It may sound obvious that the leg and back muscles are directly connected to one another, there’s an intricate web of muscles, ligaments and tendons that travel through the pelvis and make up the area of the hips and glutes, when you start to move your legs the back muscles start to work as well to keep you straight, balanced and strong. As well as the back and legs being connected via muscles, ligaments and tendons, they are also connected via nerves, which is why people with extreme back pain in the ‘sciatica’ region often state that the pain travels down their legs, more often than not, it’s the muscular tension effecting the freedom of movement in the nerves that travel through the pelvis that causes this discomfort.
Equally, an injury of the leg will affect the back muscles as your posture will alter to protect and balance out the damaged area, this is known as ‘overcompensating’ For example if you pull your hamstring and it becomes tight and strained it will pull directly on your back muscles causing them to tense up and possibly spasm, which is where the muscles fibres lock to form a solid, protective structure. It does this to try and ‘fix’ or straighten out the problem, yet often ends up causing ‘referred pain’ up the back and down the legs.
If you sprain or twist your knee or ankle you may find that it is more comfortable to walk with a limp, this comes naturally to protect weakened areas from strain. This action will often make certain muscles have to work harder as they try and straighten out the posture. This will in turn have a knock on affect on the back and the amount of contracting the muscles have to do to keep us upright, often tension will travel all the way to the top of the neck and everywhere in between as muscles lock and spasm to try and correct this uneven posture.
Our body naturally has the ability to be a shock absorber when we walk or run, but strenuous activity like regular running or jogging can have impact on our bodies. Sometimes, people do not use the correct footwear, the best kinds will be designed to help with the shock absorbency, if you run regularly it’s vital you get some good trainers! Otherwise, our leg and lower back joints can experience excessive shock which can damage the sockets or ligaments. Another problem related to running etc is the positioning of our feet and our foot arches. Some people may find that while they run one or both of their arches flatten more than usual due to the impact of running on hard surfaces, or your foot may have developed the tendency to lean more on one side than another, this is common and can be corrected with insoles from a podiatrist. Often this will also have a twisting effect on their knees and hips and place excessive strain on their muscles connected to the feet and beyond. Massage can be incredibly beneficial when correcting these postural problems, whatever is going on with your body, your muscles will lengthen and tighten to support the posture you adopt, massage combined with exercise can elongate and strengthen muscles where required for a straighter, stronger you!
Stretching dynamically before and after exercise and correct, straight posture during will usually be enough to correct the adverse effects of strain brought on by exercise, but sometimes, if the muscles lock due to injury or a repeated bad posture, Deep Tissue and Sports Massage combined with Neuromuscular Therapy is what’s required to release the fibres which link together during a spasm. If the tightness is not relieved these muscles will continue to pull on one another causing further problems. The muscles can often become sticky with fascia, the connective tissue that holds us together, and in turn begin to pull on bones, occasionally this can lead to a hip or vertebrae misplacement, which in turn can lead to a person becoming more lop sided. Due to muscle memory, if not treated straight away the muscles will struggle to elongate and loosen as they become used to being in a certain position, if left for years, it can take months to correct.
Most of us have a slight hip displacement, we all tend to favour one side more than another, and this usually causes a small amount of tension which is often manageable, but sometimes when left untreated such strain can be put on the posture that frequent deep tissue massage and balancing exercises are advised to correct it. Commonly, this is represented as tightness down the inside of one leg and the outside of the other, often effecting one side of one of the feet; in turn, the waste and hip is much tighter on one side and the shoulder and neck is usually such on the other side, often with large knots in the neck as the head will keep itself straight. Massage and balancing exercises can correct this displacement, by balancing on one foot with a tall straight posture, you can feel which side you favour more in the hips, by drawing in your abdomen and glute muscles and open out your chest, you will feel your muscles either side of your body tightening and lengthening as required to balance the posture.
Pilates also complements Massage Therapy when correcting posture, it teaches you to be aware of the muscles you use to feel straight, and the only way to correct a postural problem is to be aware of it, once you know what’s going on you’ll be able to fix it! Often, just one treatment is enough to make you realise where you need to pay more attention! Usually a few are needed to release tight or knotted areas, but if you remind yourself frequently to check your posture by lifting one foot of the ground at a time, try and feel the muscles and focus on stretching gently and breathing deeply and keep your chest just slightly open throughout the day. Your therapist will be able to give you a few stretches to do and if you stick to it, your postural problems will be correctable in time!