It’s become a well worn cliché hasn’t it? “My back is killing me” has become such a common phrase, and it’s very true that there seems to be an absolute epidemic of low back pain everywhere you look. I know this only too well because I also have started to suffer from it over the last couple of years. Having done some research and examined my own as well as other people’s symptoms, the cause is both obvious and nowadays all too well publicised. Two reasons…….we all sit down far too much, and our posture is crap. It’s as simple as that. The good news is that we can ALL do something about it.
Firstly let me elaborate slightly. People tend to get three types of lower back pain. The first is caused by an injury. You slip, twist too quickly, lift something too heavy, hurt yourself in an accident or playing sport etc. For these types of back pain, generally speaking, some rest, light stretching and a bit of Physio will sort the problem out. The second cause is an actual structural problem. You have damaged discs or problems with the other bones and joints in your lumbar spine or hip region. This is not so easy to cure although carefully planned exercise and perhaps medical treatments can help.
The third cause is the one I listed above and is by far the most common. The world has changed a lot in the last 40/50 years. Our parents and grandparents led far more active and physical lives than we do. They walked everywhere instead of taking the car, they did more physical jobs and work, they had less gadgets at home to do the chores for them, there were no computers/ipads/gaming machines to keep us sat on our butt the whole time. In short we are a lot less active than we were. Both in our jobs and in our leisure time, large numbers of us now spend many many hours of each day sitting down. Not only that but because of the nature of that work, done at pc’s and laptops or hunched over ipads, phones or games controllers, our posture has become appalling.
The results are now very common. Tightness, tension and pain in your lower back. Stiffness and shooting pains down one or both legs, often in your hamstrings and even down the side of your calves. A feeling of weakness in your whole pelvic and hip area. Do any of these sound common? I bet they do. The causes of all of these problems are easy to diagnose and name. In almost all cases people will have very tight hip flexor muscles and a tight Psoas muscle. Almost certainly you will also have weak or tight Glute muscles and most probably your Hamstrings will be weaker than your quads.
I wrote a previous article here about something called Anterior Pelvic Tilt. This is a direct reaction to tight hip flexor and Psoas muscles. In my previous article the focus was mainly on how to reduce the size and look of your protruding belly by doing specific exercises for your Psoas muscle and that is indeed a positive side effect of fixing your tight hip flexors, weak Glutes and correcting your APT. However the main reason for doing all of this is to get rid of those nagging, quality of life destroying back pains that have been plaguing you all these years.
Below are a couple of videos by a guy I rely upon to supply me with great and scientific information about not only fitness but physical health. Please watch the first one which describes in detail the causes and reasons for APT and lower back pain and shows how you can remedy it.
Aside from just the APT , weak Glutes and overly tight hip flexor muscles, another cause of general back and lower back pain is weak deep core muscles. You ideally want to strengthen these without shortening your hip flexors any more than they already are. Generally speaking anything that bends your forwards (like sitting down, bending over a keypad etc), but also exercises like crunches , leg raises etc will also shorten those hip muscles when really we need to be stretching them. Therefore the 2nd video shows some Ab exercises you can do that will strengthen your core without shortening your hip flexors. Of course as well as these, just doing plain simple old planks on a daily basis will work wonders for your core and Glute muscles.
I hope you found both of these videos helpful. It’s a lot of information to take in but please believe me when i say that this 100% WILL help your back pain if you can adopt at least some of these measures on a daily basis.
- Try not to sit down for too long a period. Every hour get up, walk around, stretch, reach for the sky.
- Be conscious of your posture. Wherever possible sit as upright as possible, head up, shoulders back, the same when walking. DO NOT slump forwards.
- Stretch those hip flexor muscles, as often as you possibly can
- Strengthen your Glute and Hamstring muscles. Make sure these are worked as much or more than other muscles in your workouts for the next few months.
- Strengthen your core and deep core muscles, ideally by doing exercises that don’t shorten your hip flexors.
I don’t want to rely on my friend Jeff too much for his information and videos so later this week I’ll be posting my own video of a lower back and hip stretch routine that I do at least every couple of days (ideally daily) which takes only 6 or 7 minutes and which will have noticeable results within two weeks if you stick to it.
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