This is another guest post by Josh Hewett, trainer, coach and the owner of Top Form Fitness. A great article on the methods Josh used to fix his own back pain as well as his clients.
I was involved in pretty serious car accident as a teenager. A tire blew out and our vehicle rolled into the ditch, throwing me out of the window and about 20 feet through the air! I ended up fracturing 3 lumbar vertebrae (spinal compression fractures) and was confined to several days of bed rest in the hospital.
After that I was told to never lift heavy weights again, which didn’t make sense to me because it was strength training that had protected me from a more serious injury! So I set out to learn as much as I could about strength training and post-injury fitness, and in the process I have trained my lower back and core to be one of my strongest muscle groups.
Now, I understand that for most people suffering from lower back pain and/or tension it may not be as a result of serious trauma. A far more common cause of back issues is simply muscular imbalances developing over time from one’s lifestyle; especially from sitting for excessively long periods!
What happens when you sit all day (at a desk, watching TV, or while driving) is that certain muscles, ie: glutes, can become lengthened and weak while other muscles compensate and become tighter to take up the slack, ie: QL (lower back) and psoas (hip flexors). This can lead to all sorts of issues including back pain. Weak abdominal muscles is also a culprit.
So what can you do to restore muscular balance and function to get rid of that pain? The progressions I follow are very similar to what I outlined in my Fix Your Knees article:
- If it’s an acute injury see a medical professional and get assessed. Rest and ice.
- Test your Active Range of Motion as comfort allows (avoid passive stretching).
- Use Isometric Exercises to activate the weak muscle groups.
- Once muscles start to “fire” better, you can add in some isolation exercises to target and strengthen those muscles.
- Progress towards compound multi-joint exercises that incorporate those muscles.
So, considering that weak glutes and core are often responsible for lower back tension, you want to focus on engaging and strengthening those muscles. Here are a few isometric exercises for the core and glutes that will do just that:
The process of training your butt muscles to work again and improving your hip extension will also actively lengthen your tight hip flexors in the process. Even as you progress I suggest you still continue to employ some of the above exercises as part of your warm up before training. Trust me, it will go a long way toward preventing injury!
Some other very important considerations for preventing and correcting back issues include:
- Avoid explosive or high impact activities, at least until your back is healed and strong.
- Follow a healthy nutrition plan, including plenty of protein, vegetables, EFA’s (ie: fish oil), and water, to aid with your recovery, maintain joint health, and reduce inflammation.
- Certain supplements can help reduce pain and speed recovery as well.
- Get back to your normal daily activities as soon as possible but take it easy at first. Prolonged inactivity or bed-rest can just make things worse. Keep moving, but pay attention to maintaining good posture and proper body mechanics!
- Did I mention how important good posture is? Be sure stand AND sit tall! Avoid slumping forward or rounding your back. If you’ve been sitting for several hours, take breaks to get up and move around.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Your body needs to rest and decompress in order to become stronger. It’s also been shown that stress itself can lead to back pain, so take time to chill out!
Follow the suggestions above to protect your back and / or to alleviate back pain. If you’re dealing with that yourself I wish you a quick recovery! Post a comment below to share your progress and let us know how it’s going.