How to Eliminate Back Pain (Part 2):
4 Critical Hip Strengthening Exercises
Dr. Troy Vander Molen, PT, DPT
In our June 1, 2018 article entitled 5 Reasons Why Your Back Hurts When You Walk, I outlined the most common root causes of this type of back pain. In September, we dove a little deeper into the topic of how you can improve hip mobility to alleviate lower back pain. This month, I want to help you work on enhancing hip strength to reduce lower back pain.
When we lack stability at a particular link in the kinetic chain, the body tends to demonstrate dysfunctional movement at that joint. This in turn creates additional movement-related stresses at neighboring regions. As a result, the body part that is experiencing pain isn’t really the true problem. It is simply the part that is experiencing increased mechanical stress because of the root problem.
Before I share some effective hip strengthening strategies, I want to remind you that there are a variety of hip muscle weakness issues that may contribute to your lower back pain. The following activities are a good start if you need to enhance hip strength, but it is always wise to seek the advice of a lower back pain specialist to assess your specific needs and find the exact program to overcome your unique issues. Remember, if you want good outcomes, it is always better to assess than to guess.
- Bridges – A simple bridge performed in the back-lying position provides stability on the posterior side of your core. It is great to perform this exercise after you’ve created good hip flexor mobility. If you have difficulty creating enough extension to bring your hips on a line directly between your knees and shoulders at the top of the bridge, narrow your feet and slightly open your knees.
- Clam Shell (Hip External Rotation) – This exercise strengthens the rotators deep beneath the gluteals, which helps provide rotary stability. To do this exercise, you can start with simple active leg movement as demonstrated in the video below, but eventually you will need some resistance, which is easy to provide with a resistance band (i.e. theraband).
- Side Planks with a Tweak – This more advanced exercise is done on your side with the knees bent. Place a pillow or foam pad under your elbow and try to lift your hips up until the top hip is on a line between your knee and shoulder. If you can hold this position without rolling the trunk forward or backward, then you can add the clam shell motion (as demonstrated). This exercise can produce some stress on the weightbearing shoulder, so do not perform the exercise if you feel pain there during the exercise.
- Functional Hip Loading – Performing great hip strengthening exercises laying on the floor or your bed is only beneficial if it helps you function better on your feet. To bridge the functional gap, attempt the following three-dimensional stepping motions demonstrated at the 2:15 mark of the video by Andrew Gorecki, our good friend at Superior Physical Therapy in Traverse City, MI.
In upcoming installments, the Kinetic Edge team and I will continue to provide practical information on how to eliminate back pain by improving mobility of the upper back (Part 3), enhancing foot and ankle mobility (Part 4), and managing spine arthritis and/or stenosis (Part 5). If you can’t wait for that information to be released, I welcome you to take advantage of our free injury screen day that we’re planning for Tuesday, October 23, 2018 from 7:00AM-6:00PM.
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Remember, the biggest predictor for lower back pain is a past experience with lower back pain. So, even if you’re not experiencing lower back pain currently but have dealt with it in the past, you’d likely benefit from the help of a knowledgeable physical therapist who can find and fix the issues that contribute to the pain. Fixing those root problems will reduce the likelihood that your lower back pain will return.