Low back pain is the second most common reason for people to seek care from their doctor, besides the common cold. Then, they end up in our office! Clinically, more men are complaining of low back pain compared to neck pain. Why? What makes men more prone to low back pain? Anatomy explains a lot of it!
The pelvis and hamstrings – When we look at the anatomical structure of the male pelvis, it helps explain why many men suffer from tight hamstrings. For men, the pelvis sits back and in a more vertical position compared to women. (The female pelvis naturally sits tilted forward to accommodate bearing children.) The hamstrings, which are the big muscles of the back of the thigh, attach to the two bottom bumps known as the ischial tuberosities. Since the pelvis sits back more in men, the hamstrings are naturally shortened due to their attachment sites. This helps explain why it’s often harder for men to touch their toes than women. However, this is a big reason men need to stretch more! With tighter hamstrings, men can’t stretch their low backs as well. And the muscle tension cascade begins…
Upper body strength – Men naturally have more muscle mass and strength in their upper bodies compared to women. Unfortunately, a challenge is created for men who develop their pecs and other chest muscles while ignoring the importance of strengthening the upper back. As the chest builds up, the shoulders are drawn forward causing a pull on the muscles that line the spine, known as the paraspinal muscles or erector spinae. As these long muscles tighten, they restrict mobility and increase tension in the low back. In this case, stretching the chest and shoulders can actually help remove tension from the low back!
Gaining weight in the apple shape – Generally speaking, most men gain weight in their midsection, while women frequently gain weight in their lower abdomen and hips. With increased weight in the stomach, affectionately referred to as the classic beer belly, there is also increased pressure on the low back due to the change in the body’s center of gravity. There is an increase in the lumbar lordosis, the natural curve of the low back. The excessive curvature puts more strain on the intervertebral discs, compresses the low back, and, again, tightens the muscles. Preventing unnecessary weight gain and stretching the low back can prevent the discomforts associated with an increased lumbar lordosis.
Now that some anatomy is explained, I hope everyone reading this article will take time to stretch! Low back pain and injury can be prevented or at least lessened if you take steps to care for yourself. Chiropractic care and massage therapy are helpful to improve and maintain mobility. However, self care such as stretching is irreplaceable. Help us, help you!