Back pain is a bummer. It can suck up all of your energy and make you feel worthless. Waking up with back pain and struggling to get through the day is no way to live. If this describes you, you are not alone. Approximately 8 out of 10 adults will experience back pain at some point during their life.
Of those experiencing back pain, over 50% of them report sitting for extended periods of time during the day.
Perhaps you have gone to see a doctor for back pain and they couldn’t find anything structurally wrong. This is fairly common. 9 out of 10 people never know the primary cause of their back pain. Only 10% of people will have a diagnosed reason for their back pain.
What you need to know to alleviate back pain
So what do you do? Here are the 3 easiest things you can do to help alleviate back pain:
- Foam Roll
- Improve hip mobility
- Improve core and hip strength
What we have noticed with folks who have come to us for back pain is a lack of hip mobility and glute/core strength. This combination of tightness and weakness forces the muscles of the lower back to engage and assist in movements they weren’t designed to do.
Foam Rolling is a fantastic way to help tight, restrictive muscles start to relax and allow your body to function more efficiently. The catch? It usually hurts. If you have ever had a deep tissue massage you know how uncomfortable it feels when the massage therapist hits a spot and grinds into it to release the pressure being held within the muscle. Same thing with foam rolling. Most people don’t even realize they have restrictions in their muscles until they get on a foam roller.
I’m going to be honest. Foam Rolling can be painful, very painful. However, you need to be persistent if you want to be able to get these knots/adhesions broken down. Rolling once for 30 seconds won’t get the job done initially. You have to do it often, sometimes multiple times a day if you have the time. Persistence pays off and eventually the knots/adhesions will start to “let go” and the tenderness/sharpness will fade away quicker allowing that muscle to relax. I like to tell clients to stay on the knot until the discomfort (sometimes pain) drops by at least 75% or until you can’t take it anymore. Foam rolling needs to be done slowly. Rolling back and forth quickly will cause you to miss spots. Another huge tip is keep your muscle relaxed. Creating tension in the muscle while you roll does absolutely no good. Relax and allow your muscle to “sink” into the foam roller.
To give you an idea of how to foam roll, here is a video of how to foam roll your glutes:
If you have back pain, you will most likely lack hip mobility. The hips are designed to move in all planes of motion. When they can’t do that when they become tight and restricted, it effects your back. The easiest example is the golf swing. To hit a golf ball you need a great deal of rotation. That rotation should come from the hips. Tight hips will prevent a full rotation. For the body to get the rotation needed, it will make up the difference by having the lumbar spine rotate. The lumbar spine is not designed to rotate a whole lot, approximately 12 degrees. The lumbar spine is designed to be stable and strong, not mobile.
Chasing mobility in your lower back is the wrong thing to do. Improving hip mobility will go a long way to helping your lower back stay healthy. Here is a quick hip mobility video:
Improve Core and Hip Strength
Improving strength is the final piece of the puzzle. Strength is always important. Always. You can never be too strong. We see it all the time when clients come to us. Weak core, weak hips and glutes = lower back discomfort. Fortunately gaining strength can happen fairly quick and the exercises are easy to do, but challenging.
The hardest thing for most people to learn is how to properly brace their abdominals:
Getting the brace down is paramount to creating a “corset” for the spine when doing any activity. Spend time learning how to brace your abs before you move on to more challenging exercises.
The hips (glutes) are the main driver of hip extension. If the glutes cannot extend the hip, other muscles will come into play (hamstrings, quads, lower back). For the majority of clients, the lower back will takeover the hip extension motion when the glutes cannot perform that action.
The first few sessions for all of our clients are learning how to brace the abs (see above video) and then how to hold the brace while properly extending the hips using the glutes:
So there you have it. All you need are three things to help improve the condition of your lower back:
1. Foam Rolling
2. Improved Hip Mobility
3. Improved Ab/Core strength and hip strength
Hitting all three of these key areas will get your lower back happy and allow your back to do what it is designed to do, stabilize your spine.
Be diligent, be persistent and remember that it may take time for everything to come together.
written by dave radin