Many of my website and Twitter followers have been asking about tips on how to alleviate back pain. According to the British Medical Journal, most people suffer from lower back pain at some point, and while many people recover, between 10 and 25 percent of people with low back pain have long periods where they’re unable to work.
Most back problems are caused elsewhere in the body and a series of 5 simple exercises can go a long way to preventing or alleviating back pain.
1. Stretch your Hip Flexors
Your Hip Flexors are a group of muscles responsible for raising your knees to your chest. They are very active and easily get involved in movements that they are not designed to do. The Hip Flexors over activation and lack of stretching often results in a shortening of the muscles. As the muscles shorten they start to pull on the Lumbar Spine and ultimately create a more Lordotic curve in lower back. This posture is easily recognized with the buttocks pushed out at the back and belly protruding out at the front.
Solution: Stretch the Hip Flexors by taking a deep lunge position, rotating your pubic bone towards your chest and bracing your abs.
2. Lengthen your Hamstrings
Following lengthy periods of sitting with bent knees the Hamstrings shorten. Shortened hamstrings attach to the bottom of your pelvis and prevent correct rotation of the pelvis during forward bending. An inability to rotate at the pelvis results in a compensation in the lower back and ultimately lower back problems.
Solution: Stretch the Hamstrings by sitting with your lower back against a wall and straightening your legs. Keep the chest up and 'proud'.
3. Improve Thoracic Spine Mobility
The Thoracic Spine is situated from the base of the neck to the mid back and is anatomically designed for movement. The Lumbar Spine with its larger vertebrae is designed for stability and lack of movement. Most people due to repetitive seating positions have “locked up” Thoracic Spines resulting in limited movement. The Lumbar spine is then forced to produce movement that it is not anatomically designed to perform and hence lower back issues.
Solution: Mobilise the Thoracic Spine by sitting tall on a backless chair and holding a stick across the shoulders. Brace the abs to lock the lower back and rotate slowly alternating sides.
4. Strengthen the Inner Core
The Inner Core is designed to work as a compression chamber to support the Lower Spine. The Pelvic Floor and Diaphragm are on top and bottom, the Transverse Abdominis goes around the sides and the Multifidus is at the back. An inability, through excess sitting, to activate the inner core leaves the Lumber Spine “exposed” during movement.
Solution: Strengthen the Inner Core by lying face down with the head on the hands. Breathe in deeply and push the belly into the floor, then breathe out deeply and pull the belly off the floor.
5. Use Correct Abdominal Training
The world’s obsession with flat stomachs and '6-pack abs' has resulted in a whole multitude of abdominal exercises. Unfortunately the majority of these exercises go against the true function of the Core muscles and only exacerbate existing problems. The Cores primary role is to provide stabilisation and a strong platform for other muscles to function from. Sit ups and crunches work in the total opposite direction of the Cores true function and only increase excess flexion in the Lumbar Spine. These exercises in turn increase the hunched over desk seated position and further stimulate and shorten the over active Hip Flexors.
Solution: Work on core stability by holding a rigid plank position.
Note: Some back pain cannot be alleviated with the above exercises and a professional consultation with a specialist is always advised before embarking on the above exercises. Why not give me a call and we can discuss my 6 week Back Care Programme incorporating pilates exercises and working with your GP, osteopath or physiotherapist to bring you back to health?