Reverse Lower Back and Hip Pain With This Daily Stretch
Back and hip pain, including sciatica and piriformis syndrome, are often debilitating, but in most cases, fixable. Sciatica pain usually comes from a pinched nerve in your spine. Piriformis syndrome is similarly caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, but in this case, the compression is stemming from the piriformis muscle which is at the top of your glutes, just below the hip bone.
We need to start by understanding what’s going on with your hips.
Why the hips?
The mobility of your hips determines the health of your lumbar discs. In the right position, your hips allow the spine to stack straight and your core to engage. If they’re not in the right position, you’ll compress discs, weaken your glutes and core, and end up in pain.
Hip mobility requires two things: strength and flexibility in all 6 possible directions (adduction – in, abduction – out, extension – back, flexion – front, and internal and external rotation).
One of my favorite healing exercises for anything back and hip related is a lunge. A proper lunge stretches and strengthens your hips for extension and flexion. This is where you’ll feel the most benefit for sciatic and piriformis pain relief. It’s the perfect antidote for too much sitting.
HOW TO DO A PROPER LUNGE
Start with your feet on 2 parallel tracks about shoulder-width wide.
Put your hands on your hips to see and feel that they’re even. By even I mean that both hips are equally facing forward. The tendency for most people is the hip of the front foot is more forward than the other one. If this is your case, bring your feet in closer together as needed to make sure both hips face forward like car headlights.
***IMPORTANT: Your hips are anteverted, meaning slightly tipped forward.
From there, think of reaching your lower ribs toward your front hip bones. This activates your core.
Try to keep the top of your head reaching toward the ceiling, chin slightly tucked in.
What you’re going to end up doing is holding each side for 10 deep, slow breaths. Listen to all the details before you start. Once you understand exactly what to focus on, then do your counting. This should be kind of hard. You might even sweat or be sore.
If anything hurts, stop. Send me an email or comment below and we can trouble-shoot.
FOCUS ON THESE POINTS
1. Hips stay even. If you start to notice one hip swaying in front, pull yourself back up a little.
2. This isn’t a contest, so don’t let your ego win. Only go as far down as you can maintain the correct posture and still breathe easily.
3. As you warm up, you can edge up onto the balls of your back toes. You can slowly start to make your way deeper, but only as your hips, posture, and breath allow.
4. The glute on your back leg is fired up. Imagine someone bouncing a quarter off your back butt cheek. Think of straightening your back knee. This will wake up the glute and the hip flexor.
5. Your spine is tall. This is how you can keep breathing while you’re doing this. Your hips are anteverted so that you can stack up straight. Your middle core, your abdominal muscles and obliques are very active here as well. Feel how the breath moves easily through your straight spine. Visualize the in-breath going up the front of your body and the out-breath going down your back.
6. Your hands can be on your hips; shoulders engaged down. If you’re experienced in this movement, you have the option to raise your arms up, but only if you can (1) keep your balance and (2) resist your shoulders rising up to your ears.
COMMON LUNGE MISTAKES
1. The front leg hip is swaying out in front. Think of headlights on the front of your hips. Keep your headlights even.
2. Holding your breath and waiting for it to be over. Breathe and try to enjoy the sensations. If it hurts at all, that’s your cue to ease up a bit.
3. Leaning forward. If your back hip is too tight to allow this, come up higher.
4. Arching back. Bring your lower ribs closer to your front hips.
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