In my daily Chiropractic practice when helping patients with low back pain, one of the first movements I assess is the patient’s ability to squat properly. This may seem like a cruel thing to do to a person with back pain, but is actually clinically very revealing about why that patient may be in pain in the first place. Someone with poor squatting movement is much more likely to put undo stress on their lower back and more likely to re-injure themselves frequently throughout their lives.
In fact, a well known medical screening test known as the Sit to Stand test has shown that a person who has a poor ability to move from a sitting to standing position (essentially returning upright from a squatted position) has a 2 to 5 times higher mortality rate. The article regarding this test and the authors’ findings can be accessed here: Sit to Stand
The overhead squat is also one of the movements screens used in the popular assessment method known as Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA). It assesses a person’s ability to squat fully to the floor with the heels down while holding a dowel overhead. It is actually a quite difficult task for a lot of people (myself included) and provides the therapist or doctor information about flexibility, mobility and trunk strength.
Being able to squat is an inherent human ability that we develop very young. Watch a 3-year-old squat and you are amazed by their ability to stay in that position, feet flat on the ground for long periods of time and be perfectly comfortable. As we get a little older and spend 12 years or much more behind a desk, we lose these inherent qualities such as ankle and hip mobility to be able to easily squat.
So now you can’t squat, but you still need to be able to complete low-level activities. So what do you do? You start bending at the waist, over and over again, throw in some rotation occasionally and in no time at all, you have a perfect recipe for low back pain. And by doing all that bending at the waist and avoiding squatting, you are further weakening your legs and glutes thereby impairing the likelihood that you will be able to achieve a squat or sit to stand movement in your later years.
What is the solution to this spiral? Squat and squat often. If you are unsure how to squat properly contact a knowledgeable health care provider who can teach you the proper technique. Learn how to squat properly and do it all your life. Chances are your life will be longer and you will have a significantly higher quality of life.