3 Steps to Avoiding Back Pain
At Dynamic, we train a wide variety of individuals.
At any given moment our coaches can be working with a division 1 athlete one minute and member who is brand new to exercise the next.
This diversity in members means we are always managing a variety of health and injury histories.
One of the first things we ask our members about is if they have any history of injury. Almost all of them mention something about their low back. This is not surprising as research shows that 80% of the adult population will suffer from low-back pain at some point in their lives.
Many people come to us thinking that their low back is not strong enough. For the majority of individuals with back issues, this could not be further from the truth. For most, it is not that the low back is weak. The problem is that their backs are always active and working too hard.
The majority of our members come to us in an extended posture. Due to a number of reasons like excessive sitting, our hips become stiff and our abdominals weaken. This imbalance causes our pelvis to tilt forward, pushing our lower spine forward. The result is excessive strain and stiffness through our low back.
The question then becomes how do we improve position and ultimately stop our low backs from working so hard?
It is the combination of expert coaching to ensure our members are exercising with great technique as well as the 3 steps below that allows our members to have great success both avoiding and reducing low back pain.
Every training session at DSC starts with a positional breathing drill. One of our favorites shown above is called the 90/90 hip-lift. This exercise is specifically designed to relax your low back while improving the posture and position of your hips and spine. The combination of proper position and exaggerated exhales works like a massage to calm your stiff and overworked low back and hips. We are now in a great position to exercise.
- Lay on back with thighs and shins at 90 degrees, feet on wall
- Keep low back in contact with floor (think of melting into the floor)
- Keeping shoulders and neck relaxed, inhale easily through nose
- Exhale through pursed lips
- Make exhale as long and drawn out as possible
- Hold breathe for 2 seconds and repeat
#2 Get Mobile
Once you have improved position and relaxed your stiff muscles with the 90/90 hip lift, it is time to improve range-of-motion at your hips. The more we are able to move through our hips the less likely we are to excessively move at our lower spine. Think of the golfer who hurts his back. Chances are, he or she does not have the mobility in their hips to effectively rotate. To make up for lack of motion at their hips, they excessive twist at their low-back causing strain.
First: Passive stretching
Start with stretching of the hip flexors and hip rotators. Passive stretching is a great way to increase flexibility and length of your tissue.
Here is a couple of our favorites:
Hip Flexor/Quad Stretch
- Start on one knee with legs at 90 Degrees
- Keep glute of back leg contracted throughout
- Drive front heel into ground throughout
- Keeping abs braced, work on long deep exhales
- Should feel stretch through front of thigh on down leg
- Hold stretch for 2-3 minutes/side
Hip Rotator/Glute Stretch
- Start with front shin as close to parallel to shoulder as possible
- Keep back leg straight
- Should feel stretch on glute of front leg
- Intensify stretch by lining up back knee with front knee
- Keeping abs braced, work on long, deep exhales
- Hold each for 2-3 minutes/side
Second: Active Stretching
Now that we have increased our passive range-of-motion it is time to put it to good use. After all, passive stretching is useless unless you can control that newly acquired motion. Here, "if you don't use, you lose it", certainly applies. This is why stretching your hamstrings in a seated position does not mean you will be able to touch your toes. The key now is to control that new motion against gravity so we are able to go about our workouts and day-to-day activities with good movement.
Here are a few of our favorite active stretches to improve hip mobility.
- Start in long lunge position
- Keeping weight in front foot, bend back knee and drop straight down
- Legs should be at 90 degree angles in bottom position
- Go as low as possible with good position and return to starting position
- Start with 1-2 sets of 5 reps/side
- Start feet 3-4 feet apart, toes straight
- Keeping one leg straight sit back into opposite hip
- Go as low as possible keeping good knee, hip and spine position
- Start with 1-2 sets of 5 reps/side
#3 Get Stable
Now that we have loosened our low back and hips it is time to build a more stable core. Not only do strong abdominals look good, they are a vital component of better posture and keeping your low back healthy. The stronger and more stable our core is, the stronger and more stable our low back will be.
Here are two of our favorite ab exercises: