When I was younger, I remember seeing a toy skeleton at Halloween and thinking our bodies can’t actually be like that.
There’s no way the legs and the arms are connected by that one thin column.
Turns out four year old me was wrong. The Lumbar spine (low back) is actually the only set of bones that connects our upper body to our lower body.
Luckily for us, there’s all sorts of muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia (and skin, I guess) that help the spine out.
Though it comes as no surprise that most people will suffer from low back pain at some point in their life.
Right now I’m going to show you one of the ways we can get back pain.
I’m going to show you how it happens, how to identify it and how to fix it.
What Is A Lower Cross Syndrome?
Our focus is going to be on the position of the pelvis.
In the image below, it shows the pelvis from a side view with 2 blue lines (representing groups of muscles) attaching to the front of the pelvis and two blue lines attaching to the back.
The key with these four groups of muscles is balance. In a perfect world, these muscles all pull equally on the pelvis to keep it in it’s neutral position.
Unfortunately, these muscles can be out of balance. Today’s focus is going to be on just one of those ways.
A lower cross syndrome (lower X) occurs when the lower back muscles and the hip flexor muscles (front of the thigh muscles) become tighter and stronger than the lower abdominal muscles and the hip extensor muscles (bum and the back of the thigh).
This tilts the pelvis forward like in the image below. As you can see, this is usually accompanied by an increase in curve in the lower back and it’s this increase in curve that can lead to pain.
What Causes A Lower X?
It’s common to see people who play sports in a lower X position. However, it’s rare to find that these people suffer with back pain until much later in life.
The reason why they’re in this position in the first place is because of muscle imbalances that develop because of the activities they’re doing.
When running, changing direction, kicking etc. the majority of the work is done by the hip flexors. Because these muscles are exposed to more work, they become bigger and stronger compared to the hip extensors.
Another reason is that when you’re sat down, the hip flexors are in a shortened position which makes them shorter and tighter still.
Training in the gym can also lead to a lower X if you ignore the hip extensors. Doing exercises like Hanging Leg Raises and avoiding exercises like Deadlifts can be a pre-requisite to a lower X because there’s no balance in your training.
On top of that, if you eat foods that bloat your stomach it inhibits your core muscles from working at full strength and limits their ability to stabilise the pelvis.
Essentially, the bloating switches off your abdominal muscles and no amount of sit ups can do anything to counteract this.
How Do We Fix A Lower X?
We fix a lower X by rebalancing the muscles around the pelvis. We need to relax some of the tension in the tighter muscles by stretching them, and we need to build some tension in the weaker muscles by strengthening them.
Over time this will get the pelvis back into it’s normal position and reduce the curve in the lumbar spine. If you’re lucky, this will be enough to get rid of the low back pain.
If you feel your pelvis may be in this position, here I’ve done a very simple and easy to follow mini program you can do every day to help fix a Lower Cross Syndrome and get out of pain.
For it to be effective, you MUST stick to the times and reps given.
Kneeling Hip Stretch 30 second hold each side
Swiss Ball Quad Stretch 30 second hold each side
Knees To Chest Stretch 30 second hold
Supine Hip Extension 50 reps total
If you’re not sure what some of these are, a quick youtube search will tell you everything you need to know.
How Do I Know If I’ve Got A Lower X?
There’s no real way of assessing yourself. If you just go on how you look from a side view, it can be very deceiving. Sometimes just having big glutes will make it look as if your lower back has too much of a curve and your pelvis is tilted.
Your best bet is get assessed by someone who know’s what they’re doing and can measure you properly.
Someone who’s fixed this same problem plenty of times before.
Someone like… us :)