Back Pain… Minimize Bad Days and Replace Them with Good – Part 3

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

Back Pain 3 - 1In today’s post we are covering Part 3 of “Back Pain”. In case you missed Part 1 please click here (Common Myths), Part 2 please click here (Identify Your Group).

There are many reasons why 80% of us will walk around with back pain at some point in our lives and trying to address them all in this blog would not only be lengthy, but impossible considering the fact that I don’t know them all!  What I do know from years of being in the business is that 90% of my clients (adults and young athletes alike) suffer with back pain, mostly in the same area and for what I believe to be for many of the same reasons.

Today we’ll address a few of these reasons and some (but certainly not all) of the things we can do from not only a training standpoint but lifestyle as well.  The two areas we will address today are:

  1. Sitting for Extended Periods of Time
  2. Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Here we go….

1. Sitting for Extended Periods of Time

When we sit all day we are not only shutting off our postural muscles (core), but are shortening our hip flexors making them tight and putting large amounts of stress on our back extensors and spine for long periods of time.

Back Pain 3 - 2

So we add a great $500 “orthopedically correct” chair and this is what we get.

Back Pain 3 - 3

Thus, the answer is not adding more support. The chair is the support.  That’s the problem. Our society’s obsession with sitting and the excessive use of technology is bringing us back to our Neanderthal ancestors.

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Remember, we lose what we don’t use. As a result, our nervous system loses the ability to activate our core, shortens our hip flexors and rounds our shoulders and upper back (t-spine). My advice – if you sit behind a desk all day stand up and stretch for 5-10 min every hour.

2. Anterior Pelvic Tilt

This is a result of the pelvis being pulled downward due to the combination of certain muscles being “shut off” and others being “over worked”, resulting in a posture that many of us have  in different degrees that looks something like this.

Back Pain 3 - 5

This in turn causes us to extend in our lower lumbar which creates a huge amount of force on our lower vertebrae, particularly L-4, L-5 and S1. Ask someone who suffers from low back pain where their problem lies. If they have had an MRI most likely they’ll tell you theses 3 areas. How ironic!

The way we try to address this at RPP from a training standpoint is to strengthen the weak (long) muscles and increase soft tissue quality to the short (tight) muscles. This diagram can give you a good idea of what muscles are weak or tight in regards to an anterior pelvic tilt.

Back Pain 3 - 6

Let’s address these muscles and some things we can do from a training standpoint to help minimize the “bad days” and replace them with “good days”. In other words, strengthen what is weak and stretch what is tight to help get us out of extension in our lower back and help to alleviate pain.  Let’s review each….

Strengthen:

Weak Sagittal Abdominals – Exercises like sit ups and Russian twists can make the problem worse. Try “Band Leg Lowering” to help strengthen the saggital abs, better known as “six-pack” abs.

(Band Leg Lowering)

Weak Glutes and Hamstrings – When the pelvis is tilted downward the glutes and hamstrings become stretched causing them to be long and weak. Waking them up with a glute activation exercise can go a long way.

(1-Leg Glute Bridge)

Stretch:

Tight Hip Flexors – Prolonged sitting is the number one culprit of tight hip flexors, which is why 90% of us walk around with anterior tilts and back pain. Enter the 90/90 hip flexor stretch to the rescue.

(90/90 Hip Flexor Mob)

Tight Back Extensors – Many hours hunched over an I-pad or computer wreaks havoc on our back extensors making them tight from being “over worked” as a result of them “hanging on for dear life” trying to keep us upright.

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Deep Squat belly breathing and foam rolling the back extensors can do wonders.

(Deep Squat Breathing)

(SMR Back Extensors)

Although there are many exercises and protocol that can be used to try and get a client’s posture “back to neutral”, these are a few that we use here at RPP with great success.

It’s important to remember that no matter how much you train or rehab a back problem, the first step to minimizing the bad days is your lifestyle. That’s the 23 hours a day that you’re not working out.

See you in the gym.

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