Lower back pain is fast becoming (if not already) one of the world’s biggest ailments. If you’ve had the exhilarating experience of lower back pain, you’ll know better than anyone else of how debilitating and frustrating it can be. In this article we look at the causes of lower back pain and how you can ‘bulletproof’ your back to stand up to the worlds demands!
Causes of Lower Back Pain
To remedy the cause of lower back, you must first understand the cause. LBP can be attributed to many factors. In most cases, it is caused by a muscular imbalance which then compromises your body’s lower body structure. In other cases, LBP is caused by an unnatural skeletal structure of the body, causing an uneven distribution of weight in the spine and placing strain on the surrounding muscles. In ALL cases though, LBP is attributed to poor posture.
Lower back pain caused by a muscular imbalance is when the strength of certain muscle groups outweighs/outbalances the strength of it’s opposite and opposing muscle group (agonist/antagonist e.g overly tight hamstrings to quadriceps causing a strain in the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus and therefore the lower back).
Lower back pain caused by the structure of the skeletal system is the unnatural development of a skewered spine. this is generally caused over lengths of time (years) from poor postural habits e.g sleeping in an awkward position, standing with your weight on one foot, continually carrying bags on one side.
Kyphosis – Kyphosis is the excessive outward curvature of the spine, (mainly upper thoracic – upper back, just below the neck) causing a ‘hunchback’. Think Quasimodo from ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.
Lordosis – Lordosis is the excessive inward curvature of the spine, (mainly lumbar – lower back) causing an excessive protrusion on the glutes and an imaginary pot belly.
Scoliosis – Scoliosis is the abnormal sideways curvature of the spine, depicting somewhat of an ‘S’ shape, causing uneven shoulders and hips.
The one thing all of these spinal conditions have in common is the ongoing pain, relentless pain, when either sitting or standing.
Build a Bullet Proof Back
Before undergoing an exercise regime to strengthen lower back issues seek help from a professional. A qualified physiotherapist or chiropractor will be able to diagnose and prescribe the relevant exercises to remedy lower back pain issues, but here are three of the best exercises to strengthen your lower back.
Seated or standing using dumbbells or a barbell this exercise strengthens the upper back and therefore alleviates some of the body weight from the lower back/core.
1. If seated, sit with core braced by bringing the belly button in towards the spine. This engages the core muscles to take on the weight of the upper body. In a standing position stand hip width apart and brace core.
2. If seated or standing, roll shoulders back to bring shoulders inline with the ear lobes. Chest should be out ‘proud’. If in a standing position, keep shoulders back whilst keeping the knees soft/slightly bent and hinge backwards at the hips until bar/dumbbells is inline with the knees. Maintain a straight back from hips through to shoulders.
3. Hold bar shoulders width apart and bring the bar in towards the stomach. Concentrate on squeezing the shoulder blades together to strengthen the rhomboids (muscles between shoulder blades/scapula. Ensure to pull from the elbows, bringing the elbows past the body line to accentuate the flexion throughout the upper back.
The difference between the seated version and the standing version of this exercise is the core involvement. More emphasis is placed on the core in the standing position (bent over row).
The plank strengthens the core, thus alleviating some of the body weight off of the lower back and forces the core muscles to take on some of your body’s upper body weight.
1. Laying in a face down position, spread feet hip width apart and place elbows inline with shoulders, shoulder width apart.
2. Engage the core muscles by bringing in the belly button in towards your spine. You should feel your abdominals switch on.
3. Once the core muscles are engages, lift your body from the floor by pushing hips up inline with the shoulders to maintain a straight back.
4. Keep core braced whilst breathing naturally.
Stretching, foam rolling and in some cases massage is an integral part of reducing/remedying lower back pain. Most lower back issues are caused by tightness in the glutes, hamstrings and/or calf muscles. In extreme cases, stretches should be performed everyday depending on mobility.
Stretching, foam rolling and massage increases flexibility and therefore mobility in the lower back. The reduction of restriction of movement can help improve the postural alignment of the hips and turn reduce pain as body weight is distributed evenly throughout the core, placing less of a strain on the lower back.
Maintenance of the body is just as, if not more important than the training itself. You wouldn’t drive your car around for km’s on end without getting it serviced right? Keep your lower back strong with the aforementioned exercises and your lower back will thank you for it. The healthier the lower back, the stronger the rest of the body is. Keep your lower back healthy and keep on moving!