Low Back Solutions

As a personal trainer I am acutely aware of how impressive the human body can be, the great feats of strength and speed it can display during sport and competition; but I am also aware of how delicate we truly are. Minimising the likelihood of injuries occurring is part of my job, and no injury seems more prevalent than one centred around lower back pain.

According to recent research, somewhere between 15-28 million UK residents will suffer from lower back pain throughout the course of just one year! In fact the chance of experiencing lower back pain throughout our lifetime is as high as 80%, and ranges down to 60% in some parts of the country. That means that in a small city like Chichester (and it’s surrounding districts) with a population of approximately 114,000; as many as 68,000 of us are going to experience lower back pain.

If you suffer from lower back pain, your first point of call should always be a medical professional, as they will educate you (hopefully) as to the cause behind your discomfort. For many of us it is usually a combination of poor movement/posture, a lack of exercise and a random one-off event (like picking up a heavy box at work) that brings about the onset of lower back pain. For me it wasn’t the rugby that set it off, or the heavy deadlifts while personal training; but running up a hill (something I had done hundreds of times before!). When we are not concentrating or prepared, is when we are most at risk.

So with such an alarming number of us in Chichester alone possibly suffering, and the list of attributing factors being exhaustive, is there anything we can do to mitigate the chance of falling victim to this common injury?

You’ll be pleased to hear the answer is YES!

Here are a few tips and strategies to employ, in no particular order:

A) Evaluate Your Position

Most things in life, done to excess, lead to negative outcomes; the lower back is no exception to this rule. If you find yourself in a seated position (driving/working/watching TV) for hours on end, over time your chance of experiencing lower back pain increases. The same applies if you find yourself standing bolt upright for prolonged periods of time.

The answer is simple; variety. If, like Dolly Parton, you find yourself working 9-5 (it’s a way to make a living) at a desk, try to stand up and go for a brief (2-5 minute) walk every hour. At the very least just stand up from your desk and have a stretch. Spend all day standing? Try to sit down for 5 minutes every hour, or prop one foot up on a raised edge (just shin height) for a while and switch over.

B) Get Moving

Being stuck in the same positions week in, week out, is a surefire way to increase your chances of lower back pain; this can be easily addressed by doing ANY FORM OF EXERCISE! Exercise is movement, which will get those muscles that have been stagnant all day in the office working, and get blood flowing around the body.

Aim for 20 minutes 5x per week at least. This can be as tough as you like, but don’t feel as though you have to puke to have done a good workout. Walking to work, or taking a leisurely stroll during lunch time is a great idea; plug in the latest audiobook/podcast and get some learning in too! Try to perform a variety of movements during the week: running, cycling, swimming, stretching, rowing, weight lifting, climbing, the list goes on. Keep it fun and interesting and keep it consistent, invest in a personal trainer to learn new skills.

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C) Switch On The Abs

For many of us the issue is not a weak lower back, but rather the opposite; one that is relied upon too much and does all the work. Strengthening the anterior “core” (front of your midsection) is a great way to balance out the muscles of the “core” and give you a better position. Not too mention it will carry over well into your training sessions or sport.

To do this we want to target the muscles found at the front of the midsection; but rather than doing endless number of crunches and sit-ups, we want the spine to remain still. My recommendation  for personal training clients is to use the deadbug position to start with, click the video below for a look into how you can perform this exercise with zero equipment and minimal space.

D) Breathe

There is a common theme that runs through multiple “Eastern” practices. Meditation, Tai-Chi, Yoga, Karate all rely heavily upon, and teach the importance of….. proper breathing.

Stand up, ideally grab your phone and set it to camera selfie mode. Now stand back, take a very deep breath (you should be recording this) and exhale. Play it back, and what do you notice? Do you shoulders shoot upwards? Chest expand? Try to be aware of where you are “expanding”. As with previous points the key is going to be variety. Many people struggle to breathe into their bellies, so 5 minutes a day pop down on the floor, in a similar position to the deadbug previously mentioned, but with your feet against the wall. Take long slow breaths aiming to fill your belly full of air, not just your chest and shoulders. Done correctly this will help to relax the muscles of your lower back.

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E) Strengthen Supporting Muscles

If one of the contributing factors that has lead to your back pain is a lack of exercise, then it may be safe to assume that a lack of strength is also having a negative impact. Strength is relative, so before you jump this paragraph please know I am not insisting on anyone performing a 200kg deadlift, or doing circus tricks with heavy dumbbells. But if you have never taken the time to perform some basic bodyweight movements like glute bridges, single leg squats and planks; you are missing a key piece of the puzzle.

1-2x per week aim to get in 30 minutes of low intensity bodyweight exercise that covers all the major muscle groups (thighs, buttocks, core, legs, arms). Learning and performing split squats, bridges and plank variations will give you the tools to build a better posture and a more resilient lower back. Having stronger muscles that surround and support the lower back will undoubtedly take some strain away from the area. If you are unfamiliar with these exercises, hire a personal trainer or drop a phone call to a gym-savvy friend.

 

So there are just a few suggestions for those out there that are dealing with minor back pain, and those that want to decrease their chances of experiencing it in the future. As with all serious conditions, seek professional medical advice first, and make sure there is not a deeper root of the problem before starting on any exercise program.

Some cases will need a more specific approach that is beyond the scope of this blog post, so I encourage anyone in that situation to find a practitioner that is well-versed in dealing with lower back issues. These have just been some recommendations that have worked for me and for my personal training clientele (where applicable). A,B,C,D & E are not miraculous-cure-all strategies, but placed alongside a sensible exercise program and rehabilitation protocol; they will greatly decrease the risk of re-occurring symptoms.

If you want to learn how a structured, individualised training program could help you out of aches and pains, or you would like to learn more about the process of rehabilitation, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Davies Training. Chichester based personal trainer and Strength & Conditioning coach. We are currently running offers for new clients that sign up in the month of February, check out the prices below.

  Regular   OFFER
1 PT Session £35   £30
         
5 PT Sessions £162.50   £137.50
         
10 PT Sessions £300   £250

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