Do you suffer from low back pain? Do you need to bend over and pick things up? If you answered yes to one or both of the previous questions, you should keep reading…
As we have discussed many times, pain and injuries caused by sudden trauma are a small minority of overall complaints. Most cases of pain and injury are chronic repetitive stress injuries. We routinely move with faulty patterns causing excessive stress and load on certain tissues and over time the damage accrues faster than the repair can keep up with. With enough time and repetitions, pain and injury may occur. This is very true with most low back complaints.
One of the most common movements frequently performed incorrectly is the hip hinge. The hip hinge takes place when we bend to pick up objects, shovel snow and with various exercises like deadlifts and kettlebell swings. When done correctly, we maintain a nice straight (neutral) spine with a flat back and use all the muscles on our back end in concert, especially the glutes (the biggest muscles you have) along with your hamstrings and back muscles. When performed incorrectly, many people round their back which in turn does not allow you to recruit the glutes well, placing added demand on the hamstrings and more importantly the low back.
The following video demonstrates how you can use a PVC pipe or any other straight stick-like object to practice a proper hip hinge technique.
As was stated in the video, many of us have heard or been told to “lift with your legs and not your back”. Although this may offer some improvement, when I ask many of my patients to demonstrate what that looks like, I often see some version of a squat that still has a rounded back and overloaded low back. A better cue for folks would be to lift with your hips, not your back.
Here are a couple things to keep in mind the next time you need to pick something up:
1. Maintain a nice straight flat back throughout the duration of the movement.
2. When going down, focus on driving the hips/butt back behind you, not down.
3. Keep the shins vertical.
4. When coming back up, do so by driving the hips forward. This essentially creates a lever and you will in turn lift the object.
5. Do NOT lift by focusing on pulling up, especially with the low back. Again, the focus is hip movement.
The hip hinge is an essential movement used many times during your activities of daily living and a correctly performed hip hinge can help keep you performing well and pain-free.