Lower Back Pain and Posture


At CoreWalking we feel a lot of lower back pain is due to poor postureMany people have lower back pain because they lean backwards through life. They lean backwards through life because they can. Homo Sapien Sapien, our genus has a spine with four curves that are responsible for holding us upright. The great ape, our closest relative on the evolutionary ladder has a flat lower back—no curve in the lower spine.

There are a number of reasons that apes cannot walk upright for long periods of time. For one, they have weak pelvic muscles that force them to shift their entire body weight over each leg as they proceed forward. The second more important reason is the flat lower spine. They can walk a few feet upright but with nothing in the spine to support and transfer the weight of the upper body they soon fall forward onto all fours.

As we stood up the psoas muscle awakened to a new role that included the creation of the spine’s lumbar curve as the psoas crossed the rim of the pelvis creating tension that pulled the lower vertebrae forward. It is the small curve in the lower vertebrae that allows the rest of the spine, rib cage and head to remain upright due to its ability to transfer weight down into the pelvis and legs.

I think that a great deal of lower back pain and issues with the psoas arise simply from the fact that we lean backwards, both in standing and in walking. And again we do it simply because we can. The curve of the lower back requires a good deal of surrounding muscle tone in order to maintain balance in the front and the back of the body. If we don’t have enough tone in the front—and I don’t think many people have the balanced tone that I am referring to—it is likely that we will lean backwards and compress the lumbar vertebrae slightly. Over time this is what leads too much of the lower back pain that many people suffer from and I think it is most easily alleviated by changing one’s walking and standing patterns.

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Aging Gracefully
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13 Comments
    • Sitting and standing are very different but the most important factor is always maintaining a natural curve in the lower back. It is hard to do that if you are either leaning backwards or forwards.

  1. What you call “leaning backwards” seems to be much more common than Lower Crossed Syndrome (LCS). Both are characterized by:

    Tight thoraco-lumbar extensors crossed with tight iliopsoas and rectus femoris.
    Weak glutes crossed with weak abdominals.

    Right?

    I wonder why there isn’t a clinical term for “leaning backwards” since it’s more common than LCS. Or, is “leaning backwards” what the lumbopelvic hip complex looks like if you have Upper Crossed Syndrome?

    I also don’t know why the glutes are weak from “leaning backwards” when they are being contracted for prolonged periods of time.

    Thanks for your informative blog, which keeps me intrigued.

  2. I also meant to say that the difference between LCS and “leaning backwards” is how the pelvis is tilted…anteriorly with LCS and posteriorly with “leaning backwards.” Of course, the pelvic tilt affects the curvature of the lumbar spine.

    • I have to admit to not having heard of lower or upper crossed syndrome. I am jsut trying to be as plain as possible. I think leaning backwards says it all. And I think we simply lean backwards because we can. Nothing has even been upright before and nothing has ever had a lumbar curve. I simple think we lean backwards habitually because it is possible. As a result all of our muscle groups are thrown out of balance. It is something of a chicken and egg issue.

  3. Trying to put all this together, I turn to Florence Kendall’s Muscles Testing and Function, my favorite book on posture. She first identities the 4 basic types of postural alignments: Ideal alignment, Kyphosis-lordosis, Flat-back, and Sway-back. Of course, all are faulty postures except the Ideal alignment.

    LCS (Lower Crossed Syndrome) seems to be another way of saying Kyphosis-lordosis posture, except its emphasis is on which muscles are weak and which are tight.

    UCS (Upper Crossed Syndrome) seems to be another way of saying Sway-back posture, except its emphasis is on which muscles are weak and which are tight.

    Some other standing postures Kendall discusses in her book are anterior deviation of the body in relation to the plumb line, posterior deviation of the trunk and head (leaning backwards!), a counterclockwise rotation of the body from the ankles to the cervical region, and lateral pelvic tilt — left or right. There are more poor postures, such as different forms of excessive Lordosis in the lumbar region.

    So much can go wrong!

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