Back Pain… Three Common Myths – Part 1

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

Lady with Back Pain 2About 80% of adults experience some form of back pain in their lifetime, making it one of the most common ailments we have to look forward to as we get older. One assumes that with such a staggering majority of adults experiencing back pain a perfect formula for alleviating back pain would exist. Unfortunately, there are more myths than facts when it comes to the lower back.

I am not a medical doctor but having personally experienced bouts with back pain through the years, I can assure you that it is not a death sentence.  In this three part series, I will attempt to uncover some of the myths, potential sources of trouble and review what you can do about it from a strength and conditioning standpoint.

In Part 1, I will attempt to cover some of the myths.  Here we go, with Myth #1…

Myth: Strength Training Alone Will Prevent Back Injury.

Fact: The unmentioned fact looming over this common myth is that muscular endurance as well as strength is the best preventer and rehabilitator of lower back ailments. The spine does not need huge amounts of force to support itself under everyday circumstances. Realistically, the spine is more apt to injury if you over-work the muscles around it causing fatigue or under-work them and thereby fail to create a training effect.  In layman’s terms never work the core, or any muscle group for that matter, to exhaustion.  When we fatigue our movement pattern gets lazy and that’s when accidents and injuries can occur.  It only takes a split second. Strength alone is not the key, strength and endurance are.

Myth: Strengthening the Anterior Core Alone Will Help Alleviate Back Pain.

Fact: By anterior core, we are talking about the rectus abdominis or the ever popular “six pack”.  While the rectus is an integral part of your core, it stabilizes only one side of the spine leaving the other three sides less supported.  This in turn creates too much “wiggle room” for the spine and is kind of similar to a tent that’s not completely assembled.

Tent Image

To create adequate core stability, perform multiple exercises that work the entire circumference of your core (this includes the internal and external obliques (sides), as well as the Quadratus Lumborum (back), as no single exercise works all areas of the core at the same time.

Myth: Stretching Tight Hamstrings Will Alleviate Lower Back Pain.

Fact: Our third and final myth links tight hamstrings to an increased risk of back pain, when in fact tight hamstrings are actually working to keep us out of debilitating back pain. Let me explain, tightness occurs because the hamstrings are “taking up the slack” of underactive glutes and a weak core. By stretching the hamstrings, you are removing the only tension keeping you upright and preventing flexion (forward bending) of the lower back. Activating the glutes and stretching the hip flexors is a better way to relieve overworked hamstrings which in turn will take some of the “pull” out of your lower lumbar.

(90/90 Hip Flexor Mob)

(1 Leg Glute Bridge)

Please stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 as we talk about how to go about training different types of clients with back pain.

Also as a reminder, our night time “Metabolic Strength” classes begin on Monday, February 16th.  Going forward our night classes will be held every Monday and Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

See you at the gym.