I can tell you from you experience that you don’t truly understand how important your back is until it hurts. Every stride you take, every bend you make, everytime you reach, it hurts so bad!
Did you know that the most common reason people see a physiotherapist is for back pain? In fact if my article doesn’t solve your problem, I highly recommend you see one. Not just any old physio, but a good one. I can spend all day telling you how much money you could be wasting seeing an average physio. Obviously I won’t, because that won’t help your back pain.
Considering the number of hours the average person sits down every day, it really is no wonder the amount of people having trouble with their backs. It isn’t just the sitting down all day, but the little amount that people exercise everyday.
First of all I’m going to go into the major causes of back pain and second, go into the major cures for those problems.
1. Major causes of back pain
a. Tight hip flexors
You hip flexors are on the front side of your hips. They are active when you lift you knee, and they stretch when your leg is behind your hip. They will get super tight if you spend a lot of time sitting down all day. Which is virtually impossible to avoid in this day and age.
When you walk your foot needs to be a certain distance behind your hip before you can take the next stride. So if your hip flexors are too tight this means that your back needs to overextend in order for that foot to get back as far as it needs to be.
The problem: It means your lower back is contracting much more often than it needs to and this can create problems.
b. Core strength problems
When I say core strength, I really mean core activation. Often when you’ve got pain in your back, it is because certain muscles aren’t firing at the right time. The smaller “stabliliser”muscles are meant to fire first and then the larger “force producing” muscles are meant to fire after this. However the timing of the activiation can get messed up. The best way to fix this is to get those little muscles working again.
c. Weak gluteal muscle group
I’m talking about your butt muscles here. This goes hand in hand with the tight hip flexor issue. If your gluteal muscle group isn’t working hard enough to move your foot behind your hips when you walk or run, then your back muscles will overcompensate and do extra work. This leads to your back getting fatigued and tight which is a terrible combination!
2. The Cure
So the first thing you’ve got to do is stretch your hip flexors and/or get a massage on that muscle group.
In fact stretching all the muscles in the hip area will help to release your hip flexors but nothing beats a massage.
The next thing you need to do is incorporate the following exercises into your workouts:
- Front plank
- Side plank
- Quadruped hip extension
- One legged hip thrusts
- Quaruped breathing
1. Front plank
Possibly one of the most well know ab exercises and for good reason! During this exercise focus on keeping a straight line between your shoulders, hips and feet. Draw your belly button in gently (about 30% effort) and stop the exercise when your back starts to hurt.
2. Side plank
It helps to try to push the hand/elbow against the ground. This helps stabilise your shoulder joint. Draw your belly button in gently (about 30% effort) and stop the exercise when your back starts to hurt.
3. Quadruped hip extension
For the exercise you are on all fours and you are keeping the angle in your knee the same but just lifting your leg in the air.
The most important thing is to not let your spine move. Keep your spine as still as possible, and especially do not arch your lower back when you bring your foot higher. Only go as far as your can go without doing that.
4. One legged hip thrusts
The whole point of this exercise is to work your butt without working your back. So unlike a usual hip thrust, you pull your knee to your chest and hold a tennis ball in there. You do this as to avoid using your back during the exercise.
Check out the video below for great instructions. This exercise was coined the “Cook Lift” by Gray Cook, one of the best physical therapists around in my opinion.
5. Quaruped breathing
This execise will seem like it does nothing but it is super good for your back. Get into the quadruped position just like in exercise 3. But instead of lifting your leg you’re just going to breathe in and out.
As your breathe in, relax your abdomin and just let your belly fill up with air, and as you breathe out draw your belly to your spine and contract gently (about 30% effort). All the time focus on your spine staying completely still.
The purpose of this exercise is to get those small muscles of the spine switching on before the force producing muscles.
How to use the exercises?
I recommend doing 2-3 of these exercises in your warm up before each workout. Try to do each exercise at least once a week. Follow the following guidelines for each exercise
1. Front plank: aim to hold it for 60 seconds or longer without back pain. Remember to always stop if your back hurts. Try to build up a few seconds on each week and you’ll get to 1 minute and beyond in no time.
2. Side plank: sames as the front plank but aim for 30 seconds or more each side.
3. Quadruped hip extension: 8-10 reps each side
4. One legged hip thrusts: 8-10r reps each side
5. Quadruped breathing: 10 reps