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Forging Elite Fitness After 40: The Daily Fix for the Aging Master Athletes

2. Lower  Back

Most Master athletes will come to me complaining of the back pain but remembering that ankle joint history may also be important to understanding why the pain is occurring and proving to be the key into creating a fix. What we need to understand is that the foot isn’t just the foot, it is also the ankle.

Since the ankle is connected to the tibia and fibula (lower leg) which ties into upper leg (femur) at the knee, the ankle is also the hip because the head of the femur rests in the acetabulum of the pelvis. Changing the position  in which the femur sits inside the pelvis can change both the orientation and function of the pelvis. Considering the number of muscles that cross the pelvis and attach to the spine this has many implications to both pain and performance of our athletes.


“The back’s pain isn’t the back’s problem.”

To best understand how the ankle can be the culprit for back pain, we have to go back to the incident itself. The typical response when we roll an ankle is to avoid putting weight on to the injured side. When we favor one side over the other, we end up asking all the structures on that side of the body to pick up the slack. This means that bones and joints get moved out ideal positions.

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In doing so, the muscles attached to these bones change in their length-tension relationships with one another. This proves problematic when the brain is trying to co-ordinate movement patterns. Ultimately what happens is that our brain creates a compensation and we end up using muscle improperly, thus opening the door for all kinds of injury.

What to look for:

Uneven hip height. Watch the waist band of athlete or wrap a piece of duct tape around their waist line to observe if one hip is higher than the other while they move. What you will see is that an athlete likes to load one hip more when they perform exercises in which they bend at the hips and knees. You can confirm uneven hips be measuring the position of the asis on both the right and left pelvis.

The daily fix: On the side that is higher, relax the Quadratus Luborum with a tennis or lacrosse ball. The QL attaches from the top of the pelvis to the lower lumbar and shortens up to hike the hip. When this muscle is chronically shorten it can effectively make the length of the legs uneven. This can have huge ramifications for all movement for force is absorbed from the ground up.


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