Firstly, STOP BLAMING YOUR BACK…
A lot of what we’ve been taught about rehabilitation methods work short term but don’t really provide a long term resolution to our achy and sometimes painful day to day issues. Issues that can be caused from previous trauma, unhealthy lifestyle, lack of movement, or even the wrong training methods for keeping fit and healthy.
It is now estimated that 70-90% of all Australians have suffered from back pain at some point in their life. In this article you’ll learn 5 simple exercises to dramatically remove the aches and pains from your daily life so they don’t control you.
First Things First - Diving into some common thoughts around back pain, strength & rehabilitation.
1. Resting will fix it.
Yes, your body needs time to heal. Healing can take different lengths of time depending on severity of your issue, once your body is done healing, it then needs to build resilience again to prevent the issue from coming back. This is where strength training is an essential element in the rehab process. If you have chronic pain, the body is done healing and now it’s trying to tell you somethings not right (pain tells you this), one reason why your pain doesn’t go away is due to tension being held in a way that, at one point in time worked to protect you (stop you from doing more damage), and is now the only way your brain knows how to keep you moving... because you haven’t taught it anything different.
Your body is an amazingly complex but smart machine which needs constant stimulus in order to adapt and change. If we let gravity become the only stimulus, we will lose that battle every time because gravity is constant and unrelenting.
2. A Neutral Spine Is A Safe Spine
Your brain is constantly figuring out the most energy efficient way to complete any task it faces. Picking your keys up off the floor or picking up 100kg. Creating a neutral spine, breathing and bracing to pick your keys up would be a waste of energy to complete the task and picking up 100kg off the ground with a rounded spine also isn’t the most energy efficient posture to complete the task.
The spine needs to be able to be stable and strong but also needs the ability to be mobile and bendable, this involves a properly functioning core; abs to hold the front, transverse abs and obliques to control rotation and Lats and spine muscles to support the back while moving, when all of these function in unison the load on your spine is significantly reduced.
Rule #2 – Train how you were designed to move… efficiently. #flowlikewater
3. Deadlifts are Bad For Your Back
Hip Hinge movements are one of the best ways to build strength through lower back, hips and just about everywhere else. The hip hinge pattern when done correctly is the best way to build a strong core and back, although predominantly a hip dominant exercise, deadlifts require the lower back to be held stable, coupling these two functions together is the best way to protect your lower back.
A common problem beginners run into when attempting to deadlift is not addressing Rule #2 first. To be able to create a stronger spine from lifting, first you need to know where neutral is while you lift and second you need to be able to hold that position while you lift (core strength).
A good hip mobility and glute activation program is a great way to get the big powerful muscles of the hips helping to take the stress off the postural muscles of the spine.
Drive through the hips not the lower back.
Rule #3 - Strengthen your spine to build resilience. #deadlift
4. My Back Is Tight I Need To Stretch It
A lot of the time where pain is, is not where the problem (cause) is ie tight hip flexors, weak hamstrings and weak glutes. The human body is able to adapt to anything & everything, meaning that whichever position it spends most of its time in, the body will become more efficient at holding that position.
Being seated, the front is shortened, here the body adapts over time, this causes the back to become lengthened & taught as it’s constantly being required to “hold on” to our upper body to prevent us from falling forward on our face. Once a muscle has become taught, trying to stretch it further only adds to the problem. It’ like trying to undo a knot in a rope by pulling on it, this only makes it tighter.
The sitting position causes your abs to switch off as your back becomes taught and through the lack of use of the glutes and hamstrings, they “go to sleep” (you don’t use it, you lose it). This balancing act between the front, back and hips prevents them from expressing their full range of mobility and motor control while hip hinging. Then the cycle spirals downwards, you can’t express it so you don’t, back feels tighter so you stop moving it more...
“A tight muscle rarely sings, a taught muscle usually does”
Rule #4 – Open the front, strengthen the back. #balance
5. Stand up straight
Most would assume this means pulling the shoulders back and in doing so, creating an unnecessary amount of extension through the lumbar spine.
Due to our modern day lifestyles of walking on flat ground, and a lot of the time in soft squishy or heeled shoes, our awareness of how to stand tall and balanced isn’t great. Combine that with a large portion of our day spent in a seated position which generally tightens/shortens the hip flexors and hamstrings.
So when we go from this seated posture to standing posture that tightness carries over, resulting in poor stacking of our bones, tight muscles that have to hold us together to stop us from falling over and...pain.
It’s safe to say, when we stand up, our brain is a little confused about where we are and how to get to where we need to go.
Standing up straight is as simple as grounding your feet (push into the ground with your feet), then lift up through the back of your spine all the way to the top of your head. As if you were balancing books on your head. But don’t just stop there, actively try to pull your head taller as you push into the ground with your feet. You should feel good working tension through your spine, potentially some stretch through the front of your abdomen and maybe some tension around your hips. All of this is good tension, telling you how hard it is for you to stand up straight and tall. When you get to this position, you’re creating space through your spine, under your own power, that means you’re in control, you own it, it’s yours to keep… now keep it by trying to walk with it. The stronger you get the easier you’ll be able to maintain that posture as your postural muscles and fascia recognise this new found potential.
