Dysfunctional Biomechanics

How Dysfunctional Biomechanics Led to
Susan's Lower Back Pain

Susan came to my office several years ago complaining of lower back pain. She had two children under the age of four (Lily, 3 1/2 and Ryan, 14 months).

Like any mother with small children, she often had to carry them. I asked her if she always carried them on one side and she said yes, the left side. Because she is right-handed she needed her right hand to be free to use.

Upon investigation we learned several things about Susan's body:

  1. She had a torque in her pelvis in which her left hip rotated backwards.
  2. Her right pelvis was torqued in the other direction, rotating forward.
  3. This torque in her pelvis made it difficult for her to jut out her right hip far enough to support the weight of one of her children.

The problem, we found, was that by carrying her children on one side only — by repeatedly jutting out her hip on one side only — Susan had caused the muscles of her lower back, hips, and pelvis to become patterned in one direction.

This patterning caused her pelvis to become torqued which led to a functional leg-length discrepancy. Whenever our legs are functionally a different length, the body is out of balance in gravity. And this can lead to muscular compensations as the body tries to hold itself up.

Susan's repeated movement on one side only is a prime example of dysfunctional biomechanics.

Muscles Adapt to the Position We Put Them In

By the time Susan appeared in my office she had been experiencing sharp, stabbing sensations across her lower back for several weeks.

Further evaluation and treatment revealed that her lower back muscles had adapted into the following pattern:

  1. The right quadratus lumborum had become locked into a short, tight position which contributed to rotating her pelvis forward on that side.
  2. The left quadratus lumborum was fixed in what I call a "locked long" position, with her pelvis rotating backwards. The "locked long" position when two muscle attachments are pulled away from each other and held that way. Very uncomfortable!

Treatment consisted of re-balancing Susan's pelvis through manual therapy and corrective stretching techniques. I also encouraged her to share carrying time of her children on her right hip to avoid this problem in the future.

It's very easy for any of us to fall prey to dysfunctional biomechanics, but if we can increase our body awareness even a little bit, then chances are good we can avoid the progression of this issue.

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Anatomy Images Courtesy of BIODIGITAL

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Stephen O'Dwyer, cnmt

Neuromuscular Therapist & Pain Relief Researcher

Stephen O'Dwyer, CNMT


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