Today I am talking about the dreaded lower back pain (LBP). From young athletes, to chair bound adults, to golden year seniors, almost everyone will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. For this reason I decided to break down LBP into what it is and what to do about it!
The Major Malfunctions
There are dozens of reasons why someone would have LBP. Even different illnesses can cause it. So to avoid writing a whole book I’m going to cover the biggies.
In young athletes, the problem is often in the bones of the spine. In fact 47% will have a spondylolysis fracture with only 11% of LBP being caused by disc issue in this population. This differs from the adult population where 48% of LBP is disc related. So in young athletes the problem is often caused by repetitive extension and torsion of the spine, where as in adults the issue is typically due to sitting posture. Take a look at the picture bellow to see how changing your body position affects the load on you spine
So clearly much of the problem has to do with… well… you! Do you sit too long? Do you sit with crap posture? Do you move well? All of these questions are important ones to ask yourself. But the good news is that you’re in control!
What To Do About It
Before I go into detail about exercises and stretches to help, I will tell you that you need to see a doctor if you experience any of the following issues:
● Do you feel any tingling or numbness?
● Do you have any loss of sensation?
● Do you have any loss of motor control, such as an inability to raise your arm over your head?
● Do you have or have you ever had a loss of bowel or bladder function?
● Do you have severe immobility or an inability to walk?
Answered no to all of the above? wonderful, please read on at your leisure. In fact stand up, walk around, then sit back down and read on. Because Tip 1 is to start by sitting for no more than 30 minutes at a time. It’s the most simple and easiest way to help control that back pain. Now that you’re sitting Tip 2 is to now get into a proper sitting posture. So feet flat, chest up, core contracted, and eyes straight ahead. And finally Tip 3 breath from your belly. Not only will this help relieve stress (another cause of LBP) but it will engage that protective core musculature.
Here’s the problem with recommending exercises. Everyone has different needs!!!! Not everyone is going to be weak in the same areas. Not everyone is going to need stretching of the same muscles. For instance, if your back rounds out like a turtle when you sit down, you may need to stretch your hamstrings. However, if your back arches when you do a squat or sit down then that’s the opposite of what you want to do! So please come see me if you want some specifics on what to do to help correct your posture. In the meantime, you can try some of these exercises which are generally safe and effective for most people.
1. The Glute bridge. A simple and easy exercise that you can do anywhere. It activates the tooshie as well as the wonderful core muscles.
2. The hip flexor stretch. A wonderful pairing to the glute bridge is a stretch of the hip flexors. This stretch will allow the butts and guts do their jobs.
3. The plank. Abdominal bracing is all the rage this fall. So make the plank a part of your workout wardrobe.
4. Leg swings. This will help mobilize the hips so you can use your booty!
5. The fire hydrant. This exercise uses your mobilized hips to further strengthen them glutes.
When it comes to back health there is a lot to take into account.To be honest I have barely scratched the surface on this topic, but I feel like this post has gone on long enough as it is. So sit up straight, work on glute and core strength, and get out of that chair!