This week’s topic was submitted by Gay W. and her question/problem was dealing with low back pain from work and what she can do to help with it. A study by Janet K. Freburger, Ph.D from the University of North Carolina found that some 80% of Americans will suffer from low back pain in their lifetime. If you have a question/topic you want covered shoot me an email to [email protected] and I’ll either write an article on it or I’ll do a short Q&A recap!
What causes low back pain? (not medical causes — but those we can define in real life)
- Bad posture
- Lack of core training/activation
- Bad form when lifting objects from the floor (or in general)
- Is it all in your head (more on this in a minute)
It’s no secret that desk jobs are killing our posture and contributing to our low back pain. Not to mention our inability to use our legs when picking up heavy (or not so heavy) objects. Back pain is not fun. AT ALL. I’ve been there and it’s debilitating. Back pain makes young people wish they had a Life Alert necklace.
But, what if the pain is being caused by your mind? Recent research has shown that psychological back pain is the culprit more often than not. You may be thinking — What the heck? My mind makes my back hurt? Have you had too much caffeine today, Chris (the answer is yes — leave me alone)?
Bear with me here, okay. Check out this picture of a piece form an article about psychological back pain below:
Y’all. Our mind can cause back pain. To me, that is just wild. Our mind is a powerful thing. Read more about psychological back pain here.
What can you do about it? Is there a cure? Are you SOL? Well, it will take effort on your part — but a little effort here and there is better than being laid up on the couch every night from tension headaches and low back pain.
What if you already have low back pain? What if your neck already hurts? For one you should get checked out by your doctor or chiropractor. If you get the all clear, then it’s time to create an action plan. This will vary depending on your current activity level and time you must commit to it, but, the plan is largely one in the same.
- Commit to more movement during your work day
- Commit to 10min of stretching/mobility work every day
- Add some dedicated core work to your workout — or add it to your daily routine of stretching if getting to the gym isn’t in the cards for you
Stretching Series 1:
Stretching Series 2:
If you have the time, and want an easy and quick bodyweight movement routine you can try this out as well:
What “stretches” are the best for low back pain?
Knee to Chest Stretch
You can perform this stretch a few different ways. Off leg straight or bent, grabbing shin on working leg or grabbing the working leg hamstring etc. The key is to find what works for you and the one that gets you the best stretch.
Prone Press Up (Cobra)
I love this move when I am experiencing low back tightness/pain. Once you press up to the top end of your ROM keep pushing the floor away while simultaneously letting your hips relax and sink towards the floor.
Another low back pain/tightness favorite. You can do these with your heels on the ground (shown) or you can bring your knees up to 90 degrees. A key to this move is to try and keep your low back glued to the ground as your knees go side to side — note: your low back will come up some but the focus on keeping it down is what helps with the stretch. 🙂
This can be done statically where you hold different positions for sets amount of time or you can make it by scouring around looking for hot spots/corners (thanks for the vocab Kelly Starrett of MWod). Or you can move to hip switches, check those out here.
Active Straight Leg Raise
I LOVE this move for active rest during sessions. You can do them without a band or you can band one leg. No matter what variation you choose, draw your belly button in and glue your low back to the ground while also pulling your toes back like you’re trying to stretch your calves. Check the banded version I use out here.
I’d seen this move before this article but hadn’t used it much/if at all. I tried it out and will definitely be adding these to my low back pain/tightness arsenal.
This stretch will nail your glute medius. Quite honestly this is one of my favorite stretches/mobility moves. Loose hamstrings/glutes lead to a happy back. My client said you should feel this “right in the divot” on the side of your butt. So — #HitTheDivot.
Rock Back to Heels (Childs Pose)
Underrated move to loosed the back up — and also harder than it looks. Work to get your glutes to sit on your heels, you’ll see what I mean.
What “core” exercises are best for low back pain and core “activation”?
Pushup Position Plank
Deadbug *to hold neutral spine position
Bird Dog Pointer
Glute Bridge March
What “posture” moves/exercises are best?
TRX T, W, Y
Hip Hinge T’s
Banded Shoulder Warmup (Pull aparts, facepulls, over and backs)
If you’re exercises already try adding more horizontal pulling (rows) to your workout. I used to be an advocate for perfectly balanced programming of 1:1 but the more I work with clients and the more posture issues I see the more I find myself writing programs with a 2:1/3:1 rowing to pushing ratio. This helps pull the shoulders back and not only strengthen the back muscles and scapula region but helps to avoid your chest getting so tight and overused that it starts to pull your shoulders forward.
Put some of these to use and I promise you’ll make progress toward less (or no) low back pain, better poster and an overall better mood while at work and home. Ten minutes per day using some of these moves can quite literally change your life.
Again, if you ever want a question answered or a topic covered just let me know. Whoever submits the best topic will receive a free 30minute consult call to cover anything you want fitness/nutrition related.