Low back pain is the single most debilitating condition on the planet. This is not to scare you or discourage you - just to let you know that you are not alone. Many low back pain sufferers discover how to utilize targeted movement to manage and self-treat their conditions every day. Let's stop "medicalizing" a condition that in most cases is not a medical issue to begin with. Let's build up your back so strong that you no longer fear bending, lifting, or twisting and you can get back to life the way YOU want. These strategies are helpful, but remember to always seek professional guidance when you are in doubt!
Depending on your low back condition, you may be in significant pain. The following activities can be considered palliative exercises, meaning their goal is to reduce pain and stiffness to allow you to manage your pain independently. Trial the following movements in the video below to see how your pain responds and utilize as few or as many as you find helpful.
Low back pain can often exhibit a "directional preference" - meaning that the pain worsens with movement one direction and gets better moving the other direction. This is not always the case, but when present, it is important to keep in mind. The easiest way to determine if you have a directional preference is trial and error. While standing, bend forward as if you are trying to touch your toes. Does this cause pain? If so, does the pain better or worsen if you do 10 more? Then try placing your hands on your hips and bending backwards with you low back. Does this cause pain? If so, does the pain better or worsen if you do 10 more? If one direction consistently feels good, try implementing some into your routine. There are examples of movements for each direction in the following video for you to try out and experiment with. If it isn't obvious after trying this test, you may not have a directional preference. However, continue to let pain be your guide for which movements to perform in the early stages as well as how intensely to perform them.
Pain down the leg? Sciatica? This can present unique challenges from a treatment perspective. The following video shows a general sample routine you may find helpful if you truly have sciatic-nerve generated symptoms. Sciatica can be somewhat of an umbrella term, however, and it should be noted that the term itself does not mean much in terms of what movements may be helpful and what won't. The key is in assessing what is causing the sciatic-nerve irritation - which can be a number of things. Again, if you have difficulty or something doesn't add up - please seek professional guidance!
An important part in treatment of spinal pain, especially low back pain, involves strengthening of the core musculature. As I am working with individuals, I often notice that people lose the ability to voluntarily activate their core muscles. This can indicate a control issue (brain-muscle connection is lacking), a strength issue, or both. The simplest way to "feel" what it feels like to contract your core is to blow through a drinking straw forcefully. As you do this, typically you utilize the entire 360-degree cylinder of muscle that is your core - including your abdominals, obliques, and back muscles. The following video describes in further detail another technique to help "find" your core contraction along with a helpful starter exercise, which will enable you to progress your core strengthening routine and work from back pain all the way to a "bulletproof" lumbar spine.
The following are options to begin to incorporate into your core strengthening routine. Utilize whichever exercise you are able to complete, but is still challenging. After incorporating this chosen exercise into your routine, continue to complete regularly until it becomes easy. At this point, re-trial the more challenging exercises to see if you are now able to perform them and replace the exercise that has now become easy. If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you!
Back pain is often a symptom of another condition. Most commonly, lack of sufficient mobility in the hips. The following are targeted stretches to the musculature or movements that are often the most problematic. There are numerous ways to stretch the same muscle, however you may like some positions better than others for one reason or another.
Stretching the front of your hip (hip flexors) is important, but can be over-hyped. Many of us find ourselves sitting for prolonged periods of the day - whether at work or otherwise. Therefore, it makes sense our frontside would shorten and begin to feel "tight". However, it is important to realize that this feeling can also be secondary to a stability issue elsewhere and your hip is compensating OR your hip flexors are actually weak instead. Stretching is definitely important, but if consistent stretching doesn't relieve that feeling of tightness - consider that tightness might not be the true cause!
What does the whole process look like? Here we have a video that shows a sample progression that I may go through as a physical therapist with someone who is seeing gradual improvements with their symptoms, which gradually allows progressions of movements and exercises. If you aren't familiar with our 3-step treatment process at Revolution Performance, here it is:
1) Relieve the pain (“put out the fire”)
2) Restore balance (address the true cause and restore motion)
3) Independence (restore confidence and teach self-management strategies to keep you pain free forever!
Try out our free e-book "Top 5 Exercises for Low Back Pain"!
© 2021 Revolution Performance, LLC
Medical Disclaimer: All information on this website is intended for informational and educational purposes only. The authors and partners are not responsible for any harm or injury incurred. It is important to seek professional guidance about your condition or injury. No guarantees have been made or implied regarding specific results of the services described.