back pain

Corrective Fitness Solution For Low Back Pain

As a Corrective Exercise Specialist one of the most common complaints I hear from new clients is of low back pain. If you have ever suffered from low back pain then you know what I am talking about and why it is such a big complaint. Low back pain is the number one cause for sick leave than any other medical condition. (Office of Communications and Public Liaison, 2003) If you work in an office and spend most of your day sitting then this article is for you! If you are like me and have suffered or are currently suffering from things like herniated discs, compressed vertebrae or sciatic nerve pain I suggest you consult with your physician before beginning this or any exercise routine. The methods that I discuss here have helped me personally and many of my clients to alleviate low back pain and to care for it daily.

When a joint is moved into any position then one muscle is shortened (contracted) and the opposing muscle is lengthened (stretched). When these positions are held for long periods of time, the contracted muscles get tighter and stay like that, while the stretched muscle becomes weaker, thus keeping the joint in an altered position and out of neutral. Over time this can cause joint dysfunction, pain, altered movement patterns and could even lead to serious injury eventually.

The primary joint we will be discussing here is the pelvis because this is where your spine connects via muscles and connective tissues. In order to keep this as simple as possible just imagine the pelvis like a box suspended in air by four cables (representing muscles). There are a 4 major muscle groups involved in the positioning of your pelvis; the abdominal muscles and hip flexors in the front. The gluteus, hamstrings, and low back muscles in the rear. If the low back muscles and hip flexors are tightened then the pelvis shifts up in the rear. The opposite happens if the gluteus, hamstrings and abs are tightened. If all are even then the pelvis would be square.

Now that you understand how the joint and muscular systems work together, let’s discuss a major contributor to low back pain. The majority of people who suffer from this problem that I’ve met all have one thing in common: jobs that involve hours of sitting at a desk. When sitting, the hip flexors and the low back muscles are in a shortened state. This creates a pulling of your pelvis down in the front and up in the rear, called an anterior pelvic tilt, tilting your pelvis in such a way that your butt sticks out. The lengthened muscles in this dysfunction are the abdominals, hamstrings, and gluteus. These muscles, primarily the glutes and abdominals, are constantly in a weakened state and these are the very core muscles needed to support the lower back.

The process of treating this is based on Corrective Exercise. The first step towards correcting this is to inhibit the over-active hip flexors through self-myofascial release (aka foam rolling). The second step is to lengthen them by doing a static hip flexor stretch. You can also stretch the low back by lying over a fitness ball, this is also a great way to decompress your spine after a long day of sitting.

Once you have lengthened the tight muscles, then you can begin isolated strengthening of the abdominals and glutes. Some great exercises to accomplish this are hip extensions (aka bridges), planks, and sit ups or crunches. Another great exercise for strengthening the transverse abdominals is the standing or kneeling draw-in. You should also strengthen your hamstring muscles as these contradict the pulling of the hip flexors. This last one may not seem to make sense because most people with low back pain feel like they suffer from tight hamstrings and this is true. However, the reason the hamstrings feel tight is that they are being overly stretched because of the position of the pelvis and they actually need to be strengthened to counteract the hip flexors.

By doing these exercises you can bring your pelvis back to neutral and eliminate the pressure brought upon the lower back by sitting all day. I have used these exercises on myself and many of my clients with extreme success. If you have joint pain or issues feel free to comment or email me your questions, I would love to help you live and move pain free.

Dave C Smith CES.

I am a Corrective Exercise Specialist and a Specialist in Fitness Nutrition in Seattle WA. My purpose is to educate and teach others about how to incorporate health and fitness into their daily lives in a safe and effective way. I show that their is fitness everywhere we look, not just in a “gym” and it is about the conscious and, more importantly, the unconscious choices we make everyday. As a lifelong sufferer of back pain I live what I teach others. For more info: []

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