Stiff and Achy? The Secret to Becoming More Flexible and Reducing Pain

Mom Podcaster
by megan dahlman
March 28, 2023

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It’s a basic FACT, my friend: your body will feel terrible and feel way older than necessary if you’re tight. But what should you be stretching and how?

We are in our super important series all about how you can feel young, energetic, vibrant and Pain-free for many years to come - no matter how old you are right now. And we’re wrapping this series up today with probably my favorite part of it all.

And I was thinking through what I wanted to share with you, my friend Monica came to mind.

Let me tell you about Monica.

Monica is an extremely fit individual. She works out every single day, does a combination of functional strength training, martial arts, and cardio. Yet, she still experiences chronic low back pain!

She can keep it at bay for the most part, but it’s always there in the background, never completely disappearing.

Whenever I’ve trained her, the glaring absence from her routine is a lack of flexibility work. Her hips are tighter than a drum, and simple movements that require deep ranges of motion are nearly impossible for her.

Another Story

In that same office space is another gal that I’ve trained from time to time, Candace. Admittedly, she’s definitely not as much of a fitness junkie as Monica, she tries to move her body when she can, but she usually sits at a desk all day. Her hips are actually not a problem… she’s actually quite flexible, BUT she has a really tight upper back area, with rounded shoulders, and a slightly hunched posture. She told me that she feels like she moves like she’s ancient, and hates that feeling. And her LOW back acts up from time to time.

The point here is that you can be a super-fit, very athletic individual or someone who’s not very fit and end up dealing with the same kind of thing.

What’s the issue?

The issue here, in both of these cases, is what I call Dysfunctional Hip & Thoracic Mobility.

Dysfunctional Hip & Thoracic Mobility is where the primary muscles that connect through your body's largest joint, your hip socket, no longer have the length and flexibility to move properly and with ease…AND the spinal segment of your thoracic spine no longer have the ability to move properly and with ease.

This lack of flexibility in these crucial areas has the potential to pull your body out of proper alignment and create significant back and hip pain.

  • Picture your hip socket. It’s a giant joint that’s designed to be able to move A LOT. And when it can’t, when it’s stiff, it pulls on everything and ends up making your low back move around a lot more than it was designed to.
  • Likewise, I want you to picture the part of your spine that starts just below your bra strap and goes up to the base of the neck. That part of your backbone is also designed to flex and extend and twist quite a bit. But when it can’t, when it’s stiff, it pulls on stuff and makes your low back move more than it’s supposed to.

Think of like this: putting on a heavy backpack to go hiking, and you tighten down the straps just around your right shoulder really hard. The load of that backpack will feel unevenly distributed on your right side, and eventually become incredibly uncomfortable. You might even start walking funny to compensate for it. But if all of the straps are even, then the backpack can sit level on your body and feel much more comfortable and everything works the way it’s meant to.

What does the science say?

The correlation between Dysfunctional Hip Mobility and low back pain has been studied around the world. In an article published in the Medical Science Monitor Journal in 2020, researchers found that limited and asymmetrical hip range of motion created compensation movement problems in the lumbar spine that led to pain. The same thing has been found with the thoracic spine area - having limited mobility in your thoracic spine creates compensation patterns in the lumbar spine, too.

What causes this:

  • Sitting for too long and too often, and being in a forward rounded position. (examples…)
  • Here's how you overcome it. I want you to set a timer on your phone to go off every 30 minutes. When it goes off, stand up to walk around and stretch your legs. You'll find that simply shifting positions and straightening out your hips and bringing your arms back will relieve a lot of the pressure on your back.
  • Neglecting to stretch and mobilize your hips and thoracic spine consistently. (examples…doing a workout and not properly warming-up or cooling down; going for a run and just walking in the door.)
  • Here's the solution: I want you to spend just 3 minutes a day stretching your hip flexors, hamstrings, and upper back muscles or doing some kind of soft tissue work like foam roller massage. Take your time and breathe deeply while you stretch to feel the muscles actually release. You'll find this removes a significant amount of pressure through your pelvis and low back.
  • By the way, you might have muscles that can lengthen really well, but if the fascia surrounding the muscles is bound up and tight, you won’t ever be able to tell. You’ll still feel locked up. So this is where foam rolling can be so incredibly effective for helping your flexibility.

For me personally, I will tell you that I’ve spent years working on improving the tightness of my hips - that part I really started to get figured out. But it wasn’t until I also added in a LOT of upper back stretches, twisting reaches, and thoracic openers that my body felt “right”.

