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Fix your lower back pain for good! (Glute Medius Weakness)

Suffering with lower back pain that's stopping your progress?

Lower back pain has become a bit of an epidemic in current society. Back pain can occur from a long list of causes, I want to share with you one of the most common and how to fix it. This is particularly helpful if your lower back pain isn't exactly in the middle (on the spine) but slightly off to the side.

I was referred a lady whom we will call Sharon (not her real name). Now Sharon was a mother of multiple kids with an understandably busy schedule. Sharon did yoga and pilates once or twice a week. She came to me saying she had been dealing with lower back pain for years and could only get it to be slightly less painful, never pain free. Upon assessment it was clear that there were two main causes for her back pain:

1. Weak Glute Medius and Minimus

2. Improper Core stabilisation

We are going to breakdown the glute issue in this post and the core in a later one.

Lets start off with what even are these muscles:

The Glutes (muscles in the bum) are split into 3 separate muscles. The Gluteus Maximus (Glute max) is the biggest responsible for extension of the leg (Moving the leg behind the body) The Gluteus Medius (Glute med) is next with it's smaller counterpart the Gluteus minimus (Glute min) beneath it, both of these muscles are responsible for abduction of the leg (Moving the leg to the side, away from the midline)

Why do they become weak:

Often if you spend prolonged time sitting the hip flexors (particularly the TFl or tensor fascia lata, which is also a hip abductor) on the front of the leg become tighter and therefore dominant, this results in the Glute Med/Min becoming lengthened and overstretched.

How does this cause back pain:

Due to where the glute med and min are positioned they provide a lot of support for the pelvis and lower back, particularly in single leg motions (walking, lunges etc.). If they are however weak and/or inactive then that support is picked up by other muscles leading to further imbalance and excess strain in the lower back.

Now you might be thinking "how do i fix this then!?"

The answer is twofold:

1. Stretch tight hip flexors (covered in a later blog post)

2. Activate and strengthen the glute med and min.

The first step is activation of these glute muscles. In order to make sure that the TFL isn't contributing we must first take the leg back into extension then abduction from the extended position. You can complete this either standing or laying down on your side. First keep the leg straight and extend it back behind the body whilst maintaining a neutral spine (flat back), then from this position lift the leg away from the body out to the side.

1/2 x 10 each leg after your warm up should have the glutes firing on all cyclinders!

In order to strengthen these muscle we can use resistance bands as in a banded clamshell or single leg movements that require the hips to remain aligned, this way the glute med/min have to work as stabilisers. An example being a single leg romanian deadlift or a bulgarian split squat. Through all of these movements the hips and pelvis should stay stable and straight it is important to master the technique and positioning before adding load to these movements.

Like Sharon are you willing to work for pain free movement?

I would always recommend getting professional advice before trying any program yourself and if you are unsure consult a physician.


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