I don’t know too many people that don’t suffer from some form of back pain. A stat I came across recently said that around 80% of people have previously suffered or are currently suffering from a bout of back pain, acute or chronic, specifically their lower back.
Personally, from my years as a football player and professional wrestler, I deal with back pain occasionally. Most days my back is what I would consider “tender,” and I’m always sure to be cautious with my movements.
Besides many of my personal training clients having bad backs, my wife, my mother-in-law, and my sister all have back issues.
Hell, even my wife’s little Yorkie suffers from bouts of back pain.
These can show up as spasms, “twinges”, or even full-blown crippling episodes of being laid up on the floor all day, or days.
And it’s hard to understand the pain if you haven’t felt it before. It ain’t fun, folks.
Today, I want to share with you three steps to manage your pain when you are suffering through a bout. Now, I am not sharing this information to diagnose, cure, or treat any specific conditions, and if you are having some bouts of pain, be it short-term or chronic, it’s best to get checked out by a medical professional and be referred to whomever can care for you best.
Let’s begin. Here are the three steps I feel you should complete to minimize pain and reduce chance of further injury.
STEP 1: GET OUT OF PAIN!
The fastest and easiest way to get out of immediate pain is to take some form of over the counter or prescription pain relief. Now, before you get all up-in-arms and take this out of context, I want to be clear. I am not saying to immediately jump to the most potent, high-powered pain-relieving pills you have at home. Nor am I saying that popping pills is the best way to go.
But, the more suffering you choose to endure with your pain, the longer it will take to get you better. Taking a form of anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxant can help ease the pain and suffering, while you figure out the root cause.
Your body needs to be out of pain before it can start to heal. You can’t be productive and on the path to feeling better, and treating your back, when you can’t even figure out what day of the week it is because you’re in so much pain.
Step 2: Get back into pain (sorta)
Huh?? I know, I know, I just told you to get out of pain, now I’m telling you to injure yourself. What exactly do I mean by this?
See, it’s really important to identify the painful movements and movement patterns you go through that triggers your pain. The idea is to aggravate your back (slightly), to get a handle on what makes your back hurt, and what to avoid.
Back pain is very individualized, as it can be triggered by postures at work, at rest, playing sports, completing household chores, or even sneezing the wrong way.
Identifying the postures that cause you pain is a step in the right direction to help you stay out of those positions in the future, once your back starts to feel good again.
Some people are “flexion intolerant.” This means that any type of forward bending puts enough stress on your spine and discs that it causes pain.
Others are known as “extension intolerant.” This is the opposite, where backwards bending aggravates your spine.
You can also experience no pain in either of these positions, and maybe experience pain when rotating. Or standing on one leg and side-bending. There’s lots of ways you can aggravate your back.
The takeaway here is that you may have to see a professional to run you through some simple tests to provoke your pain. Once you can identify the painful points, you can collaborate on exercises, stretches, or just simple postures to help keep you pain-free.
want to get out of pain?
Use this mobility and stretching routine to start moving normal again:
Step 3: Get mobile (WITHOUT stretching)
One of the most common things people with back pain might say is, “It never feels better, no matter how much I stretch my lower back!”
And that’s because your lower back actually shouldn’t be stretched. The lumbar spine is meant to be a stable point of support, not a mobile one.
Unfortunately, when a segment of your body either above or below your lumbar spine (think upper back or hips) can’t move as well as they should, your lower back has to compensate for the lack of movement. And this can cause your pain.
Focus on mobility, not stretching.
So instead of trying to stretch your lower back, become more mobile through your hips and thoracic spine (upper back). When you can have these two areas of your body, areas that are meant to be mobile, functioning the way they should, your lumbar spine can do its job of being stable, and ideally, be pain-free.
Here’s an example of a fantastic exercise, used to increase the mobility of your glutes, hamstrings, and adductors (inner thighs):
Also, here’s the proper way to stretch your hip flexors, which may be contributing to a sore back:
Lastly, take a look at this simple exercise to keep your thoracic spine mobile, as it works through flexion, extension, and rotation:
TIE YOUR SHOES WITHOUT SPASMS.
Loosen your hips, shoulders, and back with this free routine:
Remember, this article isn’t intended to diagnose any of your own specific problems. If you are experiencing pain, in any form really, when you go through your movements of every day life, it’s always best to be assessed (Ha! That rhymes…) by someone who can do a visual, as well as hands-on assessment of your condition.
Stay healthy, stay strong, and feel good!