Lower Back Pain and How to Deal with It
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
Probably the most common source of pain, especially if you engage in physical activity, is the lower back. It’s a very common source of agony and discomfort for many people, young and old. Whether it’s an ongoing dull ache that won’t go away, or a sharp pain that’s as if a sniper shot you from a nearby rooftop, it can have a real negative effect on your day to day life.
Now the lower back can be scary because people often go straight to thinking it’s a spinal/disc issue that would require major surgery. While that may be the case, most times it’s a muscular/tendon issue, not a spinal/bone structure matter. If you have pain down your leg, tingling, numbness, or other similar symptoms, then go see a doctor. If you have a number of other types of lower back pain/stiffness, there’s good news. You can probably correct it!
The bad news is, there isn’t any magical stretch that overnight will fix everything about how your body moves. Sorry to break the bubble. Whoever finds that magic stretch is going to be RICH. Back to reality… with any injury that is a muscular matter, you have to come to terms with the fact that you have most likely been loading (putting weight) on your body incorrectly for a long time which has led to an imbalance of some kind.
Imbalance sounds serious, but everyone has them one way or another. Shoulders and hips sit at different levels, one arm or leg stronger than the other, more rotational range of motion on one side versus the other, and it goes on and on. With the lower back specifically, the root cause can be a variety of sources, from imbalanced hips, unstable core, to protracted shoulders (bad posture).
This probably doesn’t sound super helpful. “Gee thanks, now I have no idea what the source of my pain is.” MOST of the time, it stems from a LACK of ability to maintain activation of the transverse abdominis (aka your core) which puts pressure on your lumbar spine and your erectors (muscles in your back).
Even if this isn’t the main source, working on torso stability is always a good thing to practice. This does NOT mean to go start doing 200 crunches a day and you’ll be good to go. Learning how to properly engage and brace your core is what we’re dealing with and there is more to it. Hand in hand with learning how to engage your core is learning how to use your hamstrings/glutes. If you’ve been doing squats/deadlifts for a long time without ever probably learning how to activate the entire back half your leg, well, you can see how that might be a problem!
Your body has two pelvic tilts. Anterior pelvic tilt and posterior pelvic tilt. Everyone naturally sits in one of these, or a neutral pelvic tilt. None of these are necessarily good or bad. What can lead to movement issues is when you can’t move between them due to structural dysfunction. In strength training/general exercise, there are times for both of them.
To summarize, the source of your low back pain could be a number of factors. Assuming it’s not a spinal/disc issue, it can most likely be greatly alleviated by effectively implementing corrective exercises over a period of time (time will vary based on how bad it is it start). Having coaching can help you understand it better, but there are simple exercises you can do to help. The key is to be as intentional as possible with these movements. You HAVE to really think about what you’re doing during exercises for them to have the desired effect.
Below is a link to a site that has a few workouts listed that if done regularly, can greatly help learn how to brace your core, move between pelvic tilts, and generally help movement function.
Read the descriptions of the movements, really learn them, and be intentional with each rep. Control your breathing, take rests as needed, and be consistent with the workouts. Again, these aren’t a magic pill where if done for 2 weeks all physical ailments will come to an end. What it will do, however, is increase your body awareness and alert you of what should and shouldn’t be felt when you perform other exercises