When we talk about posture and the overall health of our body's biomechanics, one muscle often gets overlooked: the tensor fasciae latae (TFL). From my clinical experience, I can attest that the TFL is frequently the hidden instigator of our soft tissue problems. In this blog post, we'll delve into the role of the TFL and how it silently contributes to various soft tissue issues. We'll also explore how cumulative effects of repetitious behaviour patterns, such as sitting and sleeping positions, can lead to pelvic dysfunction and discomfort in areas such as the knees, ankles, lower back, and even the neck.
The Cumulative Effects of Sitting
In today's modern world, many of us find ourselves spending prolonged hours sitting, whether at work, during commutes, or in our leisure time. This sedentary lifestyle can take a significant toll on our bodies, especially the soft tissues in the pelvis. Prolonged sitting can lead to what's often referred to as "sitting disease," where various muscles and tissues become tight and dysfunctional. The TFL is one of the muscles that bears the brunt of this sedentary lifestyle due to its proximity to the area where the hip hinges and bends. The closer the muscle lies to the joint the greater the impact it has when it’s not able to move through its entire range of motion.
Sleeping Positions Matter
Our sleeping positions also play a crucial role in the development of pelvic dysfunction and the ensuing soft tissue discomfort. It's important to understand that our bodies are constantly adapting to the positions we put them in. The way we move, sit and sleep alters how we hold the body, even during sleep. As we rest, our muscles can become shortened, especially when not used through their full range of motion when active, and can become locked in certain positions, contributing to dysfunction and discomfort.
The Consequences of an Anterior Pelvic Tilt
One of the most significant consequences of repetitious behaviour patterns is the development of an anterior pelvic tilt. An anterior pelvic tilt occurs when the pelvis tilts forward, causing the lower back to arch excessively. This unnatural curve in the lumbar spine can result in soft tissue pain and discomfort, with the TFL playing a critical role in this phenomenon.
The TFL, a small muscle located on the outside of the hip, is often underestimated in discussions about posture and soft tissue health. However, when the pelvis tilts forward, the TFL can become overactive. This overactivity, in turn, affects the functioning of other muscles. When the TFL is overactive, it can hinder the activation of the gluteus muscles, leading to a loss of core stability.
The Role of the Quadratus Lumborum
Another muscle affected by an anterior pelvic tilt is the quadratus lumborum. This deep muscle in the lower back is primarily responsible for supporting the lumbar spine. When the pelvis tilts forward, the quadratus lumborum often locks up in an attempt to protect the lower back and reduce the risk of injury to the spine and spinal cord. This can result in increased tension and discomfort in the lower back. With the QL often being misdiagnosed as the cause of our lower back pain problem.
The Butterfly Effect on the Body
It's essential to recognize that soft tissue issues stemming from an anterior pelvic tilt don't stop at the lower back. This postural misalignment can have a ripple effect throughout the body. An imbalance in the pelvis can lead to pain and discomfort in the knees, ankles, and even the neck as the fascia is forced to try and compensate for the dysfunction happening in our pelvis, our centre of gravity. Our bodies naturally strive for balance, and when one area is compromised, it often triggers a chain reaction affecting other parts of the body.
The tensor fasciae latae, often an underestimated muscle, plays a significant role in the development of soft tissue issues, especially in the context of prolonged sitting and poor sleeping positions. The cumulative effects of these habits can lead to an anterior pelvic tilt, affecting the functioning of other muscles and causing discomfort throughout the body. Understanding the role of the TFL and its impact on our posture and soft tissue health is essential for addressing and preventing these issues.
If you're experiencing soft tissue concerns related to an overactive TFL, don't hesitate to reach out. I have a range of prehab exercises and active release techniques that can help rectify soft tissue issues and promote a healthier, pain-free lifestyle. Your body's well-being is within reach, and addressing the silent culprit, the tensor fasciae latae, is often the first step toward improved comfort and mobility.