Many years ago hurt my back doing a sumo deadlift and not knowing when to back off in a lift.
Since that back injury I have really made it a point to learn as much as I can about back pain and to help others with back pain get better and stronger.
I can say that at 40+ I am stronger than ever and my back pain is virtually gone.
I never ever thought this would be possible.
Even though at the time and for years after I thought my back injury was the worst thing to ever happen to me. However now I think it’s one of the best things to ever happen. It made me learn more about technique, it made me appreciate having little to no pain so much more, and it has allowed me to help others who also have back pain.
Sometimes the worst things in life are actually the best things in life.
10 Steps To Reduce Your Back Pain
1. No More Set Backs
When I work with clients with back pain I always tell them step 1 is no more going backwards. We want forward progress and not to have flare ups and have flare ups or getting hurt again.
The most important thing is try to do no more harm to your lower back. Do your best to avoid anything that can cause you a flare up or set back. You can hurt your back tying your shoes or picking up something with bad form, so always do your best to minimize set backs.
2. Learn To Sit, Squat & Move Properly
How you get out of your chair, how you get into your car, how you sit on the couch, how you pick something up will determine greatly your back pain and reducing your back pain.
There is no room for sloppy movement and sitting and standing with your back. You must learn to squat and hinge properly. This is essential. Re-learning how to move properly is very important for long term health and rebuilding your back.
3. Train Your Core
One of the biggest problems with people with lower back issues and injuries are having a weak core.
To improve core strength we do not want exercises like sit ups and knee grab sit ups. These can be ok for anyone without a back issue but for back pain clients we want no spinal flexion. We want to build a locked in strong core. Some of the best exercises for this are weighted carries and plank variations.
4. Train Your Glutes
Training your glutes (aka your butt) is very important for a strong and healthy back. The more you can improve glute strength the more you will reduce your back pain.
Think of your lower back. Above it is your core and on the backside is your glutes. This chain (core,low back, glutes) play a big role in back pain. Get your core & glutes stronger to reduce your back pain and reduce set backs.
5. Improve Your Hip & Shoulder Mobility
The shoulder joint & hip joint are both ball and socket joints and are meant to move. The lower back is meant to stabilize and has a small degree of movement.
By improving mobility in the shoulder sand hips this will allow our body to move the way it should. Move through the shoulders and hips and stabilize through the core and lower back.
Sitting at a computer or desk all day is not good for shoulder and hip mobility.
80 percent of the disc is composed of water. So it’s important to hydrate. Drink at least 3 litres of water a day. Drink a big class of lemon water as soon as you wake up and another glass of water right before bed.
7. Foam Roll (aka Soft Tissue Work)
Foam rolling is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental stress.
Soft tissue work will reduce tension, help relax muscles, improve blood flow, improve range of motion and it will make you feel amazing.
Rolling also helps reduce stress and is a great way to improve sleep. Foam rolling 15 minutes before bed works wonders for relaxation and improved sleep quality.
8. Get Stronger
Bottom line most things can be fixed by getting stronger. If you have a bad back something in your chain is more than likely not as strong as it needs to be.
By focusing on full body strength you train the body to become a stronger system from head to toe. Which is why I like to focus on full body exercises like goblet squats & deadlifts for clients with back pain. I avoid machines that isolate muscles. We are not bodybuilders.
9. Stop Stretching
This is hard for most people to grasp but i personally don’t recommend that people with bad backs stretch.
If it works for you that is great, but for me and my clients I want to avoid stretching and I want to lock down on the area that is hurt and stabilize it. I will add strength movements first.
Strengthen what is weak, mobilize what is stiff.
Just because your hamstrings feel like they need to be stretched doesn’t mean that they need to be stretched.
I think stretching has a place, stretch what is tight sometimes, but more than likely you need to do some soft tissue work, improve joint mobility, and strengthen weak points. Make sure you focus on STRENGTH more than stretching.
10. Believe You Can Get Better
One of the biggest issues with back pain and back injuries is the belief that you can never get better. That things will never improve and you will be in pain for life.
This is NOT the case.
You can overcome your back injury, you can get pain free, and it’s possible to get strong and live pain free again.
Stay strong, stay positive.
Add in some of these tips to help reduce your back pain today.
Rob King is a Competitive PowerLifter, Coach and Writer.