Before I had a career as a successful Manual Therapist & Pilates instructor, I was a member of a health club, regularly taking part in many classes including “core” conditioning classes and also Pilates. After regularly doing these classes for a few months, I was pretty confident I had a “strong core”, especially as I could do over 50 sit up’s in one go (I would never ever recommend this now!).
It wasn’t until I had a biomechanics screening that I actually realised there wasn’t much “core strength” at all. When the coach told me I instantly dismissed.. “I do X amount of Core & Pilates classes a week” I remember thinking to myself. When we did a test for “core strength” (this didn’t involve a plank) I was informed there wasn’t much stability. But why is this? With all the classes I do. I was told it was down to “a lack of movement at the hip joint”. I thought this odd because I felt I was quite mobile through my hips and I never experienced stiffness, pain or tightness through them.
Let me explain as simply as I can, hip disassociation.
Look at the picture. This makes up our pelvis, spine and hip joint.
Remember our hip should be one of the most mobile joint in the body. If the hip joint alone cannot carry out full range of movement, the body will compensate by moving more in the joints closest to it. In this case that will be the pelvis and the spine.
Think about what muscles attach on to the pelvis and spine... The abdominals and the lower back muscles. Now if that pelvis/spine is moving too much to make up for lack of hip movement what will be happening to these muscles? Some will be overworking whilst the opposite muscles will under working. Then what usually happens when a muscle becomes overworked or underworked? In most cases pain or weakness. In a lot of cases the lower back muscles become painful (short/tight) whilst the opposite muscle (the abdominals in this case) become long/weak.
Let’s just recap that:
Now imagine if we just want to simple strengthen the “core muscles” without addressing the hip movement. Again we would continue to overload the spine, whilst the hip still lacked its full range of movement, so not only are we continuing to overload the back muscles (which could result in further pain), we are further restricting the hip joint from full range of movement.
That’s why doing lots of sit up’s and planks is unlikely to help with back pain in the longer term.
Effective and correct hip movement should be essential in any exercise programme to help with back pain.
You might be thinking now what exercise can you do to help with this. Well, it’s not quite that simple. The exercises themselves are pretty simple, and if you have attended any Pilates classes of mine you will instantly recognise them. The tricky part is having the understanding of how to disassociate your hip from your spine, and then being able to incorporate that into the move. Once you know how to do this, then I would attempt a couple of the below Pilates exercises:
Confused? Need more help? Just drop me a message and I will do my best to help.
Thanks for reading
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About the author
My name is Alex Moore & I'm a Manual Therapist & Pilates instructor who works across the south of England. My manual therapy covers a range of different disciplines which include: Massage, Biomechanics & Pilates. I work with a range of clients, who suffer with a range of different issues such as Back pain, Sciatica, Frozen shoulder, Hip bursitis, plantar fasciitis & more.
I work from my home studio in Poole and also hold Pilates classes around Corfe Mullen, Broadstone, Poole, Wareham, Bearwood & Wimborne.
Pilates Instructor & Therapist, helping you understand why we do what we do!