Chiropractors are wizards of the muscular and skeletal systems, spending their days adjusting people's bodies back into proper alignment. And out of all of the bones that they put back into place, chiropractor Robert Shire, DC, says there's one area that stands out as the being the most commonly misaligned. And that area is? The lower back.
"The quadratus lumborum, or lower back muscles, are frequent contributors to lower back pain," says Dr. Shire, a chiropractor at Tru Whole Care in New York City, who stresses that lower back pain is really, really common. Why is this the spot for improper alignment and pain? Sitting, for one. "Sitting for prolonged periods of time can exacerbate the problem," he says. "For instance, the quadratus lumborum can become tight and spasm when we sit in front of the computer for too long."
When you have weak abdominal muscles, this can also impact your lower back muscles. "A weak core causes the lower back muscles to work overtime," says Dr. Shire. "Without a break, these muscles build up lactic acid, and that can lead to soreness and cramping."
Remember that your spine is curved, so proper back alignment entails an "S" curve—it shouldn't be a straight line. Lara Heimann, PT, a yoga instructor and physical therapist, has told Well+Good that the back of your skull, your scapulae (shoulder blades), and your sacrum (the bone in your lower pelvis) should be lined up. This is a good rule to follow for correct posture, while also allowing for your back's natural curve.
What can you do if your lower back is tight and not in proper alignment? Keep scrolling for a chiropractor-approved plan for proper alignment (and less oh-so-annoying pain).
Stretches that help if your lower back is out of alignment
1. Stretch your hip flexors and quadriceps: To help relieve lower back tension and pain, Dr. Shire recommends standing hip flexor stretches and quad stretches, both of which work the front of your thigh. Doing these allow for proper pelvic mobility, which puts less stress on your lower back muscles.
2. Work on your mobility: Dr. Shire says it's really important to have mobility in the pelvis area and the vertebrae in your lower back. "Ensuring that the pelvis, sacrum, and lumbar vertebrae are moving properly is a critical factor in lower back health," he says. Try these exercise ball back stretches and work on neutralizing any pelvic tilt that you may have.
3. Consider visiting your chiropractor: When all else fails and your lower back pain won't go away, Dr. Shire says that chiropractic adjustments are "specific, gentle, and effective in restoring proper alignment and function."
Adding a glute bridge exercise to the end of every workout session can also help alleviate lower back pain. And here's how a glute imbalance can contribute to lower back pain (along with five exercises to fix it).
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