Hips & Lower Back Pain – what is the connection?
The body is designed to move, not only with tiny subtle movements but also can endure extreme sports and harsh environments. It is made up of nerves, muscles, connective tissues, and so much more which regulate and adapt to what you throw at it.
But with these complex structures comes vulnerability, so it’s no surprise that humans experience pain and injury from time to time. What you may not realise though, is that sometimes the pain you feel isn’t the result of an injury or issue in the place you feel it. For example, when you have an injury to your hips or pelvis, it can often cause lower back pain. Due to the proximity of structures, the nerves that travel throughout the area, and the mobility of the joints, your body and brain can interpret your hip/pelvic problem as back pain and your back problem as hip/pelvic pain.
Your lower back, or lumbar region of the spine, contains all of the nerves that supply feeling and motor control to the entire lower body; from the lower back itself to the hips, knees, and down to your toes. While this area can sustain a lot of wear and tear, due to the immense amount of movement it can perform and the stress of daily life, it is also in an area most susceptible to injury. Here's a few reasons you may have this hip/back pain connection.
A pinched nerve at the lumbar spine due to a bulging or herniated disc may result in significant sharp pain along a nerve, like the sciatic nerve, which runs from the middle of the lower back all the way down the back and side of the leg to onwards to the foot. Sometimes this pain stops at the buttock and at other times it may shoot all the way down to the toes.
Your posture may also have an effect. This isn’t to say that you need to immediately “fix” your posture, as that may not be necessary. I get less fixated in correcting posture and am more likely to look at recent changes to lifestyle; like suddenly sitting all day when you’re used to be walking or crossing your legs a lot when you haven’t before. These seemingly subtle changes may result in some significant shifts in the joints of the pelvis and spine, causing pain. If you haven’t had a major change in how you sit, stand, or walk throughout your day, it may be that your posture has changed as a result of pain rather than the other way around. The new posture you’ve adapted may be your body’s way of compensating for an injury or otherwise protecting itself from further damage.
If your hips are unaligned in some way, let’s say they rotate a little more toward the back than normal; that is what is referred to as a posterior pelvic tilt, this puts unnecessary pressure on the lumbar spine. By the pelvis sitting in this backward rotation, even just a few degrees, the pelvic bones begin to pull on ligaments and muscles throughout the hips, lower back, and even the legs. This can cause you to round your lower back to mitigate, putting even more pressure on that lumbar spine. It’s a little like the chicken and egg scenario; although I won’t be able to pinpoint which came first, it’s best to treat both areas to ensure the entire situation can be resolved.
These are just a few examples and explain why in a consultation, I focus on a broader area than just your point of pain. So, when you arrive and complain of back pain, I will also be assessing and working with your hips to ensure I address the real problem and to get you out of pain and back to life.