The Correlation of Poor Hip Mobilization and Low Back Pain

Written By: Brandon Richey, B.S., CSCS


As complex as the human body is, it is also a very simple organism. The reason I say this is because the human body is just another biological organism programmed for survival in its relative environment.

Sure there are complexities and depth that surround this organism, but as far as being a living organism that adapts to its environment it’s really no different than anything else. As a result, today I want to point at some common adaptations that explain why hip immobility may be contributing to your low back pain.


The Immobilization of Your Hipscobrazol-sport-desk-job-office-picture

Over the past 20 years or so there has been an explosion of “sitting jobs.” This is in sharp contrast to many Americans coming from lifestyles where people used to work in the fields on farms, or on their feet in factories.

Granted there are jobs like this that still exist, but for the majority of Americans the daily battle of immobility is something that seems to be more and more common due to more jobs that require less on us physically…at least in the eyes of this strength coach.

You see being the biological organisms that we are the obvious thing that happens is that our bodies will adapt to the stress that we place on it. This is so literal that many people tend to overlook the obvious.


The SAID Principle

In other words, if we condition our bodies to be more active for a specific task then our bodies will adapt in order to perform that task better and better. This is also known as the SAID principle.

SAID is an acronym for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. When it comes to training and placing specific stress, or demands on the body this works for any task…even for the task of sitting. You see, when we’re active for specific tasks we place our bodies into a position to adapt to the demands of that task. This is the case whether the task involves the physical act of throwing a baseball, or the not so physical act of sitting at a cubicle for work 8 hours a day.

For many, the latter more inactive task of sitting actually conditions the body literally for the act of sitting. As crazy as this sounds it’s the truth. To sit requires very little mobility therefore the body will adapt by being inhibited for mobility more and more. The hips become restricted, poor posture is developed, and core stability steadily starts to diminish. The body is adapting to the demands of sitting.

The problem is that sitting is not a very natural state for the human body. We’re mobile creatures so the objective and purpose of our bodies is to be used for movement. We are designed to move in patterns and sitting is not a pattern. As a result, this particular adaptation has many negative outcomes on the body. The struggle for many here is being able to apply intelligent training in order to adapt out of this incorrect state and back into a state of more correctness.


The Joint by Joint Approach

Physical therapist Gray Cook came up with a simple and clever training model to evaluate the level of function that exists in an individual based on a joint by joint approach.

The model is actually a fantastic illustration of taking something that is relatively complex and simplifying the process for those of us looking to correct dysfunction in a respective individual.

The model basically points to the fact that the body is just a stack of joints. Imagine the human skeleton and basically that is how we’re designed. The model basically defines how the function of each joint alternates between mobile and stable actions.

cobrazol-hip-joints-pictureHere’s what it looks like…

Ankle: Mobile

Knee: Stable

Hip: Mobile

Lumbar (Low Back): Stable

Thoracic: Mobile

Scapula: Stable

Shoulder: Mobile


Now this observation in and of itself is very interesting, but how does it work? In other words, what do we do with this information?

Well, in short, if a mobile joint like the ankle became too stable it would result in sloppy knee movement. Likewise, immobile hips would lead to a mobile lumbar spine which would eventually lead to low back pain. This is how poor hip mobility may be contribute to low back pain within this model. Essentially where there is an immobility in one mobile joint there could be a result of instability in a relating stable joint. This literally can influence the entire kinetic chain of the body.

The model is a simple, but effective way at helping coaches and trainers to hone in on the actual possible cause of joint pain, or dysfunction rather than the symptom of the problem.


In Closing

In short, when it comes to low back pain a lack of hip mobility may be the key driving force behind the problem. By understanding the SAID principle and the Joint by Joint Approach figuring out where joint pain originates may come a lot easier. The key is understanding your lifestyle and life demands so that you can get better at identifying potential problem areas for yourself. Of course there are other exceptions that may contribute to joint pain and dysfunction, but as far as applying intelligent training practices to a situation this is a very good start.

At least here we can assess where potential problems may be and more accurately make the adjustments in our training in order to fix the problem. So if you’re experiencing low back pain and happen to sit, or stand for extended periods of time with your work lifestyle then you might want to look at mobilizing your hips, glutes, and hamstrings to find the necessary


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