3 Reasons for Lower Back Pain (Pain Site vs. Pain Source) – Part 3

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)

Pain Lower Back Top 2

Unfortunately 90% of the pitcher population cannot handle the amount of lumbar extension Tim Lincecum puts his body through. It’s no mystery that low back pain can severely compromise velocity, as well as command, in pitchers.  In Part 3 of this series on Pain Site vs. Pain Source (click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2), we’ll look at low back pain and some possible “sites” further down the kinetic chain that could be causing it.  And some things we can do from both the strength and mechanics (pitching) side to help relieve unwanted stress in the area.

Low back pain can be caused by many things, but for the scope of this article, we’re going to concentrate on insufficient core strength / stability and lower half mechanical disconnects in the delivery. And away we go…

Insufficient Core Strength / Stability – When we sit all day, we are shutting off our core musculature and a developing lazy, inactive posture. When our core shuts down, this causes hyper extension in the lower lumbar, not only putting added stress to the discs but creating a kyphotic (rounded) t-spine posture.  In turn, this limits our t-spine and hip range of motion as well as compromising pelvic alignment. This is happening to our youth at an alarming rate due to TV and cell phone use.

Pain Lower Back 4

All movement begins from the core. Thus, creating a stronger, more stable one through strength training will help keep us from laying too heavy into our lower lumbar when coming down the mound. A weak core can, not only, cause eventual damage to the discs, but it can also help create a heavy trunk tilt at foot strike causing an inconsistent and erratic delivery. Note the hyper-extension in the lower lumbar below:

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Overtime through repetition, the stressed area in the lower lumbar will eventually cry “uncle” much like a credit card being bent in the same spot over and over, creating lower back pain as well as seriously compromising performance on and off the mound.

Pain Lower Back 6

Lower Half Disconnects in the Delivery

Closed at Foot Strike – Landing closed at foot strike locks out lower half hip rotation causing hyper extension in the lower lumbar. This places increased stress on the lower back while forcing the athlete to throw across the body, taking us away from the driveline and affecting performance, velocity and accuracy as well.

Pain Lower Back Top 1

(Closed – Caution)

Pain Lower Back Middle 2

(Neutral – Good)

What to Do – Both insufficient ER in the lead leg and IR in the stance leg can force a premature landing at foot strike. Work on increasing hip ER with sumo squats and IR with bowler squats.

(IR – Bowler squats)

(ER – Sumo Squats)

Maximum ER – Extension in the lower lumbar also places increased load on the discs while placing the arm too far behind the body at maximum external rotation.  This in turn will cause increased compression loads at the shoulder, valgus torque at the elbow and contribute to a “slow arm”. If this load is excessive, the player is at risk for the development of spondylolysis (back pain).

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What to Do – Weakness of the abdominal oblique muscles can lead to hyper extension of the lumbar spine so strengthening the anterior core and the oblique’s is a must. Bergen Catholic’s Dave LaManna and Cleveland Indians reliever Robbie Aviles show us how it’s done.

(Body Saws)

(Core Stability at Release Point)

Here at RPP, we break down pitching delivery into its many components.  From there, we can prescribe correctives that can address many of these issues. If you would like more info about our Pitchers Rx Program (click here) or our Velocity Enhancement Program (click here).

See ya’ in the gym…


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