Exercises to tame the pain
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, NWS
With commitment, education, and targeted exercises such as these, you'll be able to strengthen your back in no time.
If you’ve never had a neck, spine, or hip injury, but suffer from back pain or frequently throw your back out, it can almost always be attributed to two things: weakness and tightness. Regardless of your age or activity level, your back can always be stronger, and the pain can usually be managed. Types of back pain Back health is not just a product of your back. Rather, it is a product of your entire back side, known as your posterior chain. Believe it or not, tight calf muscles can elicit back pain. There are two mechanisms of back pain: acute and chronic. Acute Acute back pain is the result of a direct trauma to the spine or back muscles that often requires rest and a comprehensive rehabilitation program. You should see a health care practitioner, physiotherapist, or chiropractor if you suffer from this kind of injury. Chronic Chronic back pain can often be fixed by you, by knowing which muscles to strengthen and which muscles to stretch. With the proper knowledge and persistence, you can change your mobility from Frankenstein to Franken-fine. Treatments for back injuries When treating a back injury, a multidisciplinary therapeutic approach is most effective. This comprises various combinations of exercise, education, and behavioural therapy. The goal of these therapies is to strengthen and stretch supporting muscles, teach which movement patterns are safe and which put your back at risk (for example, you should lift a heavy object off the ground using your legs and hips instead of bending at the back), and retrain the mind to change certain habits that can be damaging. In addition to these therapies, herbs such as devil’s claw and white willow bark have been shown to be effective in chronic back pain management. Cayenne may also be helpful when applied topically as a plaster. Consult your local health food store for more information about these remedies. Weak core strength—referring to the inner core muscle, the transversus abdominis (TVA)—is commonly identified as a contributing factor to chronic lower back pain. Not only training the TVA but also teaching proper core activation and engagement are critical to improving quality of life in sufferers and preventing future occurrence of back injury. Exercises for back health For those suffering with back pain due to a spinal cord injury or acute injury, there are many movements that can aggravate and exacerbate the condition. Due to the specific nature of these injuries, exercises are limited to specialist prescription. For those with chronic back pain brought on by years of poor mechanics and questionable posture, limitations stem only from flexibility and pain tolerance. (As a general rule, discomfort is okay; pain is bad.) When done properly and with appropriate resistance, almost any exercise will benefit your body, with one exception: the sit-up. Even when performed “properly,” this one-time staple of every fitness routine has a proven link with lower back pain. Sit-ups aside, try these three exercises and two stretches to strengthen your back and straighten your posture. Plank with an Alternating L-Tap (3 sets of 30 seconds, or until your lower back goes from rounded to arched) Muscles worked: transversus abdominis, posterior deltoids, quadriceps
Perfect your plank: Throughout the exercise, you should feel like you are trying to push yourself away from the floor (with your elbows). Actively push your hips toward the ground while keeping your hip height above your shoulder height, effectively rounding your lower back. Barbell Deadlift (3 sets of 12 repetitions) Muscles worked: hamstrings, glutes, lower back, transversus abdominis
Superman Low Back Extension with a Phantom Pulldown (3 sets of 15 repetitions)Muscles worked: glutes, lower back, latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoids
Lying Crossover Stretch (3 sets of 6 repetitions) Muscles worked: erector spinae, gluteus medius, pectoralis minor
Child’s Pose into Cat Pose (3 sets of 12 repetitions) Muscles worked: erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, trapezius