Hip Flexors and Low Back Pain: A Surprising Connection

Hip flexor tightness can affect many individuals, young, old, active, and sedentary. Many of the patients in our clinic that suffer from low back pain don’t realize that tightness in the hip flexors can be a contributing factor. In this blog, we explore mechanics of the hip flexor, what you can do to prevent hip flexor tightness and treatment techniques for those who are experiencing pain.

 

The hip flexors are a group muscles that cross the front of the hip.

Some of the muscles are:

Iliacus: this one attaches from the iliac crest to the femur (leg bone)

Psoas Major: attaches from your lumbar vertebra to your femur

Rectus Femoris: this quad muscle crosses the hip and the knee and controls hip and knee movement.

 

The muscles need to keep a balance to hold the bones of the body together. If there is tightness in a muscle group it causes imbalanced for on the bones, and pulls the bones out of a neutral alignment. Poor alignment places strain and stress on the affected joints and causes pain.  When the hip flexors are tight this causes a pull on the spine resulting in an anterior tilt of the pelvis. This anterior pelvic tilt causes an increase in lordosis or curve in the low back. Because the psoas attaches to the lumbar vertebra, hip flexor tightness is often a contributor to chronic low back pain. If not addressed, eventually the increased lordosis and anterior pelvic tilt can also weaken the abdominal muscles. Our abdominal muscles are needed to support the pelvis and the lumbar spine. Think of them as a natural corset for the trunk providing stability.

Preventing Injury

We all know what stretching is, and most of us have probably done some stretching movements at some point in our lives. We hear about stretching to prevent injury, to warm up, and to gain flexibility but is it really that necessary? Stretching and flexibility is especially important when it comes to hip flexors and back pain.

Sitting can cause an increase in hip flexor tightness as well as running or biking without performing stretches needed to maintain muscle length.

Treating Hip Flexor Tightness

There are many pieces to the puzzle that tight hip flexors can affect with the balancing act our body does with muscles and bones. Tightness in the muscles can be treated with myofascial release, soft tissue mobilization, stretching, and kinesiotaping. Targeted exercises are given for the areas that are weak to help return muscle balance. Therapists in our clinic assess the posture, muscle lengths and weaknesses. We determine what muscles groups need to be addressed as well as what is causing the imbalance. Treating the cause of the imbalance causing the symptom is what will make life long changes.

 

Andrea Newport, PT

Andrea Newport, PT

Spinal Decompression for Back Pain, Herniated and Degenerative Lumbar Discs

Non-surgical spinal decompression was introduced to Minnesota by Team Health Care Clinic years ago.  Since then, we have continued to successfully perform this treatment protocol for people with back pain with Vertebral Axial Decompression (VAX-D).  In our clinic alone, there have been hundreds of patients that were spared surgery by completing VAX-D services.

Since that time we have seen many clinics come and go claiming they have spinal decompression services.  It was the “wild west” with even simple traction units being touted as spinal decompression. But what is spinal decompression and how is better or different than simple traction?

Spinal Decompression Reduces Pressure on Lumbar Discs

When it comes to spinal decompression, it’s all about the pressure reduction achieved. Much like gauging the air pressure in a car tire, scientists have been able to measure the pressure on a disc in various positions. What they found is as follows:

Vax-D spinal decompression achieves negative pressure on the disc.

Notice that traction does not create a negative pressure on the disc. In other words, traction in the form of inversion tables, intersegmental traction units and many other devices claiming to be spinal decompression, are creating pressure reductions similar to lying down.  No negative pressure means no suction effect and that means little chance of decompressing degenerative and herniated discs.

VAX-D is Superior to Others

Non-surgical spinal decompression uses a machine that is proven to create a negative pressure on lumbar discs. There are few, if any, other thank VAX-D.  Beware —  many will claim they have research that proves negative pressure is achieved. However, when pressed to see the research, a few different schemes are discovered to overstate the research.

One technique is to use VAX-D research as their own.  They will show the research only when pressed for it and explain that the copycat device is similar to VAX-D so they claim it as their own.

A second approach is to do research on cadavers.  Other than the fact that any positive effect from decompression is too late for these subjects, there are obvious flaws in drawing any conclusions from this research.

Our bodies have receptors that create a stretch reflex when a force is applied to it.  For example, if someone is pulling your leg to stretch your hamstring, at some point your muscle will resist the force to avoid injury.  In cadavers, this reflex is absent so the researches can apply any distractive force and find erroneous positive results.  Don’t be fooled by this scheme.

Be an educated consumer and ask questions before agreeing to proceed with your doctor’s recommendation for non-surgical decompression.  Determine how they define “decompression” and ask for research to support their claims.

Finally, investigate its track record and its success rate.  Look past splashy marketing and grand claims. Five years ago, the Twin Cities metro was saturated with full page ads for decompression services. Almost 100% of those marketing campaigns were not able to stand the test of time and are now noticeably absent.

Consider VAX-D for non-surgical spinal decompression.  It is well researched, has a greater than 15-year track record, and is 80% successful in patients that had failed all conservative treatments.  It also has research that confirms it creates negative pressure on the discs of live subjects.

Is it Right for Me?

VAX-D has been a proven “positive negative” for hundreds of our patients. If you have been diagnosed with a lumbar disc degeneration or herniation, consult your provider to determine if VAX-D is right for you.

Joe Bertsch, DC

Joe Bertsch, DC