Have Knee or Low Back Pain…Then Fire Your Glutes!

It’s amazing to me how many people experience low back or knee pain on a daily basis, yet do nothing to actually correct the problem.  You see, many people are under the assumption that the area of pain is also the problem area.  However, when we look at the body from a biomechanical view, we realize that pain is often the result of dysfunction either above or below the area of pain, and sometimes both.  

A common theme we see here at The Princeton Longevity Center is dysfunction in the Glutes resulting in either low back pain, knee pain, or both.  As we screen patients during their fitness component of their comprehensive exam it becomes apparent to them that something is not working the way it is supposed to.  Either certain muscles are not firing correctly, mobility is limited in a segment designed to be mobile, and more often than not both.  These deficiencies can create altered movement patterns and cause the body to recruit the wrong muscles for the task at hand.  For example, the hips are designed to be mobile, however when they lose mobility our body creates mobility at the segment either above (lumbar region) or below (at the knee) in order to perform a task, like lifting something from the floor.  Since our bodies are smarter than we are, it allows us to perform the task, but the mobility is transfered to the low back region and the lumbar spine.

Additionally we can see dysfunction manifest as weakness, and again the hip region or more specifically the Glutes are usually the culprit.  The glutes can have a profound effect on both the low back and the knee.  I often tell patients that the glutes are similar to the root system of a tree.  No matter how strong the trunk is (i.e. abdominal and erector spinae muscle groups), if the roots go bad the tree will eventually die and fall over.  And because the glutes also control the femur, they by default also control the knee.  Glutes that are weak allow the knees to fall inward during functional activities like squatting, running, or even walking down a flight of stairs.  This falling inward, also known as knee valgus causes additional torque at the knee and eventually knee pain.

Once these dysfunctions are identified, we can they develop a plan of action to correct the mobility issues and to strengthen the glutes.  The goal is restore proper movement and muscle firing patterns that will ultimately lead to pain free activity.  Later this week I will be posting some additional articles on this topic and exercises used to get your Glutes fired up!