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Part 2: Lower Back Pain and Tightness

This is part 2 of the series on movement and postural patterns. As I had discussed in my previous post, by having greater self-awareness of our patterns, we can reduce symptoms of pain and tightness, prevent it from coming on all together, and enhance the quality of our movements in daily life.

If you didn't have time to read up on my previous post and are interested in dealing with your upper back pain, I would recommend reading it here.

The second pattern I would like to talk about is called the "Lower Cross Syndrome". The typical posture of someone with this syndrome would have this main visual characteristic:

  • excessive arching of the lower back in standing

The typical signs and symptoms of individuals with this syndrome include:

  • Tightness in the hamstrings (back of the thigh muscles)

  • difficulty with touching their toes with their hands in standing

  • weakness in the glute and lower abdominal muscles

  • lower back tightness/pain

As discussed in my previous post, holding these types of postures does not necessarily mean that it is detrimental to your body, but it is only when we assume these same positions on a daily basis for a long period of time and don't take on other positions/postures that problems can arise.

We want our spine to be able to move in various directions - forwards, backwards, sideways, twisting. When we only move into one or two positions, we often become limited in the opposite direction. For example, if we only slouch and bend our spine forward, it will become increasingly difficult over time to bend backwards or straighten up. As the saying goes - "Use it or lose it".

If you can resonate with this, there are a few things that can be done right away to counteract these patterns:

  1. Take microbreaks if you expect to be sitting for 6-8 hours in a day. A microbreak would be getting up and moving for 2-5 minutes every 20-30 minutes. It is far better to get up and move for 2-5 minutes every 20-30 minutes rather than moving for 15 minutes after 2 hours.

  2. Change your postural positions. By changing positions you will re-direct the stress to other muscles, thereby allowing other muscles to relax rather than be tense for many hours.

  3. Incorporate a stretching and strengthening routine. It is highly recommended to perform a routine that involves strengthening the glute muscles and lower abdominals. When we sit with a rounded or slouched posture, we will tend to use less of our lower abominal muscles to support us, leading to the "lower cross syndrome" visual in standing.

If you find yourself unable to assume different postures or find it challenging to hold them due to stiffness, pain, or discomfort, then it may require medical intervention. It would be recommended to see a physiotherapist to help figure out what is preventing you from improving your symptoms.

A few things a physiotherapist should consider when evaluating your body:

  1. Identify if there are any history of car accidents, concussions, and falls that may have caused your body to stiffen up. Sometimes the effects of these injuries don't show up right away, but over time these injuries can begin to become more evident when our bodies become less active and mobile.

  2. Assess whether the stiffness or pain is chronic or acute. Depending on the nature of the condition, it may require a different approach and a varied duration and frequency of treatment. If the condition is acute, it may require more immediate hands on treatment to assist with pain management and limiting of compensations. However, if the condition is chronic, scar tissue and joint tension may appear leading to a longer recovery time.

  3. Identify the work environment. If the work environment is not set up optimally, it would require modifications of the body to fit the environment. For example, if you have a low seated chair, it will force your knees to be higher than your hips leading to lower back rounding if you lack flexibility. The inverse is true that if your seat is too high and you can't touch the ground with your feet, it will require you to support your body more with your hips and lower back which can lead to fatigue and eventual rounding of your lower back.

  4. Identify what postures are being held for extended periods of time. If you like to sit and cross your legs, you will find it more difficult and more tiring to sit up tall while crossing your legs. Consequently, this will cause the rest of the body to follow the rounding of your lower back.

Take Home Points

  • Changing sitting positions will reduce stress and tension on your lower back

  • Take breaks throughout the day if you are expecting to sit for an extended period of time

  • Engage in activities that involve strengthening your glute and lower abominal muscles

I hope you learned a few things today and found it helpful for your journey to recovery! If you have any questions about anything I wrote about today, please email me at

Interested to learn personally about how I work and how I can help you? - Come in for a free 15 minute consultation!

Ready to learn more about your body at a deeper level? - Book your appointment today!


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