Rule #5 – Stand and walk tall #standstrong
5 Exercises To Help Remove Back Pain
The following 5 exercise tips will show you how to realign your body so that you can eliminate back pain from your life forever.
Exercise #1 - Tall and Half Kneeling
When sitting, the compressive forces through your Lumbar spine almost double. The easiest and free thing you can do to eliminate this pressure is to not sit as much. Our body is designed so that everything works in unison and supports one another. When we sit our back is left to support itself. Eventually our back screams in pain, asking for change and help.
Tall and half kneeling will put you in a position that you can use at your desk instead of sitting that allows your hips to support your back, taking the load off your back and allowing it space to heal.
Put both your knees on the ground.
Create a single, straight line between your knees, hips, shoulders and ear.
Have your belt line level.
Half kneeling: is exactly the same as tall kneeling except step one leg forward
For the comfort of your knee put a rolled up towel underneath them.
Adjust your 'up leg' at different angles consistently to keep the body adapting and moving.
Exercise #2 – Couch Stretch
The hip flexors can become like steel bands, this causes excessive flexing of the lumber spine to cater for trying to get your top half more upright, more straining to hold the super flexed position will undoubtedly aggravate the lower back.
A great way to stretch out the front of the hip capsule is the following couch stretch:
The couch stretch is key to relieving pressure off your lower back.
Your hip flexors are attached to lower back vertebrae. Sitting shortens your hip flexors, then they shorten the attachments on the lower back get pulled on, putting excess pressure on the lower back.
To perform the Couch Stretch:
Put your left knee down on the floor Step up on your right foot
Align your knee, hip, shoulder and ear in a straight, vertical line
Squeeze your butt
Push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh/hip
Be gentle to start with, practice and patience are essential.
Exercise #3 – Glute Bridge
Everybody has a problem turning their glutes on because of all the sitting. If your glutes cannot even switch on how can you expect them to also support your back. The glutes are one of the main driving forces that control the position of your hips. When the glutes switch off your hips rolling forward causing the lower back to lock out on the facet joints. If you can switch on your glutes you can keep your hips in a neutral position, keeping your back in alignment and letting the muscles support you.
To perform the Glute Bridge:
Lay on your back
Bring your feet up so your knees are on a 45 degree angle
Put a towel between your knees and squeeze it
Squeeze your butt and drive your hips up until you have a straight line between your knee, hip and shoulder
Exercise #4 – Toe Touch Series
Playing individual keys on a piano doesn't create music, it's only when they're played together that they create a harmonious melody. This is exactly the same as our body, each part working individually doesn't create harmonious movement, learning to use the parts together in rhythm is essential for a health happy body.
To perform Toe Touch:
Stand either flat feet on the ground or with heels raised (as in video). Hands across your chest.
Reach up through the back of your head to be as tall as you can, you should feel a stretch through your spine.
Let the hips shift forward slightly over your toes and you should feel a stretch in your hips and/or abs.
MOST IMPORTANT: Ensure you stay as tall as you can without collapsing through your lumbar or cervical spine as you shift your hips forward.
Once you've felt the stretch through the front, that's your cue to come out of that position and hang your arms down in front of you as you bend over to touch the ground.
Bend your knees as much as you need to to get to the ground.
Once at the bottom, relax your stomach on your thighs.
From here initiate coming back up by pushing your hips up to the roof, pushing down through your heels and letting your spine round one vertebrae at a time as you come up.
Repeat 5 times with heels up, then 5 times with toes up.
Exercise #5 – Quadruped Breathing
When you sit for extended periods of time your abs are in a shortened and relaxed state, which causes them to become weak and inactive. What we know is that if your abs aren't working, your back musculature has to work overtime to compensate for the lack of support. Ever felt like your spine muscles are constantly ON? This is why.
How to activate your abdominal wall using breathing:
On all fours, hands underneath shoulders and knees under hips.
Press your back up to the roof as far as you can then breathe in through your nose, into your back, fill up your lungs as much as you can.
Then breathe out but continue to push your back up to the roof as you do, push as much as you can, constantly trying to get more reach from your arms and shoulders.
At the same time think about breathing out through a straw, resist breathing out fast. Make it slow, deliberate and get as much air out as you can.
At the very end of your breath you should feel your abs switch on hard. This is good. Don't shy away from it.
Repeat with 5-10 breaths constantly trying to get more reach up to the roof with each breath in and out.
These are exercises that can be done daily. But as with any exercise you should consult a good practitioner (if you don't know one, reach out to us and we can recommend you to our trusted practitioners) prior to partaking in any exercise and if you feel pain while performing, do not continue. Movement should always be pain free.
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