I feel so strongly about my low back rehab plan that I’m going to guarantee it will reduce your low back pain!
Low back pain will affect 80% of the population at sometime in their life. Does that mean you should take a passive role and worry about the issues related to the injury when the time comes? No!! Being proactive and addressing the three common factors related to the injury is the smart approach and the typical method of managing injuries at MikeRyanSportsMedicine.com.
Preventative Rehabilitation or “Pre-Hab” is what wise sports medicine specialists utilize when working with elite athletes. Determining areas of concern such as bilateral asymmetry, poor biomechanics, overly tight and hyperactive muscles/connective tissue, overly elongated and hypoactive muscles/connective tissue and/or poor posture are potential factors.
Finding potential problems and implementing a plan to improve these conditions is the basic premise of what I do every day with my athletes. Low back therapy is one of the most challenging yet rewarding components of sports medicine.
The Benefits of Proactive Pre-Hab
When an athlete reduces or eliminates a negative factor such as an overly tight muscle or poor posture that is contributing to the symptoms, he/she will benefit in four ways:
1. Their performance will be enhanced.
2. They reduce the need to subconsciously compensate which will greatly reduces potential soft tissue issues elsewhere in the body.
3. The area of concern is less prone to injury.
4. If an injury does occur, the injury will be much less severe.
Danger Zones for Low Back Pain
In my opinion, most non-traumatic low back injuries are related to three factors. If you focus on improving these three factors, you will gain the upper hand on preventing low back pain. In most cases, it’s that simple.
1. Poor Hamstring Flexibility – Too much time sitting and too little time elongating the hammys.
2. Functionally Weak Abs – The lower abs are the key. If you strengthen this area of your rectus abdominus, from your navel down to the front of your pelvis, you’ll be able very happy with the results.
3. Poor Body Mechanics – It’s simply about being lazy. From tying your shoes to picking something off the ground to sitting in a chair, poor body mechanics and poor posture is killing your lumbar disc. Meanwhile, the disc provides no neurological feedback about it’s injury….until it’s too late.
Three Steps to Avoid or Reduce Low Back Pain
As you can imagine, these three steps of low back therapy are based on solving the three problem areas previously noted.
Step #1 – Increase Hamstring Flexibility
This may not be the fun and exciting exercise that your friends are bragging about but it may prove to be one of the most important activity of your day if staying healthy is part of your master plan.
To Do: Bear with me on this one…..With your foot on a low step/chair approximately 2 feet off the floor, keep your elevated leg straight with your pelvis “squared” and facing your raised foot. While maintaining a lordotic or “sway back” curve in your low back and your shoulders back, slowly lean forward leading with your navel to a comfortable hamstring stretch position and “freeze like a stone statue”, as I explain to my pro football players.
Using a chair or wall to help stabilize yourself, perform 5 slow and deep breaths and relax the body. Perform for 3-5 reps of 5 breaths with the focus on maintaining the sway back position of the low back , leading with the navel and slooow breathing.
Step #2 – Improve Ab Strength from the Ribs to the Pelvis
You have six main groups of Abs and none of them go over the hip joints or shoulder joints. Therefore, many of the exercises and fancy “Ab machines” typically force your body to compensate with other muscles instead of isolating the Abs.
To Do: Performing multiple Ab exercises to include planks, good-ol’ crunches with the feet on the ground, pelvis rolls with feet on the ground, side-lying raises, med ball throws and crunch twists are great exercises to be performed on a firm surface when applying the following key points:
- Exhale HARD, FAST & COMPLETE with every rep.
- Hold the end position for all moves while performing a solid 2 second isometric contraction at the end of the range,
- Perform all reps slow and controlled throughout the complete range of motion in both directions for reps of 15.
- Keep the rest phase between all Ab exercises very short (20-30 seconds) to maximize the fatigue of all the muscles.
Step #3 – Master Your Body Mechanics
Low Back Anatomy Lesson 101: The back discs in your entire spine have no internal nerve receptors. Only the very outer edge of the disc has the ability to perceive pain. Therefore, poor body mechanics can be ruining your back and literally grind up the all-important discs of the low back or neck with no warning signs or “head’s up, your killing your back” text messages.
To Do: Maintain a low back “C Curve” with the open section of the “C” facing backwards for all your activities, period. That means when you sit in your car, when you tie your shoes, when you’re getting off the toilet, when you bend over to brush your teeth,…etc. It sounds simple and it is when you focus on doing it consistently. Think about how many people you know that “threw their back out” doing very simple activities.
Back saving tip: Never, never, never tie your shoeslaces with your foot on the ground. It creates massively high intradiscal pressure in your low back and you don’t want that. Instead, put your foot up on a chair or box to put your back and pelvis in a safe position to tie those fancy new sneakers.
In closing, I hope this opens your eyes to simple ways to avoid lumbar pain with an active lifestyle. The goal of this article is to keep you in that happy 20% of the population that never experiences low back pain. Focussing on the MRF motto (Keep it simple, easy to understand and producing fast results), apply these 3 simple steps daily and enjoy the ride.