When I was 10 years old, my doctor told me that I had a curve in my back called scoliosis. My curve is roughly thirty-three degrees and looks like a question mark. As you can imagine, an already awkward period of adolescent growth was made even more difficult. My back muscles were trying incredibly hard to compensate for the curve in my back, and it was physically noticeable. Here are some anatomical changes (all noticeable to my friends) that happened in my body, due to the curve in my back:
- My left hip was higher than my right hip – which caused my right leg to be longer.
- My right shoulder was higher than my left shoulder.
- My left ear fell towards my left shoulder – which caused my head to tilt.
- My upper body muscles were incredibly stiff – which caused a pitch change in my voice.
All of this because of that curve in my back. Oy.
At the time, I didn’t have the schooling that I do now to understand the changes that were occurring and why. However, when the specialist we were seeing could have prescribed a brace or back surgery, he prescribed physical therapy. After 6 months of core exercises (mostly planking, if I’m being honest), I was on my way to standing straight. To this day, you can hardly notice any alteration in my posture, unless I bend over to touch my toes to show off my curve. Usually, I am the first to notice my own “crookedness,” and the very first thing I do is workout.
Here is something that you can do at home to understand exactly what I mean:
Sit or stand with both of your hands on your hip bones. Keeping your hands on your hips, gently roll your hips forward – being mindful of the arch that you feel in your lower back. Now, tighten your abdomen, pulling your belly button to your spine and notice how that arch in your lower back disappears. You might have noticed that your glutes also contracted – screaming “Finally! Man, I was getting bored!”.
Have a desk job? No problem. Here at Urban Athlete, this is the very reason that we incorporate the movements that we do into our workouts. To counteract tight hip flexors (the muscles at the front of our hips used when sitting), we work our gluteal muscles and our hamstrings (all the muscles in the back). In addition to our bodyweight exercises, we accomplish this through a variety of extremely effective kettlebell exercises, such as the RDL, swing, high pull, and clean – just to name a few.
Here’s the scoop: Back pain occurs when our back muscles are working too hard, often as a result of sitting. If we engage/strengthen our core muscles, gluteal muscles, and hamstrings, that workload is taken from our backs – often with a nearly audible “Thank you.”