Back Pain Solved! Have you reached your hope of pain free movement? How are those motions coming along? Were you able to find ‘neutral’ in Cat-Camel? Have you achieved perfect stability with Birddog? Are you flying through the air with perfect extension thanks to your 60 seconds of endurance of Superman? Fantastic. You’re now ready for the wide world of exercise and activity. If you’re not yet out of pain, or still have questions–don’t hesitate to seek help. Just make sure any doctor or therapist you seek is encouraging you to be more empowered, have less fear, and more independence (i.e. less visits!).
We’re going to talk about a few back exercises as Good, Better, and Best. Ensure you remember: most back pain has NO structural damage (e.g. break, tear, sprain) as most low back pain is a combination of deconditioning and failing to adapt to changing forces. This “failure to adapt” is primarily about a failure to coordinate all the muscles, fascia, and sensory information your brain needs to feel well. Cat-Camel & Birddog were primarily about sensory input & practicing stability. The following exercises will start to bring muscle power into the equation while maintaining focus on stability and endurance.
Do them. Been a long time since you tried? No problem–try them “modified” with your knees on the ground. Don’t worry about bringing your chin to the ground. Do them slowly, and only drop to where your elbows are bent 90 degrees. Start with 5–work towards 20. If you get bored, there are all sorts of variations such as incline, decline, etc. You will feel your back, core, and shoulders have to stabilize your body.
Keep your body as stable and calm as possible–don’t wiggle worm or swing up. Too tough? Try only the eccentric phase: stand on a box so you can reach your chin up, then step off the box and slowly lower yourself down. Try that 10 times. Stay calm; focus on stability.
Squats, Deadlifts: Good
..as long as you maintain stability and pursue proper form. Avoid pursuing lifting for the ego; try to keep strong, stabil posture and non-jerky movements.
Situps, crunches, leg-lifts, roman chairs, etc: Bad! (*for most people, especially those wrestling with back pain). These motions create great instability in the low back which is difficult for most to stabilize against. Pursue less risky techniques. I will cover this more thoroughly in a future post titled “Myths of the Sagittal Plane Workout”…tempting title, indeed.
Lunges: Better. These can be very helpful. Stand, feet shoulder width apart. Take a medium step out with one foot and drop your pelvis down in between your feet. Bring the back foot to meet the front foot, always keeping the low back very still. Step slowly, avoid shaking/shifting, and move with stability–a theme! You’re welcome to try lunges with small weights.
These are just a brief list of exercises to promote strength, after you have focused on stability and mobility. I push a philosophy of holism in approaching pain and dysfunction. Our culture is often more comfortable with isolating and objectifying symptoms to treat just a part of you. We optimize our health when we incorporate the whole. Cheers to good back health!
“Optimal back health …comes from doing a perfect optimized amount. Not too much or too little.” –Stu McGill