"STAND UP TALL!" "STICK YOUR BOOBS OUT!" "CHIN IN!"
I'm sure you've heard this once or twice in your time... These cues are commonly used to 'improve posture' but unfortunately, they can promote an imbalance and overactivity in the posterior muscles in the back. This is referred to as "Back Gripping".
Back gripping is a dysfunctional postural pattern which is commonly seen with clients with back pain. Diane Lee, a Canadian physiotherapist named three primary patterns of 'gripping' - back, butt and chest.
What is Back Gripping?
Back gripping is where the erector spinae muscles and posterior slings in the back become too tight or overactive.
What does Back Gripping Cause?
Overactivity in the erector spinae musculature can cause compression of facet joints in the spine and foraminal narrowing. The foramina are essentially holes or openings either side of the spine where sensitive nerves exit and travel into the pelvis and down the legs. When these 'holes' are closed down the exiting nerves can be compressed and irritated leading to symptoms such as numbness, pins and needles, tingling or sharp shooting pain.
Someone with back gripping typically appears like they have fantastic 'posture' as they are standing up tall and proud however, another repercussion of this pattern is that their back becomes incredibly stiff and rigid. This rigidity isn't conducive for force mitigation or force absorption throughout the body. As a result, the low back, pelvis, pelvic floor and legs have to absorb most of the forces which exacerbates pain, fatigue and dysfunction.
Who is a 'Typical' Back Gripper?
Back gripping is commonly seen in clients who have a military background, dancers or ballerinas.