It’s the two areas combined, making sure the areas above and below my low back are nice and flexible, that make the biggest difference in the world. And my go-to’s even to this day, when my body feels stiff and sore, is to do some deep hip flexors and hamstring stretches, some foam rolling in my hip socket, and combining all that with some chest openers and some upper back extensions over a foam roller.

  • If you don’t have a roller, or need a better more effective one, I can’t say enough about the Rollga. It’s hands-down, my absolute favorite… I’m pretty sure every member of my family has gotten a Rollga from me for Christmas or for their birthday. If you don’t have one, you need one. I have five of them - no joke. I’ll put the link in the show notes so you can grab one at a discount.

And friend, I can’t tell you enough how this flexibility piece - having mobile hips and a mobile thoracic spine - is critical for having a pain-free, younger feeling body. If you skip over this part, you WILL feel old and achy.

The trifecta is what matters most.

But you have to remember, it’s the trifecta. It has to be the trifecta combined for it to all work. It’s not enough to just do stretching. You could be suuuuper flexible and still have a body that hurts, because the other 2 parts of the trifecta aren’t there.

What’s that trifecta? It’s of course, the PSF framework.

  1. Posture
  2. Strength
  3. Flexibility

If any of these three issues are not being addressed and taken care of on a regular basis, you simply won’t feel good. You will feel old. You’ll move like you’re old. You’ll have aches and pains, and it won’t go away. And I know you don’t want to feel like that, but it’s so common to just live with it and chalk it up to an aging body.

And unfortunately, most pain solutions out there are only quick fixes.

  • You see a bunch of posture gadgets or you focus on posture adjustments, but it doesn’t totally get rid of the pain because you’re not also working on flexibility and strength.
  • Or you do a ton of core work or even general strength training work, but it doesn’t matter if you have poor alignment and not also doing targeted mobility and flexibility.
  • Or you just do a bunch of stretching. I can’t tell you how many yoga instructors I know that experience chronic low back pain and hip pain. People that are super flexible, and it’s because if they neglect postural alignment and properly developing the core strength, then it doesn’t matter.

The point is that if you want… if you NEED… your body to move better, to feel young, and to be pain free, you have to hit the trifecta.

And I know this probably makes a lot of sense and it’s all coming together, but you don’t know HOW to do it. You’ve got your hand raised because you’re tired of just living with constant low back or hip pain - whether it’s lumbar spine issues, SI Joint pain, sciatica, or deep hip pain - and you want to get rid of the achiness for good, but you don’t know HOW to pull all these pieces together into a tangible, productive, routine that perfectly combines all aspects.

(Leave the HOW to me, ok? You do NOT have to figure this out on your own. Instead, just sign up for my Back & Hip Fix course, and I’ll lead you through simple daily moves that you can do anywhere, anytime - you can do this in your pajamas, I’ve even had people do them in their RV while they’re on vacation. Back & Hip Fix is a 30-day program that takes less than 10 minutes a day, and it’s super gentle and feels so good, so even if you’re in quite a bit of pain right now, you can still do this and it will give you the relief you’re looking for. We’ll fix your back and hip pain for good, ok?)

No MORE tired, old, aching body!

Ok, to wrap up I always like to leave you with one simple action step that you can put into place TODAY.

Prioritize your flexibility. Don’t miss this piece. Get that stretching going, do the foam rolling. It’s all important. But don’t forget that it’s just ONE piece of the puzzle.

And really, your biggest call to action today is that if you have been experiencing a body that feels frustratingly old because your back and hips ache, get yourself signed up to do Back & Hip Fix with me, stat.

And I want to hear from you! Reach out to me on IG or through email and tell me what your biggest lesson learned or your biggest takeaway has been from this little series these past few weeks.

More Resources

Click here for Megan’s Back & Hip Fix program! www.backandhipfix.com

Don’t have a Rollga foam roller? Click here to get 15% off!

FREE 5-Day Core Tune Up - A free mini-course to dramatically improve your functional core strength, create better alignment, and relieve back and hip pain for good!

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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
Read More About Megan
Hi! I’m Megan.
Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
Be sure to subscribe to Self-Care Simplified wherever you listen to your favorite podcast.
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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
Read More About Megan
Hi! I’m Megan.
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Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
Be sure to subscribe to Self-Care Simplified wherever you listen to your favorite podcast.
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