Updated: May 12
Have you ever noticed that when you try to pick up a workout routine after some time off, you notice your lower back is hurting? Weeks of inactivity before jumping in headfirst to a workout regimen can really do a number on you.
The lumbar spine (or lower back as it will be referred to for the rest of this article) is a major source of two things: strength AND pain.
Your Overall Strength Depends on your Lower Back Strength
There's no greater sign of a strong person than a strong lower back. Sure, you can have strong arms, strong legs, strong chest, and so on and so on, but if your lower back isn't up to par with the rest of those areas then you can never really truly be STRONG. This is because our low back is where strength is transferred through.
Without a strong low back, all the energy from our strong legs or strong upper body will "leak," and we will never reach our full strength potential.
Back Pain is Common
Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work and doctor visits. In fact, it costs Americans roughly $50 billion (yes, BILLION) in health care costs.
So what causes this sometimes excruciating pain? Well the most obvious reason is being sedentary, and this causes two problems:
Being sedentary leads to too much compression of the vertebrae in the low back and not enough strength in the surrounding musculature (erectors, glutes, core) to make up for it.
It is becoming quite common that we have what's called an "anterior pelvic tilt."
How to Fight Lower Back Pain
So how do we fight this? Well something as simple as a 15 minute walk for every couple of hours sitting can help alleviate a lot of that pain. For those who want to "attack" it a bit more, we need to make sure there is balance to the actions of what can lead to low back pain. Those actions are flexion, extension, and traction.
A quick run-through of movements that work those planes of motion are:
Also be sure to stretch regularly, stretches that hit the quads and hip flexors will greatly reduce back pain. As well as being sure to "engage" your glutes, which can be done as simply as standing up and "squeezing" our butt cheeks (for lack of a better term).
A Common Cause of Lower Back Pain
A sneaky aspect that can be missed by a lot of gym-goers is an overtight QL muscle. The QL is a muscle that connects the pelvis to the rib cage and the vertebrae. A tight QL can cause a "twist" of the pelvis and in extreme cases, may even lead to a shortening of one leg compared to the other.
Learn About What's Causing Lower Back Pain
To learn more about what may be causing your low back pain, sign up for a free 30-minute assessment where I will put you through a number of motor patterns to help identify exactly what is causing this pain and stretches and movements to help with that problem.
Weight training might not always be the answer for everyone, or even do-able for everyone with low back pain, but remember there is always something that can be done help whether that be simple activation exercises or specialized stretches.
Also remember, it's not just the average Joe and Jane that suffers from this. I've worked with many high level athletes who have the same problems as the rest of us. Don't be afraid to ask for help for something that may seem like a minor issue. Catch it before it turns into a major one!