Your butt is amazing.
No, I mean it! Your butt contains primary hip muscles that connect your legs to your core (axial skeleton) and allow you to do amazing things like stand up straight, and run. Ok… That might not sound too amazing, but where would we be in the animal kingdom if we couldn’t stand up straight or walk on two legs, huh? This feat is due to three muscles that make up your tushie: Gluteus maximus, gluteus medium, and gluteus minimus; or, glut max, med and min. I won’t get into the action of each of these, but they allow you to powerfully straighten your leg (like climbing stairs) while you maintain strong side to side and rotational strength, making the glutes some incredibly functional and stabilizing muscles.
But it might be *too* tight…
On a good day these muscles all do their jobs well, but you’d be surprised how often I see tightness and/or weakness in these muscles in our clinic! It makes sense, right? I mean, many of us aren’t listing heavy things with our hips, or climbing very often are we? In fact, now more than ever we do a lot of sitting or standing, without focusing on a lot of what moves us between those two positions. This leads to some muscles being very tight, and some muscles being very weak. Tight muscles can prevent proper posture, and even put stress on nerves and cause pain in the back of the hip that radiates down the leg much like sciatica. Weak muscles lead to overextension of the back, which can cause an angry and spastic pain that’s worse from long periods of sitting, or when you initially start to move, walk, or exercise.
What can I do?
There are lots of things you can do to improve your hips. You can strengthen your glutes by doing things like clamshells, hip bridges, step-ups, or squats. You can stretch them by doing what’s called a ‘figure 4’ stretch. I, personally, like compound functional exercises, like kettlebells or climbing. Just make sure you’re not doing too much too quickly… ‘cold’ muscles can be quick to injure when they’re not conditioned, so warm up first! There’s nothing worse than making something worse while you’re trying to make it better. Also, low back pain and leg pain can be a host of other things, as well, so it doesn’t hurt to have an assessment! Go to your physio, or pop in to see me for an assessment if you’re having issues. I can usually have an issue assessed and treated in about 20 minutes, which puts you on the fast track to improvement. Good luck, and enjoy the gift of improved posture and less pain!
By: Dr. Kahlen Pihowich, ND