Healthy Hips Day – “My aching back! Or is it my hip?”

Lower back and hip problems are often co-related; both the hips and lower back are geographically related by nerve referral, making it easier to understand why lower back and hip pain may occur simultaneously. One may experience a combination of low back/hip pain due to:

  • Muscles connecting your back to your hip: When your gluteal muscles (buttocks) or hamstring muscles (back of upper legs) become overactive or too tight, excess strain is likely to be placed on the lower back. This may be the result of poor posture, lack of stretching, or sitting for long periods of time.
  • Ligaments connecting your back to your pelvis: Straining ligaments (short bands of fibrous tissue that connect two bones together) around your buttocks and pelvis may result in aching-type pains.
  • Nerve impingements arising from the lumbar spine: Your lower back can refer pain anywhere from the buttocks right down to the feet. The area of pain depends on the section of spine that is at fault.

Prolonged sitting and lower back pain

According to the Australian Physiotherapy Association, lower back pain is one of the most common and costly health conditions in Australia, with 25% of Australians suffering from back pain on any given day. Our modern-day lifestyle is partly to blame for this inconvenient complaint; 81% of Australians report exposure to occupational sitting and half of these individuals reported sitting ‘often’ or for the duration of the entire work day. It should not come as a surprise that 70-90% of the population will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017).

Why does prolonged sitting contribute to lower back pain?

According to Safe Work Australia (2016), discomfort in the lower back/hip area can arise for several reasons:

  • Reduced body movement compromises flexibility, leading to increased risk of strains and tears.
  • Subtle compression of the lower spinal discs in the seated position. When sitting, there is a natural tendency to lean slightly forwards, pinching the lumbar vertebrae together at the front, forcing the liquid within the spinal discs towards the back. This places pressure on the highly sensitive ligamentous layers found along the back of the spine.
  • Fluid loss from the lumbar discs is a contributing factor to low back/hip pain. Did you know, we all go to bed about 2 cm shorter! Throughout the course of a day, we naturally lose about 20%; we lose 10% of disc fluid in the first two hours of sitting. While this helps to evacuate unwanted metabolites from the discs, healthy discs require constant flushing, which is hindered by our universal proclivity towards sitting in the workplace. More sitting, means insufficient stretching, leading to a one-way movement of fluid, and a slow dehydration of our discs. Over time, this results in stiffening of the lower back, increasing the chances of incidental trauma.

Practical tips for improving lower back/hip pain

  • Request a ‘Varidesk’ at work. The desk is built for both sitting and standing. Pronk et al., (2011) demonstrated that workers who had a ‘Varidesk’ fitted to their work station reduced their time spent sitting by 224%.
  • Purchase an ergonomic chair to help maintain correct posture and maximise lower back support.
  • Take frequent breaks. Get up and stretch every 30 minutes and take one to two 10-15-minute breaks to get outside for a short walk and some fresh air. Your lunch break is the perfect time for a quick speed walk around the block.
  • Be conscious of maintaining a healthy posture. Examples of bad habits include slouching or hanging your neck too far forward.

Other factors contributing to lower back/hip pain include obesity, lack of exercise, and high body weight-all factors which can be modified. Unmodifiable factors include gender, age, andromorphic characteristics, and genetics. Anyone who has experienced low back/hip pain will know it may either appear unexpectedly, or grind slowly over time, with the cause sometimes being more obvious than the diagnosis.

If you are currently experiencing lower back/hip pain or would like to understand how to prevent such issues from occurring, come speak to one of our physiotherapists, osteopaths, or our chiropractor for more information. Call Elevate on 9252 2225 for further details.

References

Australia Institute of Health and Welfare (2017). Back problems. Retrieved from http:// https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/arthritis-other-musculoskeletal-conditions/back-problems/what-are-back-problems.

Pronk N, Katz A, Lowry M and Payfer J. Reducing occupational sitting time and improving worker health: the take-a-stand project 2011. Prev Chronic Dis. 2012;9:E154. Retrieved from http:// https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3477898/.

Safe work Australia (2016). Sedentary work, evidence on an emergent work health and safety issue. Retrieved from: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1702/literature-review-of-the-hazards-of-sedentary-work.pdf.

Sarah Key (2017). Simple back pain. Retrieved from http:// https://www.simplebackpain.com/meet-sarah-key.html.

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