In the United States, an estimated 80% of the population suffers from chronic lower back pain. As a Fitness Professional, I’d agree that minimally 80% of my clients have suffered from some sort of lower back pain at one point in their lives. It is one of the most debilitating spots in our bodies to have pain and also try to lead an active life. Often times, exercises are deemed undoable because of the stress they cause people’s backs- then long term, back pain will ultimately be the reason they stop going to the gym all together. Fortunately for most, there are several stretches that if done on a consistent basis will improve back pain substantially.
Why as a society do we suffer from bad backs?
My theory is centered around this very simple fact: we’ve never been more collectively inactive as a society than we are right now. This lack of activity results in prolonged periods of sitting- not only at work but also on the commute and our leisure time as well. In addition, most of the time sitting occurs, we instinctively are on some sort of technological device. Whether it’s a phone/tablet or computer, the most comfortable position to assume while sitting is one with your neck down and shoulders rolled forward.
Sitting and/or being on a technological device results in two things that severely impact back pain:
- Hunched shoulders
- Tight Hips/Glutes
Individually, hunched shoulders or tight hips could each cause lower back discomfort. However, when these two symptoms are combined, it will almost certainly result in back pain.
How to Fight Lower Back Pain?
A lot of people make the mistake of training the lower back directly (with exercises such as back extensions), thinking “my back hurts because it’s weak.” While that may be partially true, it is almost never the root of the issue, and shouldn’t be where you start.
The main problem is hip/glute and thoracic tightness. Therefore, before anything else is focused on, MOBILIZING is the first key!
5 Minute Quadruped Mobility Flow
Quadruped means “hands and knees position.” When you are in this basic position always be sure your shoulders are directly over top your hands. As well as your hips should be directly over top your knees. Be sure to keep your back flat and most of the time keep your neck relaxed (look towards the ground) unless the exercise calls for different.
When performing this series of stretches, I perform each for 20-30 seconds and transition from one exercise right to the next. This series should take between 3-5 minutes. If you’re using it as a warm up then I’d only do everything once or twice. But if this is serving as an “active rest day” I’d do 3-5 rounds of these stretches- especially if you have tight hips and/or poor posture.
- Hip Circles
- Fire Hydrants
- Hip Rolls
- Hockey Stretch
- Pigeons w/ T-Spine Ext.
- Half Kneeling Adductor Stretch
This mobility flow is something I’ve come up with and is done in the exact order it’s been presented. It’s super easy to transition from one exercise right to the other, and if done on a consistent basis, you will begin to notice improvements in your back discomfort.
While mobility is the first place to start, there is a lot more work to do after you’ve mobilized your hips, glutes and thoracic spine. Next comes learning how to properly activate your muscles then finally strengthen the muscles that keep your lower back healthiest. Improving back pain is like building a house; you need to lay a solid foundation first, and that begins with the mobility flow I’ve laid out.
If you suffer from chronic back pain, I highly encourage you to try this mobility routine minimally 3 days a week for the next month and notice the improvements that will occur!
Yours in Fitness and Health,
Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.