I have low back pain and fallen arches. Are the two connected?
Fallen arches (excessive pronation) result in the shins and thighs rolling inwards. People who have fallen arches tend to have knocked knees. And when I was a child my parents paid for brackes to help straighten my legs. I still had fallen arches however.
Later on when, prior to enlisting in the army I learned how to lift my arches to hide what one doctor called "flat feet."
So how does fallen arches relate to low back pain?
Some anatomy is required.
The thigh and the front of the spine have two direct muscular connections. (If we counted the back of the spine there would be three.) The piriformis attaches to the front of the sacrum. It passes through the greater sciatic notch at the back of the pelvis to attach to the top of the thigh bone.
The psoas attaches to the front of the lumbar spine and the lowermost thoracic vertebrae.
It loops around the front of the pelvis to attach to inner aspect of the thigh at a protubance called the lesser trochanter. The lesser trochanter sticks out towards the back of the thigh bone, just below the neck.
If the thigh bones are rolled inwards, because of pronated feet (fallen arches) the lesser trochanter moves backwards pulling the attachment of the psoas with it. The tension in the psoas then pulls forwards on the front of the lumbar spine.
This rotation may also add tension to the piriformis which in turn pulls forwards on the sacrum.
The leverage of the psoas, since it folds around the pelvis, is probably greater, and it is perhaps greatest on the lower lumbar vertebrae.
If you've got low back pain and fallen arches, and it feels like your lower back is being compressed from within the body this may be the cause.
The first step, or an important step is learning to fix fallen arches. You may not actually need arch supports. You can learn instead, as I did, how to activate your feet and ankles so that your arches are no longer fallen. Interestingly enough these same exercises rotate the shins and thighs outwards.
However, instead of coming from the muscles of the hips, you can learn to generate this action using the musculature of the feet and ankles.
The next step may (or may not) be learning to control and stabilize the knee joints. In some situations I find it handy to activate the knees. The single joint muscles of the knee can control rotation of the lower leg with respect to the thigh and vice versa.
The next step is where you get to work on releasing the low back.
One possible cause of residual back pain, even after fallen arches have been corrected, are gluteal muscles that arent' firing. Glutes medius and maximus both have fibers that can act to externally rotate the thigh. And they can tilt the pelvis back relative to the thigh bones.
For myself I found that my left side gluteus medius felt empty. It wasn't firing. And so now I'm practicing activating both sides, but particularly the left.
Once fallen arches have been fixed, or as they are being fixed, training the gluteus medius muscles to activate may be one of the final steps in fixing chronic low back pain.
For learning how to activate the gluteus medius and other single joint muscles of the hip, check out the hip control guide. It's for anyone interested in deeper self exploration and self control of their body.
After a bit of a hiatus its back to stretching for beginners.
The latest installment is a mini sequence that works towards the half split inner thigh stretch with some prone twisting and outer thigh stretching followed by some recovery work with standing poses to help reactivate the inner thighs.
This set of poses is designed to show you how to activate the spinal erectors to bend the spine backwards so that you stretch the front of the torso. It also includes stretches like upright pigeon pose and upward facing dog for stretching the front of the hip (the hip flexors).
The latest stretch in the "Stretches for Beginners" series is a set of hip extensor stretches including happy baby and low lunge. Previous stretches in this series include bound angle (baddha konasana) and a pigeon pose hip stretch for the sides of the hip.
For well being is it better to be able to contract a muscle or relax it? I'd suggest that you learn to do both and just as importantly... Learn to feel when a muscle is activated and when it is relaxed.
The key to both is...
The yoga basics bundle is a collection of five yoga basics ebooks: balance basics, shoulder basics, backbend basics, hamstring basics and the hip control guide all for $52.00. (The suggested regular price is $124.95)
Consciousness is like the Captain of a ship. At times the ship it commands can be very big with lots of sailors to tell what to do, at other times the captain is sailing solo, taking care of the sails and the tiller.
This is a mini-routine that I've been using in my classes recently to teach awareness and control of the foundation in poses like
table top, high lunge, low lunge, extended cat pose, and yoga push ups (leading to chaturanga dandasana.)
This can lead to smoother and more mindful movement.
Tensegrity basics: tension doesn't just integrate the body, it can be used for proprioception and for responsiveness and quicker reactions.
What is proper yoga alignment for handstand? Why not learn to feel and control your shoulders and ribcage so that you can learn to feel when your body is best aligned.
In this video some tips for body weight squat and the one legged pistol squat with a focus on "feeling your body."
Why do a pistol squat? To improve hip strength and left/right hip balance. This may help to alleviate low back pain.
This dance of shiva video playlist includes cyclic movement combinations: F-F, B-B, F-B, B-F, CF-CF, CB-CB, CF-CB, CB-CF.
Learn how to stabilize the shoulder and hip in side plank.
This video goes over some basic body awareness exercises you can do while working towards side plank.
This Beginners Yoga Routine is from the ebook Yoga Basics 2, Muscle Control and Stability Exercises for More Flexible Hamstrings. It's designed to introduce a sequence of basic yoga poses.
Having trouble getting your heels down in downward facing dog? Here's an easy way to sink them lower included with a discussion on how to use downward dog as a preparation for wheel pose.
Simple instructions for getting into yoga tree pose and how to make both sides even while doing this yoga balancing pose.
In triangle pose work on hip stability and foot and leg control to help sink the ribcage towards the leg.
The following is a series of gentle yoga for back pain relief. The head is supported in nearly all postures allowing the muscles of the back and hip to relax in a variety of positions.
Conscious proprioception is the ability to focus awareness on discrete elements of the body. It can lead to easier learning of physical activities or simply better movement and body control.
Lots of people hate purvottanasana. Try pushing the hands forwards against the floor to make revese plank/straight bridge easier.
An overview of the sequence of ashtanga yoga poses with links to more detailed descriptions.