Saturday, 1 June 2013

The effect of sitting on your hip muslces

Technology and internet in our era has brought a lot of new ideas into life and has made it more fun and easier than it was before. We all love spending hours in front of our screens surfing on the web, watching our favorite YouTube videos, socializing on Facebook. or even writing articles on our favorite blog (;-).

We all know the negative effects of the sedentary life, but thank to the explosion of the health awareness movement the last years, more and more people have started changing their life style towards a more active way.

What I am presenting in this article is the effect of this sedentary life on 2 very important for a strong and healthy spine muscles - the iliopsoas and the gluteus maximus. I have already posted an article on the tendency of iliopsoan to become short and tight and the gluteus maximus to become weak (the lower cross syndrome).

Let's have a picture of these 2 muscles:

picture 1. iliopsoas             picture 2. gluteus maximus

It can be easily pictured, that when we sit and our hips are in flexed position, the iliopsoas muscle is in a shortened position, while the gluteus maximus is in a stretched position. This fact creates a major problem other than the obvious effect on our muscles - inequality in the pelvis position.

As it can be seen in the pictures above, both muscles originate from the pelvis. The "iliacus" part of the iliopsoas originates from the fossa iliaca and the gluteus maximus originates from the facies glutea. This means, under certain circumstances, that they both have an effect of the position of the pelvis. The iliopsoas muscle, if contracted in the standing posture, it has the fixed part on the femur and the mobile part on the spine and the pelvis. This causes a forward tilt of the pelvis. On the other hand, the gluteus maximus, if contracted in the standing posture, it has its fixed part on the femur and the mobile part on the pelvis. This causes a backward tilt of the pelvis.

As a result of all these, a shortened iliopsoas muscle and a weak gluteus maximus muscle cause a forward tilt of the pelvis, which consequently leads to a compensating hyper-lordosis of the lumbar spine. And it is this hyper-lordosis that can cause quite a few problems if it is not treated properly and soon - chronic low back pain, herniated nucleus pulposis, spondylolisthesis, sponylolysis etc.

There is also a very well know theory/approach by Dr. Vladimir Janda about the tendency of some muscles to become weak and some others to become tight.

What is important for a Physical Therapist to know after that, is some specific stretching exercises for the iliopsoas and some strengthening exercises for the gluteus maximus.

Iliopsoas stretching exercises:


Here are two typical stretching exercises one can do for the iliopsoas muscle, always with after the assessment of a Physical Therapist and with his/her assistance. In the both pictures, the left iliopsoas is stretched. It is of extreme importance for someone to do these exercises under the guidance and supervision of a Physical Therapist in order to avoid wrong posture, further tissues damage or lumbar spine hyper-lordosis.

Gluteus maximus strengthening exercises

Research presented in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT) presented the best exercises for the gluteus maximus. The authors of this particular study used electromyography (EMG) to quantify and compare signal amplitude as the gluteus maximus (and gluteus medius) fired in order to determine which therapeutic exercises most effectively recruit the glutes.

The result is that the 3 following exercies are the most effective:

One-leg squat - click for the JOSPT video

One-leg deadlift - click for the JOSPT video

Sideways, front, and transverse lunges - click for the JOSPT video

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