The Cure For Low Back Pain
Low Back Pain Affects Us All:
Low back pain is one of the leading causes of pain and discomfort around the world. With an estimated 9/10 people expected to experience low back pain at some stage in their life. But that doesn’t mean that you have to live with constant pain. Yes, a little pain or discomfort here or there isn’t too much of an issue. And in some cases should almost be expected if undertaking a strength or conditioning program*. After all this tells us we are placing the muscles and connective tissue under stress. Which will eventually lead to increased strength, size, endurance is allowed to recovery properly. (check out my previous article: When to push and when to rest: a simple neural tension test, to see if you are recovering properly between workouts).
*In saying that “you should almost be expected if undertaking a strength or conditioning program”. Pain should be normal DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness) which should be at:
- a manageable level,
- not last longer then 2-3 days,
- and not stop you from doing any of you daily activities.
If you are experiencing any of the pain mentioned above you can check out: When to see your friendly Physical therapist, but if in doubt, check it out (it is often quicker easier and cheaper to get on top of things earlier, then taking the wait and see approach).
Walking To Cure Low Back Pain:
The most common thing I hear from patients I see on a Monday or Tuesday in clinic with low back pain. “I didn’t even do anything all weekend, I just sat on the couch and watch tv”. To which I reply. “well that’s probably the reason you are in pain”. (there are always a ton of other contributing factors, but we would need another article to go through them all).
The simplest, easiest, and most cost-effective way of combating this type of lower back pain is to get up and go for a walk. The body was designed to move. So get up and be active. Plus walking is a great low level activity that won’t stress out the Central nervous system. And can even be used as an active recovery day.
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Proper Walking Technique For Low Back Pain:
Walking is a great way of activating the major muscle groups which quite often contribute to lower back pain. (Glutes, trunk muscles, Quads, Quadratus Lumborum or QL). But like everything it needs to be done with proper form. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it. If you have poor posture when you sit, odds are you will have poor posture when you stand, and when you walk.
Key points to focus in on when walking:
- Think tall through back and neck
- Stack your joints on top of one another (ears on top of shoulders, on top of hips, on top of knees, on top of ankles. (this helps spread the load more evenly)
- Breathe through your belly. (This will help to engage the core and relax the upper back and teaches you good habits with your regular breathing pattern)
- Walk heal to toe (heels strikes ground first then roll through the foot onto the toes and push off)
- Work the opposite arm and leg together (This means that as the left leg steps forward the right arm swings forward to contour balance you)
Walking is a great low level exercise to get you back into a regular fitness routine. Current guidelines recommend 5 x 30 min walks a week or 150 mins accumulated throughout the week. This is a great start to firing up the most important muscle around your trunk that often lead to lower back pain and discomfort. And also, a way to help your muscle recover from a heavy training load.
The Loaded Carry For Your Low Back Pain:
Walking is a great way to help keep on top of lower back pain. But the body craves progression, once you have built up your base level of walking, or you are looking to prevent future episodes of lower back pain, the loaded carry is the way to go.
Injury occurs when the stress you put on a certain tissue or structure exceeds with work capacity. So, to increase your work capacity, you simply need to progressively overload the joints, ligaments and musculature. For this I love farmers carries, it is almost impossible to screw up a farmers carry (although I have seen some very good attempts).
Farmers carries have been referred to as “the most functional exercise” by Gray Cook and Dr. Stuart McGill. The loaded carry is one of the best movements to build strength, eliminate pain, and improve performance. They are another low-level activity. Meaning there is relatively less chance of injuring yourself then say a squat or deadlift. But offer great muscle activation along the posterior chain (muscles of mid/low back, and glutes, core, hamstrings, calfs), and quads. And they will work to improve your posture naturally, rather the you having to think about sitting or standing up straight 100 times a day.
How To Perform Loaded Carries:
- Pick up the weight with a neutral spine
- Brace the core (diaphragmatic breath) to properly keep the shoulders stacked over the hips. This will prevent any unwanted forward bending, while also keeping you more upright.
- Roll shoulder blades back and down (stacking ears on top of shoulders, on top of hips, on top of knees, on top of ankles).
- Begin walking by taking small steps. (Start off small to keep the body in position and minimize side wobble (swinging from side to side) during the exercise.
- Complete the programmed distance or time for the workout.
As always emphasis should always be placed on technique rather than reps. So, go slow and controlled rather than fast and loose. Focus on maintaining your stacked upright posture, bracing through the trunk and breathing through the belly. This will better engage your posterior chain and work the muscles you want.
Loaded Carry Variations:
Double arm kettlebell/dumbbell:
*Cues: Maintain regular loaded carries steps, but focus on keeping weight just off the body and maintaining upright posture without lateral movement.
Single Arm kettlebell/dumbbell:
*Cues: Maintain same technique as double arm farmers carries, with strong emphasis on keeping the torso upright and not letting the feet cross over when walking
*Cues: Same as the single arm farmers carries, making sure that ribs don’t pop up, biceps stays as close to ear as possible and wrist stays straight.
Taking care of your back is a life-long process. Like I always say, if you’re not getting stronger, you’re slowly dying. If you have re-occurring back pain, try implementing a walking routine into your week. It not only limits stress placed on your lower back but will also make everyday task easier. To make strength and not help control lower back pain, but to help kick its butt once and for all try implementing some loaded carries into your exercise regime. By strengthening the back up, and making it stronger then the load you are placing it under is the only way to truly cure your back pain.
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