"If your back hurts, it's usually your butt's fault." These words were spoken by one of many great teachers I must genuflect in front of, even post mortem. (I would like to credit the specific teacher, but each one always credited another. The truth remains, however.)
Our butts are considered the nemesis and boon of the human form, depending who you ask. It has been revered by ancient painters, sculptors, Hollywood superstars and "twerkers", alike. It is the anatomical mass that so many wish they had more, or less of. It is this same part that some of us seem to have a hard time getting up off of to do something productive. (see - household chores and teenagers, or http://alphamom.com/parenting/household-chores-and-teenagers/). Nonetheless, it is an extremely important part of our physiology that needs to be reckoned with, especially when the back starts to hurt.
There are nine muscles in each butt cheek; yes, NINE. These muscles are major players in everything from power extension of the thigh at the hip, stabilization of the pelvis, inward and outward rotation of the thigh at the hip, and giving us something comfy to sit on without mis-aligning the whole rest of the spine. When these muscles are over-encumbered or weakened by postural stress, the body sends out pain signals to show something is "out of whack".
One of these notorious pain signals comes from the sciatic nerve that directly travels under and through the deep muscles of the buttocks. (One of the prime candidates for this dysfunction is the Piriformis.) Sometimes stretching these muscles can alleviate the pain. I will go over exercises for this in another post. (My personal favorites are the straight-leg cross and shoe-laced figure 4.) In many cases I have observed, however, weakness in these vital muscles have caused a great deal of trouble.
It is important to remember, that connected to the pelvis are a variety of other muscles of the core and thighs, and a big chunk of fascia that connects the whole works together. This big chunk of fascia, (the thoraco-lumbar aponeurosis, for the fancy) even has connections to the mid and upper back, obliques and diaphragm, among others. When our butt muscles are weak, stability of the pelvis demands that other muscles compensate to maintain integrity to the core. This makes sense. The core is where our vital organs are housed. When spinal and core muscles are asked to compensate for the lack of strength down-under, this creates a classic case of "over-use" for the muscles up above. (It is, indeed, all connected.) With over-use, comes the begging cry of tired muscles seeking relief. Enter, back pain.
Now, before my fitness friends start screaming, "I told you so!!! Squats are BOSS!, it is also important to remember that form enables function. It is true. Well placed squats will help in solving the conundrum of a weak butt. However, proper placement to exact strength of the buttocks without relying upon the quads or back is of vital importance. Try sitting on the edge of a chair. Stand up and squeeze the bum upon standing. Relax, sit back down and repeat. Do this 10, 20 or 40 times, depending on your development. What do you feel? Where is the burn really coming from? Quads some, yes. But don't you hear the butt bellowing, too? That's the stuff I am talking about. ;)
Bright Blessings and Happy Healing!!! As always, comments are most welcome! :)
Picture from: http://www.backandneck.ca