It’s well established that about eight in 10 people in the U.S. will experience back pain at some point in their lives. And while the causes of such pain often vary, say physical therapists and other medical professionals say that increasingly, in a world that accommodates a more sedentary lifestyle, the blame for low-back pain can often be traced to an area a little lower in the kinetic chain: the hips.
A few cancers in their early stages can be hard to tell apart from ordinary back pain — a bone cancer in the vertebrae, for instance — and these create a frustrating diagnostic problem. They are too rare for doctors to inflict cancer testing on every low back pain patient “just in case.” And yet the possibility cannot be dismissed, either! It’s an unsolveable problem.
Start in a runner’s lunge with right leg forward, right knee over right ankle and back leg straight. Walk right foot over toward left hand, then drop right shin and thigh to the floor, making sure to keep right knee in line with right hip. Allow left leg to rest on the floor with top of left foot facing down. Take a moment to square your hips to the front of the room. Hold here, or hinge at hips and lower torso toward floor, allowing head to rest on forearms. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side. You want to feel a moderate stretch in the outside of the right thigh, but if this pose hurts your knees or feels too uncomfortable, stick with Thread the Needle.
• Gout. Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when excess uric acid, a bodily waste product circulating in the bloodstream, is deposited as needle-shaped monosodium urate crystals in tissues of the body, including the joints. For many people, the first symptom of gout is excruciating pain and swelling in the big toe – often following a trauma, such as an illness or injury. Subsequent attacks may occur off and on in other joints, primarily those of the foot and knee. Less commonly gout can affect the spine, causing extreme pain, numbness and tingling. It can be confused with a spinal infection.
How to: Get in a standing position, with one foot about a foot's distance behind the other, hips in line. Your feet should be flat, and your legs should be straight. Cross the back foot behind the front one as you reach your arm on the same side overhead. Return to starting position. That's one rep. Do eight reps on each side. Do three to four sets before moving on to the next move, resting for 30 seconds in between each set.
The hip flexor stretch has become a very popular stretch in the fitness and sports performance world, and rightly so considering how many people live their lives in anterior pelvic tilt. However, this seems to be one of those stretches that I see a lot of people either performing incorrectly or too aggressively. I talked about this in a recent Inner Circle webinar on 5 common stretches we probably shouldn’t be using, but I wanted to expand on the hip flexor stretch as I feel this is pretty important.
How to do it: Rest the barbell across the upper traps on the back of your shoulders, as if it’s sitting on the collar of your shirt. Begin with your feet about shoulder-width apart, toes pointing about 15 degrees out, then widen your stance as needed so you’re comfortable. Make sure your knees are pushed out and your glutes stabilize your position. When you’re ready, push your glutes back as if you’re sitting in a chair. Aim for dipping your butt below your knees, but go down as far as you can without bending forward or losing balance. When you get the bottom of your squat, squeeze your glutes and drive up and through your heels back to start position.
• Scoliosis. Instead of running straight up the center of the back, a spine with scoliosis twists to one side. Scoliosis can be classified as true (meaning it has to do with abnormal development of the spine) or functional (meaning its cause is not directly related to the spine). Functional scoliosis may occur when a discrepancy in leg length causes the pelvis to tilt to one side to compensate. The cause of true scoliosis is largely unknown, although doctors suspect that it may be the result of imbalanced growth in childhood.
