Is your tight butt a real pain in the back?
Imagine you are a newly planted tree on a windy day. Enough to blow your trunk from side to side, rustle through your leaves and perhaps challenge your strength and stability.
If you had strong roots and a strong middle your trunk would sway left and right, back and forth but remain strong, flexible enough to bend and then return. If you had weak roots and a weaker middle you may either be lifted up and out of the soil or possibly splinter apart.
During pregnancy and in the post natal period your body becomes more mobile thanks to our hormonal responses to child growth, birth and breastfeeding. You are more mobile up to approximately 1 year after your child's birth or after you finish breastfeeding - whichever came last. This can also happen around your monthly cycle too. There are varying degrees of extra mobility in the body and some people (hypermobile) like myself are more affected by this than others.
Think of your pelvis as the tree trunk and the upper glutes (Gluteus medius/minimus) has a real tendency to overactivate in order to stop the body swaying in the wind. Now obviously what issus this can give depend on how mobile your body is, how strong the supporting muscles are and also what activity you are doing. Let's take running for example for this however as it's something everyone has done and can relate to. We often think of running as straight forward and backward motion of the leg. When done correctly with good hip extension the glutes and hamstrings will get stronger. However most people have a limited range of hip extension (tucked under pelvis) and their running style will become more quad dominant. If the pelvis is continually tucked under then it is likely that the pelvic floor will be on a slight lift even on "relaxation" (until coached) for the individual and the hip flexors will shorten
The glutes are one of the main muscles that support the pelvis and if they therefore aren't working to correctly support it immediately your tree trunk is weaker. This then means that the pelvis can shift from side to side as well as the backwards/forwards motion we think of. Our bodies however are very clever and use whatever they have to stabilise the body in some way. If your core and glutes (which act as the primary stabilisers for your pelvis) are weak then the muscles in the hips will have to work extra hard to compensate for this.
When you have weak glutes lots of people have a tendency to grip them all the time and importantly most people don't even realise that they are doing it. How do you know if you are doing it then? Have you ever heard of back dimples?
Stand up and place your hands on he sides of your hips just behind the bones. Do you feel a big indent under your hand? Can you relax your glute muscles and does this change the shape of the indent?
Lots of new mothers will do this because during pregnancy strength is often lost down the posterior chain (the back line of the body) through postural changes, sitting more and less physical activity.
This excessive tension forces the head of the femur forward in the hip socket and manipulates the groin - sometimes leading to PGP (pubic symphysis). It also makes it difficult for the hip to move generally - particularly in movements that involve hinging at the hips (bending forwards, squatting for example). In pregnancy and motherhood we stand and sit HUGE number of times a day - I've gotten up and down 3 times tonight to resettle my toddler whilst writing this article alone. That's 3 times that potentially something else has been doing the work to lift me up and out of the chair if my body wasn't strong enough and leading potentially to injury.
You may grip with both sides or both sides - if you do both you are likely to sit on the tailbone leading potentially to coccyx pain and one side you are more likely to sit into that side/hip leading to rotation through the pelvis making core synergy and postural alignment difficult.
To solve these issues you need to address the balance of the glutes to align them to work in better harmony with each other and also improve the core strength.
Use the method above to test to see if you are overworking the upper glute area. You will become more and more mindful of this the more you do this exercise and should eventually be able to tell if you are gripping without the hand placement.
You can try some self-myofascial release with a tennis ball by
1. Sit down on the floor with a tennis ball under your left buttock
2. Cross your legs and place your left foot on the top of your right knee
3.Lean to the left, towards the outside and the top
4. Roll gently and slowly around until you find a tight spot (you will KNOW when you do)
5. Sit still on that tight spot for 20-30 seconds rather than continuing to roll around.
6. Repeat on each side
The clam shell is a brilliant exercise for improving your hip rotation and glute strength. If you really struggle to feel your glutes switching on here you can try foam rolling your TFL muscle first. (For how to foam roll your TFL see here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2CmI2nIchE)
So to stabilise the body better to go running or indeed even just to go about daily life pain free if you have lower back pain daily - particularly for those more mobile first you must assess the muscles your body is using - look for likely factors that might be causing issues such as excessive glute tension and a weak core and then add in the exercises to release and finally strengthen. Over time this done enough will put in enough strong roots that the body no longer "sways in the wind.