There are many reasons as to why people experience lower back pain, however muscular imbalances would have to be the most common culprit.
The bad news: you have been inactive or training incorrectly for far too long.
The good news: you can fix this and be pain-free once again.
A brief overview of your spine
Your spine consists of 24 vertebrae and the sacrum and coccyx, and between each of these bony structures is cartilage called “discs.” If you think about it, our hips and ribcage are quite stable areas of our body as they are supported by our bone structure. However, this isn’t the case in our midsection as it is only our core muscles that provide support aside from our spine. Consequently, it’s important to build our “muscle corset,” as the stronger it gets, the more support and less pain we will have.
What you should NOT do with your spine
There are three things that people commonly do with their spines which make me go crazy as they will surely lead to lower back pain.
1. Allow your body to be pushed beyond its limits
Your body already knows how far it can go, so don’t push it beyond its limits when you are stretching. Unfortunately, this is a common practice in yoga as some teachers go around pushing you further and further into a forward bend. I have had more than one client come to me with this story and the outcome is never pretty - a herniated disc and lifelong issues.
2. Crazy bends and moves your body is not ready for
One of the other things that I see so often is people taking super heavy weights into each of their hands then bending left and right. The issue with this movement is that most people do not engage their core (which is the most important part of doing this exercise!). Just imagine two vertebrae being pushed up against each other with extreme force and squeezing the disc in between.
This also applies to backbends. So many people who have back pain stretch and bend backwards in hopes of releasing it when in reality, all they are doing is putting more pressure on their backs.
3. Lifting without posture
Whenever you lift anything heavy, you must straighten your back and engage your core muscles. Even though this is commonly taught in workplaces which involve manual labour, I’ve seen far too many people lifting heavy objects (this applies to picking up your kids too) with a rounded back and just like before, it puts far too much pressure on your vertebra.
What you should do to strengthen your core
As you can see, a strong core leads to a strong lower back. So if you want to have a strong lower back, exercises such as “pilates swimming,” planks and side planks are perfect to add to your training regime. But what if you already suffer from lower back pain?
The most common issue that I see is “lordosis” which is where your lumbar curves more inwards than usual, putting a lot of stress on the vertebrae in your lower back. This happens when you have a lower back that is stronger than your abdominals, hip flexors which are tight and hamstrings that are weak.
To assess whether you have lordosis, stand up straight and barefoot. You should be able to draw a straight line from your earlobe, through your shoulder, hips, knees and down into the middle of your ankle.
If you have found that you have lordosis, strengthen and stretch out your lower back and hip flexors, and strengthen your abdominal muscles and hamstrings. Over time, this should resolve the issue.
Exercises to try out
- Glute-bridge (use one leg to increase the difficulty)
- Hamstring curl on fitball
- Crunch with legs on a ball or chair
- Knee to chest
- Kneeling hip flexor stretch
- Hip tilt