I just returned from a fantastic week long massage course that focused on treating the hips and low back. We investigated the connections between hip flexor muscle tightness, pelvis alignment and low back pain. The majority of people spend a lot of the day sitting, which means the hip flexors become shortened and do not function as well. It is also common to sit with one leg crossed over the other, or perform actions that are not 100% balanced between left and right. The deeper hip flexors are called the psoas muscles, and they originate from the front side (anterior surface) of the low back (lumbar vertebrae), and attach to the inside of the upper thigh. To compensate for a shortened psoas, the low back is pulled forward and becomes rigid and less flexible. Sometimes the pull is more on the right or the left, causing the pelvis to draw out of alignment. In my massage treatments I assess and treat not just the area that is directly feeling the pain (typically low back), but also the associated muscles and structures that might be the causing the issue. The goal is to create a balance of stability and mobility for the hips, pelvis and low back for optimal function!
It is common that a client will come into my massage clinic complaining of an achy low back. Typically they have not been doing any heavy lifting or experienced any trauma, but it hurts and can even keep them up at night. I would perform an assessment to rule out possible disc herniation, facet joint issues or other vertebral dysfunctions. The pain description of dull and achy leads me to think it might be muscular in origin, basically it could be from sitting for too many hours. Knots in a muscle, aka trigger points, are irritable spots that can elicit pain when direct pressure is applied and sometimes cause a twitch response. Trigger points are fascinating in that they follow a distinct pain referral patterns for each specific muscle. For example, the diagram below outlines the trigger points in the gluteus medius muscle and the corresponding red pain pattern. I find this gluteus medius pattern often and massage can be very effective at releasing the painful points. My client will comment how they feel their low back ache dissipate after I use massage techniques on their glutes/hips, everything is connected! At home you can help minimize the pain by avoiding aggravating factors such as poor posture, dehydration, cold drafts, and not enough stretching or physical activity.
What a fantastic way to take a holiday! I recently travelled to Bucerias in Mexico to take Natale Rao’s Myofascial Release Workshop. From Latin origins myo means muscle, and fascia means covering or band. I spent a week with a small group of RMT’s learning and practicing hands on techniques to facilitate glide between muscular fascia. Basically adhesions can form in between layers of muscles and cause dysfunction and pain, such as IT band syndrome or plantar fascitis. We went over specific techniques for common injuries, all without massage oil or super deep pressure. It was an interesting perspective and I can now incorporate the things we learned into my massage treatments for clients with headaches, low back pain, rotator cuff issues, pelvic/hip misalignment etc. Another bonus of spending a holiday for continuing education was a week of receiving massages!