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.
Some simple exercises to help you prepare for and balance in crow pose and some suggestions for advanced movements like jumping from bakasana into chaturanga dandasana.
Forward head posture can result from computer work, stress, or poor body awareness. Here's some simple exercises to help feel your way into better posture.
In Bridge yoga pose increase the back bend of the hips and lumbar spine by moving the sacrum. Rather than saying which position is better the idea is to experiment and notice how both positions feel. And you may find the action of moving back and forwards between both positions helps you to get deeper into the backbend.
Work towards yoga lotus one leg at a time with exercises for closing the knee, stretching the hip rotators, practicing external rotation of the shin and activating and shaping the foot and ankle.
Basic movements of the sacroiliac joint are nutation (or nodding forwards) and counter nutation. Practice with these simple si joint exercises.
A variety of hamstring strengthening exercises while belly up, belly down and standing.
Shoulder flexibility stretches with scapular awareness. In these shoulder stretches first focus on positioning the scapula and then on stretching the shoulder.
Cognitive flexibilty is the ability to recognize a change in rules and act on those changes. It is also the ability to redefine rules as required. Dance of Shiva is one way of practicing and improving mental flexibility.
Yoga for flexibility with stretches for the hips, quads, hamstrings, glutes, psoas, shoulders and arms. These yoga stretches are designed to improve flexiblity.
A selection of standing and seated hamstring stretches, both gravity assisted and muscle assisted for improving hamstring flexibility. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
Here's the latest set of exercises that I use for stretching the hamstrings.
The exercises are designed to teach active hip flexion using a variation of boat pose.
Then the same action is (ideally) duplicated in seated forward bend.
This set of exercises is part of the introduction to the Hip Control Guide.
In this latest video I show you a couple of techniques that I use to get into the front-to-back splits. Note that this is both a hip flexor/psoas stretch as well as a hamstring (and hip extensor) stretch.
Simple shoulder awareness exercises for landing lightly doing Ashtanga jump backs. Learn how to keep your shoulders ahead of your wrists when moving back into plank or chaturanga dandasana.
Having trouble getting your feet off of the floor in headstand. This is a short video (3 mins) which shows a simple method for learning to lift your feet.
Got tight calves? Here are a couple of suggestions for stretching them. One uses downward facing dog. The other the gym.
Yoga shoulder stretches include reverse prayer, eagle arms, dwikonasana (prasaritta padotanasana c), yoga cow face arm position and downward facing dog.
Learning to stabilize the elbow joint with triceps medial and lateral head, as well as anconeus. Learn how to control forearm rotation with supinators and pronator muscles. You just might affect your shoulders in yoga poses like down dog and handstand.
I like being flexible and it's taken me a long time to get flexible.
I'm still working on improving it.
From someone who's spent a lot of time stretching (and teaching others to stretch) here are some of the do's and don'ts I'd recommend.
Adductor stretches stretch the muscles of the inner thigh and include bound angle pose, hurdlers stretch or frog pose, wide leg seated forward bend, prone big toe pose, half side split pose, side to side splits or box splits.
Hip stretches for stretching the hip extensors as well as the glutes and piriformis.