One of the main causes of back pain is too much sitting. We often see patients who are experiencing intense back pain. This pain usually starts from their low back and travels down their leg into the calf muscle. By the time they reach our clinic, many of them have performed a Google search, and self-diagnose themselves as having sciatica.
Luckily, sciatica is not usually the reason for their back pain.
Sciatica is a term used to describe pain traveling from the low back, to the glutes, and into the back of the legs. The term sciatica devries from the name of the sciatic nerve. As you can see in the picture to the right, the sciatic nerve travels from the low back, through the buttocks and down the leg. When this nerve is pinched, either by a bulged or herniated disc, the sciatic nerve can be compressed, causing nerve-like pain down the leg. As you can imagine, this pain is quite debilitating and painful.
What most people experience in the clinic is not sciatic pain, but pain caused by too much sitting. When you sit, your gluteal muscles, hamstrings and calf muscles have to shorten to allow your knee to bend over the chair. Over time these muscles can shorten, especially if they are not stretched regularly.
You can check to see how tight your muscles are by performing a straight leg test. Simply lay on the floor and bring your leg straight up without bending the knee. If you can bring the leg up to 90 degrees, you have good hamstring flexibility. The back pain patients that I see can only flex their leg to about 30-40 degrees (less than half than normal). Their tight hamstring and calf muscles are limiting the range of the leg, as they have shortened due to excess sitting.
Tight muscles can not only reduce your flexibility, they can also ‘tighten’ the joints of the spine, particularly the low back and pelvic joints. In the picture to the right, the areas marked in red can become restricted. Chiropractic care can help unlock these joints, which can help improve flexibility.
If you have tight hamstrings, here are three simple stretches you can do to help promote better flexibility in the hip and leg. Please note that you will need a foam roller for all three of these exercises, ensure to buy one with protruding nubs as this will help stretch the muscles deeper.
CALF EXERCISES: While sitting on the ground, extend one leg straight out in front of you and place the foam roller under that calf. Rest your other foot on the floor with the knee bent. Prop yourself up with your arms extended behind you down to the floor. Lift your butt off the floor slightly and begin rolling from your ankle to just below your knee. Roll slowly and when you reach a tender spot, pause and hold the roller for 20–30 seconds before moving on.
You can rotate your leg in and out to work the sides of your calf. Keep your ankle flexed to engage the calf muscle while rolling it. To increase the intensity, place your free foot on top of the shin that is on the roller. This forces your calf to press down harder onto the foam roller.
Repeat on the other leg.
HAMSTRING EXERCISES: Sit with the roller positioned under your thighs and your arms extended behind you down to the floor for support. Roll forward and back from above the knee to below your butt. You can roll both hamstrings at once or move one leg off to the side to work one hamstring at a time.
GLUT EXERCISES: To roll your right glute, sit on the foam roller with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Support your upper body with your arms extended down to the ground behind you. Now lift your right foot up and place it on your left knee, creating a position similar to a seated Figure 4 yoga pose. Tilt toward the right and roll forward and back. Repeat on the left side.
If you or someone you know is experiencing low back pain, call our clinic today for a free pain consultation! Our number is 905-593-1605 or click the link below.
We wish you the best of health!
Please note that before performing any new exercises or before making any lifestyle modifications, please consult with an appropriate healthcare practitioner.