Lower back pain is one of the most common ailments in our society today. This pain often leads to people missing work and being unable to perform even the simplest of daily activities.
A concept that is important to understand is that the lower back is often not the problem. The back is usually a symptom of a completely different dysfunction.
This is why traditional treatment methods don’t work.
If you are trying to treat and relieve lower back pain, stop focusing so much on the back. This may sound counterproductive; but like I said, the pain is often caused by a problem somewhere else in the body.
The body is like a chain; any kink in the chain is going to affect the rest, whether above or below.
In this post, I’m going to explain some of the common “kinks” in the body, as well as some ways to iron out these issues.
1) Lack of glute strength.
This could also be called “lack of glute function”. Sometimes, it is not simply a matter of the glutes being weak, but it is the fact that most people’s glutes do not activate at the right time.
A great example would be the lock out portion of the deadlift. This is when you are about to finish the lift, and you push your hips through.
However, if your glutes are “asleep”, they won’t activate to extend the hips at the top of the lift; so the lower back will have to go into extra extension.
Repeating this process over and over is a recipe for serious back pain, so it is important to ensure that the glutes are doing their job.
The importance of glute function has been popularized by “the Glute Guy” Bret Contreras, who is a strength and conditioning coach and researcher. Bret is extremely smart and well-rounded with his approach to anything fitness related, so you know when he approves of anything, it must be good (check out his site here).
That said, I learned a few of these glute activation exercises from him, and I thought I would share them with you as well.
Side Lying Clam
Quadruped Hip Extension
The key with all glute exercises is that you want to feel the glutes contracting as much as possible. This will allow you to get the most out of the exercise, and ensure that your glutes are firing properly and at the right time.
Also, this will ensure that you’re moving from the hips, and not the lower back.
2) Lack of core strength.
These days, everyone emphasizes “the core”. Even those moronic “trainers” who got their certifications online in two hours are coming up with innovative “core” exercises that will magically give you a shredded six pack.
While a six pack is great, it’s more about having a low body fat than proper core training. If you have a six pack, but a few layers of fat covering it, of course it’s not going to show.
This is why I laugh at all of the advertisements that say “Do this exercise and you’ll have a six pack in a week.”
Steer clear of these claims, as they don’t work. When it comes to the core, I’m more about performance and health rather than appearance.
I’m going to try to stay on topic and not bash all of the idiots having their clients do bat-crazy shit on Bosu balls and wobble boards (this is a post for another day).
Instead, I’m going to share with you a post I wrote recently about the best core exercises.
Check it out here.
Increased core strength will improve your body’s ability to stabilize the lower back, which will lead to less pain and less risk of injury.
3) Poor posture.
This is a no-brainer for me. I used to have horrible posture, and it had a huge impact on how my back felt. I found that sitting for long periods of time caused my posture to fade, which led to back to later on in the day.
Forcing yourself to maintain proper posture is extremely difficult, especially because your body has adapted all of its movement patterns to fit this posture.
The key is patience. If you look for postural results in the first week, you will be disappointed.
It is important to constantly remind yourself, especially when sitting down, to not slouch in your chair. Sit tall, draw in the abs slightly, and maintain a neutral head posture.
It’s going to suck for the first few weeks, but your body will soon adapt and you will have great posture without even having to think about it.
4) Tight hips.
This will kind of piggyback off of the last tip; tight hips lead to poor alignment (posture), which will lead to back pain.
Also, because the hips are supposed to be mobile and the lower back stable; if the hips become very tight and immobile, the body will look for compensation in the lower back.
A stable joint trying to become mobile is a disaster waiting to happen. It is crucial that you have mobile hips so that the lower back can remain stable and healthy.
Below are some of my favorite hip mobility exercises. They are very simple and extremely easy to implement into your daily routine:
Wall Hip Flexor Mob
If your hips are too tight to perform the above exercise correctly, start without grabbing your back foot, and simply lean forward to get a stretch. Then progress as needed.
Knee to Knee
This is a great stretch/mobilization that will open up the hip internal rotators.
Great stretch for the adductor muscles, commonly known as the groin.
These three exercises are obviously just the tip of the iceberg, but they are a great way to get started on increasing your hip mobility.
Perform these exercises throughout the day if you’ve been sitting a lot, as well as before your workout, and you will notice a big difference in how your back feels.
5) Poor exercise technique.
Someone puts way too much weight on the bar, which leads to bad form; and as a result, they hurt their back. This most often occurs in compound lifts because they are more “involved” exercises, but I’ve seen people hurt their back doing curls.
I can stress enough how essential proper technique is. Check your ego at the door and commit yourself to using good form.
Sure, you might not be able to lift as much weight, but if your form is great, you will be targeting all of the right muscles while reducing injury risk.
Now, I understand that if you are going for a max effort attempt on a deadlift, form is not always going to be perfect. Anyone who lifts an appreciable amount of weight will understand this. But, don’t make this a consistent thing.
You should not be making max effort attempts on the deadlift every week unless you are a veteran of powerlifting and you really know what the hell you’re doing.
If you’re not sure what your form looks like, have a friend videotape you, and compare your form to videos (from credible sources) on Youtube. And, of course, if you have any questions about exercise technique, either leave a comment on this post or hit me up via my contact page and I’ll be happy to help you out.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post. If you begin to implement the ideas I outlined in this post, you will undoubtedly see improvements in back pain; and your risk for future injury will go down as well.
As always, if you have any questions, drop a comment or email me via my contact page and I will be delighted to help you.
Keep working hard!