Ironically, as a doctor who takes care of low back problems, I too have low back pain (LBP). Unfortunately, my bottom shock absorber (L5-S1 disc) is wearing out. Whenever I sit too long or bend down frequently, my low back hurts.
Putting aside my doctor hat, I have noticed that when my back gets sore or acts up, my hamstrings feel tight. Why?
Hamstring Tightness and Low Back Pain
Turns out, your low back (Lumbar Spine) is directly affected by having tight hip flexors (muscles that flex your legs) and tight hamstrings (muscles on the back of your thighs responsible for straightening/ extending your hips). When either or both of these muscle groups are tight….they limit the normal motion of your Pelvis and place increased stress on your low back!
When I see patients with LBP, I pay attention during the physical exam to their flexibility.
“Can they bend down and touch their toes?”
“Is the patient able to bend their leg back and touch their heel to their butt?”
This simple range of motion test gives me a good idea of how flexible patients are. In my experience, people with good flexibility have less problems with LBP.
CORE Exercises and Low Back Pain
One of the mainstays of a good back care program is performing CORE exercises and working on stretching your hip flexors and your hamstrings. Every time you exercise your CORE you should stretch these muscle groups! I also recommend to patients they perform a quick 10 minute CORE exercise routine plus lower leg stretching every time their “back acts up.” This is a great way to limit and control your back episodes.
As a physician with LBP, I try to practice what I preach by doing CORE exercises 3-4X a week. As I get older I am now focusing more on my leg flexibility. I strongly encourage all people with LBP to pay more attention to their leg flexibility and their CORE program.
Paul Saiz MD