As the workforce has witnessed a monumental shift towards the standard desk job, there has been a dramatic rise in complaints of lower back and knee pain. Are the two connected? What does sitting down in a comfortable chair for 7 to 9 hours per day have to do with your knees? As it turns out: everything. Prolonged sitting will result in the shortening of important hip flexor muscles, which, in turn, have a direct impact on your knees. Let’s take a look at how everything fits together then review the exercises you need to start doing to strengthen your flexors and stop knee pain.
USE IT OR LOSE IT
All movement originates in the core. If you are taking your core out of the equation for 7 to 9 hours each day, 5 days per week, this amount of inactivity is going to weaken these muscles. What’s more, your body will experience a shortening of the hip flexor muscles. This tightening of the muscles results in an unbalanced pull. Remember that your hip flexors are connected to your lower back and leg bones. It is these flexors that engage… You guessed it. Flexion! Weak, shortened flexors provide an uneven pull on your bones, resulting in what is called an anterior pelvic tilt.
IS PELVIC TILT REALLY THAT BAD?
Absolutely. It has been directly connected to the majority of complaints of lower back, hip, and knee pain. As you’ll see in this study from American Physical Therapy Association, pelvic tilt impacted the lumbar spinal curve, knee orientation, head mobility, and other parts of the body. Over the long term, pelvic tilt can become increasingly worse, magnifying spinal disorder and overall pain. So what can you do to stop pelvic tilt before it becomes a real problem? Let’s review the two most important muscles and the exercises to start adding into your program to stop pelvic tilt.
GLUTEUS MEDIUS AND MAXIMUS
Here are a set of muscles that certainly do not get the attention they deserve. The glutes are very important stabilizer muscles that help with everything from simply walking around to performing a series of rotational movements. But these laterally and posteriorly placed muscles can be hard to activate. Why? Think about it. You walk and run in a forward motion. You don’t walk like a crab. Therefore, you need to dedicate time to targeting these muscles. Weak abduction, particularly from glut med, can result in medial rotation of the femur, the knees collapsing inwards, and flattening of the foot arch - and that's just below the glutes. The glutes are the foundation of developing great posture and ridding yourself of pelvic tilt. Start adding the following exercises to your weekly routine after a thorough stretching session.
By providing yourself with a hip-focused day of exercises, you are ensuring that pelvic tilt will no longer be a problem in your life. If you want to stop the knee and back pain that you are experiencing, be sure to get up and move around every hour while at work. Once you're home, complete a stretching session then jump into the exercises listed above.
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Tristan Hill, Masters of Sports Coaching, author of Lifting the Bar and mentor to Personal Trainers.