Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints that I hear about as a personal trainer. The pain can be muscular or structural. Both of these types of pain can be prevented and improved just by improving the strength and flexibility of your body structures.
One of the major contributing factors to lower back pain is weak abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles, particularly your transverse abdominis, supports your spine and protects it from improper movement. When these muscles are weak it can cause an anterior tilt of your pelvis. This tilt puts added stress on the spine and causes the discs in your lumbar spine to be compressed resulting in pain. This anterior tilt can also cause the hamstrings to tighten which is another cause of lower back pain as mentioned below.
The hamstrings connect from the ischial tuberosity of your pelvis (a.k.a your butt bone) to your tibia (bone just below the knee). When this muscle tightens up, it pull on the pelvis which pulls on the spine and causes compression of the discs in the lower back, results in pain and discomfort.
One final contributing factor that I’m going to address how tightness of the hip flexors relates to your lower back pain. Your hip flexor is made up of multiple muscles that act to flex your hip joint. When these muscle tighten up it exacerbates that anterior pelvic tilt and puts greater compression on those lumbar discs.
So, now that we know some of the causes of lower back pain, how do we go about relieving it? Let’s start with the first factor we mentioned, core strength. Doing 100 crunches a day, believe it or not, will NOT strength your core enough to relieve your pain and, in fact, could make it worst. The best core exercises you can do, especially if you have lower back pain, are isometric core exercises. An isometric exercise means you create muscular tension without muscular contraction. Great examples of isometric exercises are elbow planks and band stability holds as seen below. These exercises strengthen that hard to reach transverse abdominis muscle which has a direct impact on supporting and stabilizing your spine, therefore reducing your pain.
Now that you have a couple ways to improve your core strength let’s talk about improving the flexibility of your hamstrings and your hip flexor's. One simple hamstring stretch you can do yourself is laying on your back and bringing on leg at a time towards your face either with your hands or a rope/band. Hold this stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds and do it 2-3 times, alternating with your other leg. Ans a simple hip flexor stretch you can do involves kneeing on one leg and pushing your hips slightly forward while maintaing a straight back. Then reach the opposite arm of the front leg up and back for a greater stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds as well 2-3 times.
By adding in the two core exercises and the two stretches mentioned above to your workout routine at least 2-3 times a week you should see improvements with your lower back pain. These exercises can also help you PREVENT lower back pain which is just as important. These movements can easily be done incorrectly and I highly recommend you have a professional help you with the proper technique.
Lower back pain an be very debilitating and you should consult a doctor before starting any exercise program.
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