Our mom’s meant well when they told us to stand up straight, but they may have set us up for future back and hip pain without realizing it. Sorry mom, just telling it like it is.
Here’s the deal. If you’re like most people, when you try to stand up extra straight and tall you tighten your back muscles and lock your knees. Now, If you were ever in high school band you know better than to lock your knees, right? Every year at least one band kid faints while standing at attention, usually after the memorial day or fourth of July parade. And while hitting the pavement at a dead drop will almost certainly hurt your back, there’s a more subtle problem with locking your knees that will cause you all sorts of back pain as well.
When you lock your knees on a regular basis, the thigh and hip muscles become weak because you aren’t using them to hold yourself up; you’re actually using your joints (which, by the way, are not meant to hold you up, only to move you). Or, you might instead habitually shift your weight onto one leg. This will cause the muscles on one side to become short and tight, while the ones on the other side will remain longer causing the pelvis to rotate. Either way, you set yourself up for back pain. Weak hip and thigh muscles that attach to the bottom of the pelvis will not provide a balance to working back muscles that attach to the top of the pelvis. Likewise a rotated pelvis is out of balance. Imbalance eventually causes pain.
The other thing that happens when you stand up straight and tall is that you tighten your back muscles to prevent slouching. In theory, that’s grand; in reality you likely over-tighten them and end up arching your back. This makes your back muscles short and tight which pulls on your pelvis which causes back pain; especially if your leg and hip muscles are weak from locking your knees.
I know it will shock you to hear me say that massage can help lengthen those short, tight muscles. Hey, that’s kinda our specialty, ya know? But unless you stop locking your knees, your pain will return. So, here is a little trick that will keep your knees relaxed the way they should: Put a piece of tape on the back of your slightly flexed knee(s). When you lock your knee, you’ll feel the tape pull. I found this tip in a great book called Fixing You: Hip & Knee Pain by Rick Olderman. If you have hip &/or knee pain, I highly suggest getting yourself a copy of this book.
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