Muscle Imbalances and Lower Back Pain


Muscle imbalances are often the cause for a lot of people’s lower back pain. Perhaps the two biggest potential imbalances are found in the Hamstring and Gluteus muscles.

Are you one of those people who always seem to suffer from lower back pain (LBP)? If you are, then you are one of many. It is estimated that 8 of 10 people suffer from LBP at some stage in their lives, costing the United States $50 billion each year (American Chiropractic Association).

The problem with LBP is that there are so many different factors to consider when diagnosing the primary cause, from muscle strains to disc problems. One factor, however, plagues a large percentage of gym goers the most.

Muscle imbalances can cause havoc on your body’s tendons and ligaments, leading to impingements and inefficient biomechanics. The problem tends to arise due to some muscles being trained more than others, though lack of stretching also contributes a great deal.

With that in mind, here are perhaps the two most detrimental imbalances affecting your lower back health.

Tight Hamstrings

The research on Hamstring tightness and lower back pain is extensive. Due to the modern world’s 9-5 working day, sitting behind a desk, it has now become a rarity to see someone with efficiently lengthened Hamstrings. This causes problems for lower back stability as any hip flexion results in your lower back rounding, putting it in a vulnerable position. Add to that, any external load; a barbell for instance, and you can easily see why so many people have lower back problems.

The solution is fairly obvious; we could all do with a bit more stretching at the end of our workouts. In addition to this, dynamic stretching at the start of a workout in conjunction with active stretching exercises, such as Stiff Leg Dead Lifts or do some yoga, that they will also help lengthen the Hamstrings.


Inefficient Gluteus Function

The Gluteus muscles play a predominant roll in most big compound exercises, as the base from which a lot of body’s power is generated. The problem a lot of people have with their Gluteus is that they can’t get them to work at the right time. Now, this is either because they simply don’t have the motor ability to be able to use the muscles to their full potential or the tightness of other muscles has pulled it into a position where it simply can’t function properly.

The problem with this is that the body’s ability to compensate means that if the Gluteus muscles are not doing their part in an exercise, the lower back tends to pick up the slack.

The easiest way to test if your Gluteus muscles are not working properly is to lie flat on your stomach and slowly raise one leg at a time. If you find that your lower back starts to arch during the start or mid portion of the movement, then you know that it’s doing most the work and your Gluteus muscles are not working as they should be.

The solution to this is to make sure that the surrounding muscles (Hamstrings and Hip Flexors in particular) are supple and balanced. If it’s a case of poor motor coordination, then starting the session off with some activation work, such as Gluteus Bridges, will be beneficial.

Note: While efficient biomechanics and muscle length will, in a lot of cases, treat the lower back pain effectively, it should be noted that there could also be an alternative underlying cause, for which you will need the expertise of a Chiropractor. Just because you are no longer symptomatic of lower back pain does not necessarily mean the problem was resolved.