Introduction 

In my work, the complaint I hear most often is regarding lower back pain. It’s something I’ve contended with myself and subsequently become invested in. It’s said that up to 60% of adults will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. In many cases, it is chronic and highly debilitating. Why is it so prevalent among the population, and what can we do to remedy the situation?

10-15% of cases of lower back pain have a specific medical cause, such as a slipped disc, pulled muscle, etc. However, the other 85–90% of cases are undiagnosed and tend to be the result of weak lumbar muscles. Having evolved to walk on two feet as opposed to all fours, the muscles of the lower back don’t receive a lot of direct stimulus in our everyday movements. This is further exacerbated by the fact that many of us live sedentary lives.

Strengthening the lower back

A lack of strength around any joint leaves it exposed and vulnerable. The way we combat this is to perform strength exercises targeting the muscles surrounding the relevant joint. In the case of the lower back, it’s the core muscles that need to be strengthened to provide stability and protection for the lumbar region of the spine.

When it comes to training the core, we often prioritise the abdominal muscles. A more holistic approach to core training would incorporate stimulus for the glutes, spinal erectors, and obliques. Many of us aren’t aware that the core muscle group wraps around the torso like a thick belt, and its primary function is to create stability.

Our abdominal muscles are often already fairly strong because we use them a lot in everyday life. Therefore, if we focus exclusively on the abs, we find ourselves exacerbating a muscular imbalance, making us more vulnerable. The analogy I use for this is a tent or teepee. You need all of the guide ropes to be in place and taut for the tent to be stable and functional.

To alleviate lower back pain, the focus needs to be specifically on the muscles of the lower back. We can do this by performing back extension exercises, which contract

the spinal erectors. We can achieve this very easily whilst remaining seated with a simple hip hinge.

Hip Hinge (pg 32 of my book).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key Points

  • Shuffle forward slightly in your chair, sitting up nice and tall.
  • Slowly hinge forward from your hips, keeping your chest up and your back straight. Looking straight ahead can help with this.
  • You want to hinge as far as you can while maintaining a neutral posture. As soon as your back starts to curve, you’ve gone too far.
  • From this position, start to sit back up slowly, feeling the tension in your erector spinae muscles, which run down either side of the spine.
  • Remember that you can add a resistance band or weights to increase the difficulty.

Benefits

This exercise targets the spinal erectors, two strips of muscle that run down each side of the spine. Their function is to straighten the back, allowing for upright posture.

Tight Hip Flexors

As a modern society, we sit too much. Aside from other health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, this can contribute to lower back pain. When we are seated, our hips are constantly flexed. This means that the hip flexor muscles, such as the psoas, can become extremely tight. This can pull and tilt the pelvis forward, causing pain in the lower back. One way to combat this, of course, is to reduce the time spent sitting down. The other is to perform a hip flexor stretch.

We can do this by using a variation of the warrior pose, which you may be familiar with if you’ve ever done yoga.

Warrior Pose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key Points

  • Start by standing up with your feet together and holding the back of a chair for balance.
  • Step one foot back so that you have a nice, long stride.
  • Bend your front knee, pushing your hips forward. Your back heel will naturally rise off the ground.
  • Raise your chest up so that you are looking straight ahead.
  • You should feel a stretch through the front of your back leg, near the pelvis.