Although flat spines may not be the most prevalent imbalance among humans, they do still present challenges similar to those with scoliotic or excessively curved spines. Lower back and hip pain may be some of the most common symptoms experienced when people have this type of posture. After briefly digging into what a flat spine is, we can explore some options for lower back pain self-care.
What is a Flat Back?
A flat back is typically used to describe when there is an excessive amount of straightening in the spine. Naturally, the spine has three curves to it. If we are to view the body from the side, starting from the bottom or pelvis there is a concave curve of the lower back/lumbar vertebrae sinking in toward the middle of the body, which is then countered by a convex upper back/thoracic spine. The upper back slightly curves outward and bows away from the middle of the body. Finally the neck/cervical spine is also a concave curve like the lower back sinking in toward the middle of the body. There is a wave-like undulation passing through these curves which is what allows for stability when we walk and perform other physical activities throughout our day. A flat spine is usually categorized when the lumbar spine and upper back curves appear more straight. The flatness of the back can lead to much more jarring of the pelvis and abrupt shockwaves stopping at certain places like the lower back or hip which seems to be an important factor to address in order to relieve lower back and hip pain.
Due to the force of gravity, and other forces that impact the spine in motion, such as shearing or twisting when walking or bending, the spine requires the curvatures (a slight kyphosis of the upper or thoracic spine, and some lordosis of the lower or lumbar spine) to help minimize compression in your vertebrae. A sedentary lifestyle along with repetitive motions that do not properly lengthen then contract the glutes with other muscles around the abdomen, can lead to the straightening of the spine. When the vertebrae become too vertically stacked, resulting in a flat spine, this can lead to compression of nerves, otherwise known as entrapment neuropathy. Sometimes, this can feel like a sporadic instance of tingling or pain, but as the nerve becomes further entrapped, the pain can become continuous and sharp, making it hard to complete simple movements such as walking.
Lower Back Pain Self-Care
The ability of pain-free and unobstructed movement is important not only for daily function, but for overall well being. Dealing with lower back and hip pain from a flat spine can lead people to search for any form of relief as these are some crucial points of stability for our body when we stand or walk. Although improving how the body moves as a whole may be one of the best and most comprehensive long term solutions for lower back pain self-care, an immediately applicable strategy that can aid you in understanding lower back pain self-care is self massage or Myo-fascial Release (MFR). This is a technique that is similar to foam rolling or a deep tissue massage. We will perform this on specific areas that may be causing a flat spine and contributing to lower back hip pain. The first area targeted will be a hip flexor just below the front corner of the pelvis bone on the upper thigh. This area will be more relevant for learning lower back pain self-care. The second area will be beneficial for lower back and hip pain. In the second video the targeted area will be the corner of the upper glute just below the backside corner of the pelvis.
Results By Functional Patterns Practitioner: Derek Diesel
While myofascial release (self-massage) is just a primer for creating hydration in the muscles for better movement, it isn’t the end-all be-all. There are additional protocols, such as corrective exercises, dietary decisions, and other tools that should be considered when addressing a flat spine. As it takes time to develop an overly straightened spine, it will also take time and effort to reverse it.
Functional Patterns is a systems approach with one of the goals being to eliminate the root causes of postural imbalances like flat spines. The result of reorienting the posture more efficiently is that we respond to gravity with less abrupt shockwaves when we walk or less compression overall simply standing. As a byproduct, this ends up making training your posture one of the most effective ways to perform lower back pain self-care. If you found any relief from the techniques shared above for lower back or hip pain I would invite you to continue researching about the Functional Patterns method and see what sets apart this approach from many of the band-aid quick fixes like the stretching and mobility techniques other methods promote.