Back pain prevention may come from understanding lumbar hyperlordosis. Lumbar lordosis describes an exaggerated inward curve in the lower back. It is a symptom of anterior pelvic tilt, a postural dysfunction in which the pelvis tips downward in front. The most conspicuous indicator of hyperlordosis is a protruding rear end.
Hyperlordosis may cause no symptoms at first but, over time, it can lead to lower back pain caused both by muscular and spinal problems. In hyperlordosis, the lengths and tensions of muscles throughout the core – the erector spinae, psoas, and gluteus muscles, to name a few – are altered, some overstretched and others, shortened and tight. Chronic strain and tension result. The natural lumbar arch promotes optimal distribution of forces across the spinal discs as well as proper joint loading. When the curve increases, spinal discs and joints are subjected to uneven compression. Nerve impingement and joint degeneration may result.
Tight psoas and erector spinae muscles, coupled with weak hamstrings, glutes and abdominal muscles cause anterior pelvic tilt and hyperlordosis. This condition can affect a broad range of people, from those who weightlift regularly to those who lead sedentary lifestyles and sit most of the day. Improper form at the gym can lead to muscle imbalance between the front and back of the body; failure to develop and engage the glutes during squats, for example, can overtax the psoas, pulling the pelvis down in front over time.
There is some controversy in the gym world over whether one should stop lifting if he has hyperlordosis. While there are some machines that encourage overtaxing of the hip flexors, such as the leg press, other lifting exercises like the deadlift and squat may not be off limits, at least not for long. Correcting your form when performing heavy lifting techniques will be more difficult than simply minding your form; muscle imbalances take time and effort to eradicate. It may, therefore, be a good idea to take a break from lifting for a few weeks to work on rebalancing your core and, in turn, improving your form.
First, take steps to correct overly tight muscles. Stretching is nice, but chronically tense muscles need something tougher to restore elasticity: myofascial release. You can perform this on your own (self-myofascial release) with a foam roller or other dense, round object. Roll over the tight muscle, pausing on knots (trigger points) and maintaining sustained pressure for at least 30 seconds. Supplement this with lower back and hip stretches like the ones described at www.sportsinjuryclinic.net.
The second component of rehabilitation is strengthening weak and overstretched muscles (the hamstrings, glutes and abdominals). Since they’re weak, it makes more sense to begin strengthening them with floor exercises as opposed to heavy lifting exercises. Partial crunches are good for developing beginning strength in the abs, while bridges can help activate your glutes and hamstrings. The link above contains more information on these exercises.
If you discover you have postural dysfunction, it’s best to take a break from heavy lifting to restore balance to your muscles with myofascial release and gentle strengthening exercises. This will allow you to return to your lifting routine with more strength and less risk of lower back pain.