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 people think that active stretching is simply activating the muscles that opposes the muscle being stretched. What if there is just a little bit more to it than that?
With yoga exercises designed by a rider to help you become better aware of your body while riding.
The yoga for motorcyclists is designed to help you become a better rider by learning how to better feel and control your body. The exercises focus on one of the harder (and funner) parts of motorcycling, cornering. You'll learn how body position and posture can shift your center with respect to your bike. And you'll learn how to feel these changes. And that translates to improved body awareness so that you can corner with confidence.
One way is by learning to stabilize parts of your body. Learn how to use tension to stabilize parts of your body so that you can improve your ability to balance.
Here's a look at the muscles that work on the back of the knee and the back of the hip: the glute max, hamstring muscles (including the biceps femoris short head muscle) and the adductor magnus long head muscle. I'll talk about how you can consciously activate these muscles and when they are more likely to activate (or not activate).
Two types of shoulder stretches: Muscle assisted shoulder stretches use the opposite arm to drive the stretch. Gravity assisted shoulder stretches use body weight to help drive the stretch.
Here's both a quick set of stretches for cyclists and a slightly longer set. My assumption is that for cyclists the tight spots are going to be the hamstrings and the hip flexors.
Should you exercise your abs if you've got low back pain? Why work on hip stability while standing instead?
Twisting Triangle pose (prvritta trikonasana) can be an excellent pose for working on hip joint stability and core control. By stabilizing the hips first the abs then have a stable foundation (the pelvis) from which to turn and twist the ribcage.
Active stretching teaches you two basic techniques for adding muscle power to assist your stretches.
You use either the muscles that resist the stretch or you use the muscles that assist the stretch.
In either case you not only improve flexibility, you work on strength and muscle control at the same time.
Now available on Amazon.
Here's a look at how to do mayurasana, including some preparation exercises and also options for balancing in this "arm balancing" yoga pose.
Tips for preparing the shoulders for Dolphin yoga pose.
I've included some standing poses in "Yoga Poses for the Abs." Using the legs you can stabilize the pelvis. Then the abs have a foundation from which to work on moving the ribcage.
If you find yourself lacking cornering confidence while riding a motorbike, the exercises in "Yoga for Motorcyclists" are designed to help you understand what you are trying to do while cornering to make cornering less scary. The exercises are specifically designed to help you better feel your body and control it so that you can better control your bike.
Here's a general "lecture" on basic principles as I see them and how they apply to creating a "sensational" yoga pose (one in which you are as present as possible.)
These standing and seated side stretches are great for stretching the side of the waist.
Basic instruction for doing a standing meditation. I do meridian, chakra and anatomy meditations all while standing. This video goes over the basic set up for standing with balanced tension (or "tuned tension") throughout the body.
Here's part 2 of the yoga routine used for active stretching. I use the routine as a whole for teaching my students the muscle actions that make active stretching an effective stretching technique.
Some slightly different yoga poses to improve balance, including standing, kneeling and rolling.
Here's the first part of the yoga pose sequence used in the Active Stretch ebook.
Here's a quick look at why scapular stability and thoracic stability are important. They allow you to do certain types of yoga poses with greater ease.
Here's my latest video on scapular stability.