Some daily habits can contribute to discomfort along the low back close to the hips, along the outside of the leg at the point where the leg meets the hip, or the inside of the thigh. This can result from sitting in a chair or lying in bed. The spine naturally curves inward slightly at two points: at the neck and at low back. The position of the hip can affect the natural curve of the lower back; if the hip is tilted or turned out of its neutral position for an extended period, it can overload other muscles to compensate for the instability.
One example of this process is sitting in a chair that positions one’s hips lower than one’s knees. This position causes some of the muscles that attach to or cross the hip to shorten and tighten in order to stabilize the upper body as the hips rotate forward.
Pictured are stabilizing muscles that attach to the low back, hip, and leg. If you rotate the leg bone forward, all of the muscles shown will shorten. If the hips turn forward, then the weight of the upper body goes into the lower vertebrae near the psoas major muscle. In order to keep the torso upright, the psoas major has to pull onto the spine while hanging on to the femur (the leg bone where the psoas major turns white). That can create discomfort in the psoas. (To feel for yourself how challenging it is to hold up the torso with those muscles, try doing sit ups on a decline bench.)
Another example of hip position creating problems is a lack of support when sleeping. Not enough support when sleeping on your back can cause those muscles around the hip to lengthen for an extended period of time. The longer the muscles are stretched and lengthened, the weaker they become. It is challenging for them to return to their neutral position, and this can cause the hips to rotate back, contracting the lower back muscles for a long period of time and putting pressure on the vertebrae themselves. It will make it more difficult to get out of bed in the morning, and to start moving around.
By Justin Walls
Justin Walls is a certified personal trainer (American College of Sports Medicine), specializing in youth fitness, senior fitness, myofascial release techniques, joint pain/arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, aqua fitness, running, and walking. He also has expertise in lifestyle/health management and meal planning, and a background in psychology. Learn more at justinwallsfitness.com.