Did you know that 80% of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives? What's more, low back pain is responsible for 264 million lost work days in a year!! So why do so many Americans experience low back pain? Is there a way to alleviate the pain and better yet- prevent it all together? Read on to find out.
Why Do We Get Pain?
In current American society, we sit. We sit A LOT. Wake up, sit on the toilet. Make coffee and breakfast, sit down to eat it. Get in our car, sitting while we drive to work. Walk to a desk to sit down for 6-10 hours. Drive home sitting down. Get home, sit down for dinner. After dinner, sit on the couch and relax from all the sitting we have done today. We get up throughout the day, only to go to places to sit down.
It did not used to be like this. In fact, our ancestors sat very little. They actually SQUATTED to get nearer to the ground. Think about a typical day for our ancestors, The amount of movement they performed and how little they sat down on something that took the load off.
Staying in a specific position for a long time causes the body to adapt. With sitting, the hip flexors tighten and decrease in length. The opposing muscle group (glutes) lengthen and relax. Our upper body slouches, causing us to round the shoulders and droop the head forward. This causes tight pectoral muscles and lengthens the neck, upper back, and supporting postural muscle groups. Over time, this causes TONS of problems.
Details, Details, Details
The biggest problem I see in practice is shortened hip flexors, which disallow us from extending through the hip. When we try to extend through the hip when we do something active, the body can't, so it adapts. It searches for extension somewhere else, and it typically reverts to the lower back. You see, the lower back was not designed to extend and support our movements. The hip is. When we reprogram our bodies from excessive sitting to disengage the glutes and core, and limit our ability to extend through the hip, the LOW BACK takes on the brunt. It just was not designed for that. You might think "I have a weak low back" if your back hurts. But that is not the case. Your probably have a strong low back, it just was not designed to go through what you are putting it through?
I often see low back pain in clients fade away after 3 weeks of training 3x per week. IN ADDITION TO STRETCHING AND MOBILIZING THE QUADS AND HIP, Here are 3 exercises that will strengthen the core and retrain the body to use the proper areas, thus decreasing back pain.
Perform these exercises for 3 rounds of 10 on each side 5x per week!
Exercise 1: Pelvic Tilt Grab a stick of any kind (PVC Pipe, Mobility Stick, Broom Handle, etc.) and plant it into the ground in front of you. While holding it, squeeze your butt and activate your lower core to move your pelvis through the range of motion.
Exercise 2: Bird Dog Go to the floor on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and knees under hips. Extend your opposite arm and leg, keeping the back flat. Use the core to bring them together.
Exercise 3: Bird Dog Lie on your back with hands up and legs extended, relaxed through the knee joint. KEEPING A FLAT LOW BACK, extend one arm and the opposite leg out. Bring them back to center. It is imperative your low back stays flat. If you cannot extend all the way without lifting your low back, stop just at the point before your back comes off the ground!