Pelvic Alignment Exercises
It has been estimated that approximately 80% of the population will suffer from some sort of back pain at least once during their lifetime. That's a lot of people, and it is one of the major modern health problems, causing the most days off work and costing $billions of dollars each year. Misalignment or 'twisting' of the pelvis is a common cause of back pain. In this article we explain pelvic misalignment, and show you exercises that you can do right at home to help fix it.
How The Pelvis Works.
The pelvis forms the base of your spine and is made up of three bones, the 2 ilium bones on the sides, and the sacrum. Your pelvis is like the foundations of a building, and the rest of your spine sits right on top of it. It can also be the cause of many back problems.
The pelvis is important to both the structure and function of your body. It provides a stable structural foundation for your spine, and has numerous muscle attachments including the hip and pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvis protects internal organs, and also provides, when necessary, a natural birth canal.
In order for your pelvis to perform these tasks efficiently the three major pelvic joints, the Pubic Symphisis at the front, and the two Sacroiliac joints at the back, need to be correctly aligned.
Just by doing the following simple exercises, you will be correcting your pelvic alignment helping to prevent back pain, and assisting the health of your whole spine. Several studies have also shown that expectant mothers benefit from correct pelvic alignment. The birth canal is widest when the pelvis is correctly aligned, allowing for a shorter labour times and less complications.
Injuries and trauma such as falls, sports injuries, and car accidents are obvious events that can change the alignment of your pelvis, altering it's function. Often we treat these injuries at the time to reduce pain, but persistent incorrect pelvic alignment can continue unnoticed for years once the initial pain has gone. This can lead to other problems manifesting over time.
Incorrect pelvic alignment can also be the result of the accumulation of many small disturbances over years. This type of injury is usually painless and often leads to spinal dysfunction long before any obvious symptoms occur. Sitting with a wallet in your back pocket or with your legs crossed are two examples of the kinds of 'micro' injuries that have an accumulative effect.
One of the noticeable signs of a misaligned pelvis is a change in leg length, where on leg can become slightly longer (or shorter) than the other. A Finnish study found that that a 12mm leg length difference increases the risk of low back injuries by five times. Even a 6mm difference is enough to cause 300 tonnes of increased force being placed on the longer leg each year. Hip replacement anyone?
Just like the wheel alignment in your car, slight changes will cause uneven wear and tear. This becomes increasingly obvious the longer you travel! Left untreated this can result in degenerative changes in the spine, hip, knee and ankle. It can lead to irritation of the sciatic nerve (sciatica), back pain, hip, knee and ankle pain. Pelvic misalignment can alter your weight bearing (more weight on one leg) and change your gait (pattern of walking).
Scoliosis can also be another condition that is caused by incorrect pelvic alignment. As one leg becomes shorter, the pelvis has to tilt to keep both feet on the ground (important when you are walking!). This creates an unlevel base for the spine, resulting in a curve, or scoliosis, along the spine as it tries to stay upright and not leaning at an angle. This will then have the knock on effect of abnormal spinal mechanics, causing poor spinal health and even more problems! Arthritic changes, recurring muscle strains (eg. groin and hamstrings) are all quite possible.
As you can see, correct pelvic alignment is pretty important!
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So how can you look after your pelvic alignment?
Firstly, being aware of the things that can be throwing your pelvis out of alignment. Do you cross you legs? Carry your wallet in your back pocket? Sit at your desk twisting to one side to see your computer monitor? Have a think about your day to day habits and see if you can identify any potential hazards.
Secondly, be active in your spinal health. HealthySpines.org Total Back Pain Solution outlines a simple exercise program that can be done in ten minutes,three times a week to maintain optimal spinal health, keeping your back strong, stable and flexible.
The following exercises may be of benefit to decrease pelvic misalignment. However, it is one of those problems that can become quite 'stuck' in place if it has been untreated and left to become chronic over time.
1: Pulling your knee to your chest will help to stretch out tight hip muscles, and create some movement in the Sacroiliac joint if it is not moving enough. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds on both sides.
2: Lie on your back with your legs stretched out flat. Cross one foot over the other knee, then pull that leg towards your chest. Hold for 10-30 seconds then relax back down. You will feel a stretch, but it should not be painful, if it is then just back off a bit. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds on both sides.
3: Lying flat on your back, slowly attempt to raise one leg 6 to 12 inches off the floor and hold there for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
This is also good to strengthen the abdominal muscles, which are important spinal stabilisers.
4: Start in a kneeling position, then sit back onto you feet.Stretch your arms out in front of you along the floor.
Feel the stretch in your low back and hold for 10 seconds.
5: Move back onto your hands and knees, then gently lift one leg behind you as far as you comfortably can.
Hold for 10 seconds then do the same on the other side.
6: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Notice that your lower back is arched up off the floor slightly.
Suck your tummy in, and press your lower back onto the floor and hold for 10 seconds.
7: Sit-ups are great for really getting your abs strong.
Lying on the floor as above, lift your upper body (head and shoulders) off the floor by curling up.
Don't try to lift to high, just enough to get your shoulders slightly off the floor. Repeat 10 times.
You can do more sets of 10 as you get better!
Try these pelvic alignment exercises out, just remember to go easy at first. If you are still concerned about your pelvic alignment, consult your health professional. Chiropractors and some physical/physio therapists are specifically trained to identify pelvic misalignment.
If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.
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