How to: Lie on your back with your right knee bent and foot flat on the floor (a). Extend your left leg up to the ceiling and wrap a strap around the sole of your left foot (b). While holding both ends with your left hand, extend your right arm directly out to the side in order to anchor yourself (c). Slowly let the left leg fall toward the left while keeping your right side grounded. Hold for six to eight breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
True numbness is not just a dead/heavy feeling (which is common, and caused even by minor muscular dysfunction in the area), but a significant or complete lack of sensitivity to touch. You have true numbness when you have patches of skin where you cannot feel light touch. Such areas might still be sensitive to pressure: you could feel a poke, but as if it was through a layer of rubber. Most people have experienced true numbness at the dentist. BACK TO TEXT
People routinely have no pain despite the presence of obvious arthritic degeneration, herniated discs, and other seemingly serious structural problems like stenosis and spondylolistheses. This surprising contradiction has been made clear by a wide variety of research over the years, but the most notable in recent history is Brinjikji 2015. There are painful spinal problems, of course — which was also shown by Brinjikji et al in a companion paper — but they are mostly more rare and unpredictable than most people suspect, and there are many fascinating examples of people who “should” be in pain but are not, and vice versa. Spinal problems are only one of many ingredients in back pain. BACK TO TEXT
Often people go to the doctor seeking help for hip pain. Sometimes, people try to treat it themselves. They are convinced there is something wrong with their hip and the treatments begin. However, one thing is for sure, hip pain is not always as it appears. Hip pain can be a result of a problem in the hip joint itself. However, it can also be a result of a back problem or a soft tissue problem around the hip region.
How to do it: Grip the barbell so you’re standing straight with the barbell at arm’s length in front of your thighs. Kick your left leg back so it’s just off the floor. Bend over so you’re hingeing at the hip while allowing only a slight bend in the right knee, and lower the barbell to the floor while keeping it close to your body. Pause at the bottom, then reverse the movement back up to the top. That’s one rep. Repeat this movement, alternating sides each time.
Start in a runner’s lunge, right leg forward with knee over ankle and left knee on ground with top of your foot flat on the mat. Slowly lift torso and rest hands lightly on right thigh. Lean hips forward slightly, keeping right knee behind toes, and feel the stretch in the left hip flexor. Hold here, or for a deeper stretch, raise arms overhead, biceps by ears. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side.
The best thing about this stretch is that you can easily adjust where you feel it simply by changing the position of your foot. First, try bringing your foot inward (effectively externally rotating your hip), and repeat the same sequence of instructions. Then, do the same with turning your foot out (internally rotating the hip). Wherever you feel the biggest stretch is likely the version you should be doing more of.
Joint injections: Steroids can reduce the swelling and inflammation of the nerves. Joint injections are a minimally invasive procedure that involves an injection of a corticosteroid and an analgesic-numbing agent into the painful joint (Fig. 2). While the results tend to be temporary, if the injections are helpful they can be repeated up to three times a year.
Endometriosis (when the uterus lining grows somewhere else) can cause pelvic tenderness, which some women describe as hip pain. Pain from the back and spine also can be felt around the buttocks and hip, Siegrist says. Sciatica, a pinched nerve, typically affects one side of the body and can cause pain in the back of the right or left hip — the pain from sciatica can start in your lower back and travel down to your buttocks and legs.
Acute back pain is often the result of muscle sprains or strains. Sprains occur when your ligaments are overstretched and sometimes torn. Strains, on the other hand, are caused by stretching — and possible tearing — of your tendons or muscles. Though the immediate reaction is pain in your back, you may also experience dull aches or discomfort in your hip.
So, who cares right? Wrong. Everyone has seen that little old man walking with a cane, hunched over almost to the point of staring at the ground. Do you think he always walked like that? I'd bet you he didn't. Maybe he had an injury that never healed properly, or maybe after spending years and years in a similar position, his body became tighter and tighter until eventually he ended up bent over.
Tight hips seem to be a common problem for almost everybody — from runners to cyclists, from deskbound bloggers to dancers. Give this area a little extra love with this sequence of eight hip-opening stretches to increase your flexibility, reduce discomfort, and prevent injury. Try the series in the order listed here, or pick your favorites to incorporate into your workout routine.
The sacroiliac joint connects the lower spine to the pelvis and any injury or strain to this area can cause a lot of back, hip, groin, and sciatic pain. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction (SJD) can cause not only radiating lower back pain but can also severe pain in the hip area including hip pain at night when sleeping and hip pain when sitting. Often the pain resembles that of a hip injury it is so severe. SJD can also cause severe pain in the groin area. Women may also notice pain running along the distribution of the sciatic nerve. Treatment for sacroiliac joint dysfunction includes rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and sciatic nerve massage.
Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.