Monday, January 12, 2009

Lordosis: Why it Causes Lower Back Pain & How to Fix it

Your lower back has a natural inward curve. An excessive inward curve is called lordosis. Lordosis is a common cause of lower back pain in strength training & daily activities. This article will help you understand lordosis & how to treat it.

Cause of Lordosis. Lordosis can be caused by excessive weight, pregnancy, spinal problems present at birth, etc. Sitting for extended periods is a common cause of lordosis. Desk jobs, sitting in your couch, sitting in your car all day, …

Your body adapts to these positions. Some muscles shorten & stiffen, others get stretched & weaken. This causes an imbalance: lordosis.

* Hip flexors shorten
* Glutes and abs stretched & weak
* Anterior Pelvic Tilt: your pelvis is pulled forward

When a muscle tightens on one side of a joint, the muscle on the other side of the joint weakens. This is Reciprocal Inhibition.If you Bench Press without doing Barbell Rows or Overhead Presses, your posterior shoulders get little training compared to your front shoulders. Couple this with reciprocal inhibition and you get bad posture & rotator cuff injuries.

Why is Lordosis Bad? Lordosis is a muscle imbalance combined with bad posture. Lordosis causes:

* Lower Back Pain. Your abs & lower back stabilize your torso. Lordosis stretches your ab muscles, making them weak. Your lower back gets all the work, which results in fatigue & pain.
* Tight Hamstrings. Lack of hamstring flexibility prevents proper exercise technique. Hamstrings get tight during sports lowering performance & increasing the risk of injury (pulled hamstrings).
* Bad Technique. You won’t be able to squeeze your glutes during Squats & Deadlifts . This puts more stress on your lower back & hamstrings, increasing risk of injury. Lower back pain is the first sign.
* Strength Loss. The glutes are one of your strongest muscles. Only using your lower back & hamstrings to lift the weight is less efficient than using all hip muscles. You need to involve your glutes.
* Unattractive. Monkey butt & you look like you’re pregnant.

Self Diagnose. If you have a desk job, sit a lot in your car or if you’re sedentary outside the gym, you probably have lordosis.

* Stand aside a mirror: Butt sticks out? Protruding gut?
* Lower back pain when standing for extended periods?
* Lower back pain during Squats or Deadlifts?
* Hamstrings get tight when playing sports?

Treating Lordosis. You’ll need to stretch the tight muscles & strengthen the weak ones. But lordosis won’t go away without treating the cause: sedentary lifestyle. You need to build better habits for long-term results.

* Sit Less. Avoid sitting in a static position for extended periods. Get up as often as you can. Every 15 mins ideally. Personally I avoid sitting as much as possible. I often eat & wait in queues standing.

* Stand-up Desks. Or kneeling desks. Anything where you’re don’t have a 90° angle at your hips for long periods.

* Desk Stretches. Put your arms overhead, upper-back against your chair. Bring your hips forward by squeezing your glutes hard. Straighten your legs. You’ll be fully extended upper back & hamstrings against the chair, glutes off the chair. I do this one countless times a day.

* Glute Bridges. Glute activation & strengthening exercise. Raise your glutes off the floor by squeezing them as hard as you can. 3 sets of 10 reps.

* Birddogs. Single leg glute activation exercise. Brace your abs & keep your spine neutral. Push back with your heels. 3 sets of 10 reps both sides. Video:

* Hip Flexor Stretches. Use padding for your knees. Keep your torso perpendicular to the floor & your lower back neutral. Think upper leg back, not going down. Squeeze the glute of the back leg. 3 sets of 10 secs each side. Video:

* Hamstring Stretches. Leg Swings. Chest forward, shoulders back, lower back straight & knees unlocked. Look forward. Move your legs, keep your pelvis still. If you can’t get high: keep working at it. Flexibility will come. 3 sets of 10 reps each side. Video:

* Strengthen Abs. Turkish Get-ups are my favorite. 5×5, increasing the weight every session. Video:

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