Back pain is a fact of life for 80% of U.S. adults. In fact, 88% of them say it recurs throughout the year. If that’s you, you’re looking for relief. Chances are that you have tried many things.
Too often jumping to the conclusion that back pain indicates a need to do more abdominal exercise and more stretching many back pain sufferers slow recovery. Back pain is quite often a symptom of something more. This article will explore the potential factors that contribute to back pain.
In order to understand how lower back pain is potentially not a lower back problem but a problem elsewhere in the body, you need to have an idea of how your body functions optimally. Working from the floor up the following gives you a snapshot of what should happen.
- Feet provide a solid and stable foundation
- Ankles should provide a mobile joint on which to move
- Knees are a joint where you need stability
- Hips are a mobile joint
- The lumbar area or lower back should provide stability
- The upper back or thoracic spine provides mobility
- The scapula provide stability
- The shoulders provide mobile
When pain occurs at one site often it’s due to the forces above and below it that act on it. In the case of the lower back, for instance, the hips and the upper back act on it. If one or both of these areas are tight or bound up and not optimally mobile the torque during movements will cause stress on the lumbar spine.
Golf provides a perfect example. Coming through a golf swing with significant speed and power using a long lever will be a problem for a golfer with tight hips or a tight upper back.
Though back and abdominal-specific stretches and exercises may be a part of the process of recovery, they are not the first step. Establishing an optimal range of motion and mobility first in hips and upper back would come first. If you’re pain-free and cleared by a physician for exercise stretching the lower back with a gentle range of motion movements may also be appropriate.
Avoid any stretches or exercises for the back first thing in the morning. Discs are plump with fluid as you rise in the morning. That contributes to what you might experience as stiffness. Go about your daily activities of living and as the effects of gravity work, within a couple hours you should feel less stiff. Adding exercise or stretching first thing however can cause even more pressure on the spine while the discs are fully hydrated.
If you are an early morning exerciser coping with back pain, it’s best to try to rise a bit earlier to allow your back a chance to have a natural reduction in stiffness before exercise.
Follow the tips for gaining mobility in the joints where you should have it before returning to focus on your abdominals and back. Increasing range of motion around your upper back and hips won’t hurt you even if it doesn’t completely reduce your lower back pain. Beginning with back exercises and stretches could however have a negative effect on your pain. Your measure of success for back pain is the reduced frequency of pain, reduced intensity of pain, or ideally both.