If you've ever experienced lower back pain, be it constant or occasional, you know how much trouble it can cause you. The difficulty of going from sitting to standing, going up stairs and hills, leaning or squatting down to pick something up... There are seemingly endless activities that can trigger lower back pain. So why is that?
It's all about the way that your lower back and leg muscles coordinate with one another. If you don't depend enough on the strongest, biggest muscles in your body - your glutes and quads - then you will likely end up depending on your lower back muscles for the strength and stability that your glutes or quads would normally provide.
Here are a couple of situations where that coordination gets thrown off and your lower back muscles have to do more work than they are okay with.
1. Too much turnout. In turnout, where your feet point away from each other, all of your external rotator muscles, including your glutes, are in constant high tone to hold your legs in that position. Whether in sitting or standing, a huge number of your upper thigh and pelvic muscles are involved in turning out your legs, leaving your poor overworked lower back muscles to support the entire back half of your torso.
Try this: In sitting or standing, place your hands on your glutes and/or lower back. Slowly turn your legs in and out and feel how the muscle tone changes under your hands. Notice how much less muscle activity there is in your back when your feet are closer to parallel.
2. Hyper-extended knees/too much weight in heels. When you stand or walk with your knees hyper-entended or with too much weight in your heels, your pelvis tilts forward and the arch in your lower back contracts. If you walk or stand like that most of the time, then you are living your life with your lower back muscles in constant high tone, and with very little use of your quads.
Try this: In standing, place your hands on your lower back, close to the top of your pelvis. Fully straighten your knees and shift your weight onto your heels, and notice the tilt of your pelvis and the muscle tone under your hands. Now soften your knees into a gentle bend (no squats needed here) and shift your weight a little further forward in your feet with heels still touching the floor, and notice the tilt of your pelvis, the muscle tone under your hands, and the muscle activity that starts up in your quads.
If you start to pay attention to how you're using your legs and feet, chances are very high that your lower back pain will improve.