Lower back pain can be caused by a number of issues. One of the most common culprits is excessive, repetitive and/or prolonged flexion of the lower back.
When the spine is flexed or bent forward, the spine and its associated soft tissues are in a relatively weak position, which can leave them vulnerable to injury.
It is estimated that 80 per cent of adults experience at least one episode of lower back pain throughout their lives. It can interfere with your ability to work, play sports, enjoy time with family and can prevent participation in regular activities of daily living, such as housekeeping and gardening.
Of course, you need to be able to bend forward to accomplish many parts of your daily routine and to enjoy physical and social activities. The back is designed to flex and can be remarkably resilient, even when overused for a day or two. However, if the volume or intensity of your activities goes beyond what your back can handle, you are at risk of injury. The good news is there is an easy fix: the hip hinge.
The hip hinge is a movement pattern that allows your hips to do the majority of the movement required to bend forward. It spares your spine the stress of flexing as much or as often. Using the hip hinge movement can reduce risk of injury and also be a game changer in terms of reducing symptoms and maximizing activity participation after injury.
To use the hip hinge movement, it is important to understand how to stand in with a neutral spine position. To achieve this position when standing upright, your shoulders should be gently set back on your ribcage and you should have a slight inward curve in your neck and lower back.
Once you are in a neutral position, you can begin to initiate a hip hinge. It is best to soften your knees with a slight bend and then tilt forward from your hip, maintaining the small inward curvature of your lower back.
When moving this way, a broomstick held against your body would maintain contact with your head, shoulders and tailbone throughout the movement. By keeping the spine in a neutral position as you hinge through the hip, you avoid excessive flexion of your spine.
If that seems complicated, try paying attention to the way you sit down and get back up; you will automatically use a hip hinge to get your hips back over the seat before you sit down. As you stand up, your body naturally leans forward, moving in a reverse hip hinge movement.
The hip hinge is as useful on the golf course as it is in the garden and when emptying your dryer. It is a key movement pattern to maximizing function, while minimizing risk of injury. Physiotherapists can be a great resource to fine tune your technique in the hip hinge, so you can spare your spine from injury.