrin is a naturally stiff and
inflexible material. The more fibrin that builds up in your
body, the more inflexible you become.
Typically, once the repair work is finished, a special type of
enzymes called proteolytic enzymes come in to complete the
job  by  breaking  down  the  fibrin  and  whisking  it  away

Unfortunately, as we get older, our bodies don’t produce as
much of these critical enzymes as when we were younger
Without these enzymes doing the cleanup job, fibrin builds
up in our connecting tissues. This is why, when you turn 40,
50, or 60, you begin to feel stiff all over and less springy than
when you were younger.
You can see how our tug-of-war is getting worse. Not only
is it going on between strong versus weak muscle pairs, it’s
happening between flexible versusinflexible muscle pairs. And
guess  what’s  in  the  middle  of  the  battle?  Your  spine_
specifically your neck, back, and hips.