Getting to the Core of the Problem

Are Improper Training Progressions Causing You Low Back Pain?

Do you struggle with low back pain?

Getting to the Core of the Problem: Are Improper Training Progressions Causing You Low Back Pain? Relieve back pain by first identifying its source, then treat.

Prevalence

Over 85% of adults in the United States have experienced chronic low back pain at some point in their lives. American’s lifestyles contribute to this problem, as many of us spend a considerable amount of time sitting (and tightening our hamstrings and hip flexors) at a desk or in a car. To compound matters, Americans are moving less and less each year and more than 35 percent of adults across the United States are considered obese.

Consequences of back pain

With chronic pain, comes a myriad of issues. There are socio-economic, emotional, and psychological consequences. The total costs of low-back pain in the United States exceed $100 billion per year and two-thirds of these costs are indirect, due to lost wages and reduced productivity at work and home.  Role shifts in households are often a result of a back injury.  Spouses and children tend to take over family responsibilities once carried on by injured workers. The restructuring of family and social roles can lead to various shifts and strains in relationships and self-identities.  This, when coupled with the frustration caused by pain and being involuntarily sidelined by an injury creates emotional and psychological consequences as well. Some emotional effects include anxiety, stress, depression, anger, and fear of re-injury.  Fear can hinder one’s ability to return to work, hobbies, and recreational activities.  A vicious and stressful cycle that is hard to escape then ensues.  This may lead to a less than optimal way of life.

Causes of back pain

As with any chronic condition, it is important to get to the root of the problem, to find out what is causing the issue(s).  There are many causes associated with chronic low back pain. Injury due to weakened, tightened or overused muscles and joints, a sedentary lifestyle, postural dysfunction, pressure on nerve roots in the spinal canal, and bacterial infection within the body are just some contributors.

One common occurrence researchers are finding is that people with chronic low back pain also have decreased activation of important core musculature.

The core: what is it?

The body’s core is also known as the “lumbo-pelvic-hip complex.” The core is where the body’s center of gravity is located and where all movement begins. It is divided into two categories:

  1. The stabilization system
  2. The movement system

The prevalence of low back pain in the United States expresses that only a small percentage of our population has efficient core stabilization.  This is alarming, as much of debilitating low back pain and injury can be prevented through proper mobility and strengthening exercises.

Strong primal movers + weak stabilizers = dysfunction + injury

Many individuals may have strong external muscles called prime movers but weak and inhibited deep stabilizing muscles. An imbalance between the stabilizing and movement systems compromises and weakens the core causing inefficient movement patterns and ultimately, injury.

Take a systematic and progressive approach

To reiterate, if you suffer from low back pain, it is possible that the muscles responsible for movement are strong and/or overused, while the stabilizers are weak and inactive. If this is the case, it is crucial that you rethink the way you train your core.  It is imperative that you revisit basic fundamental (and practical) exercises and address the problem with a systematic, progressive approach that will help you become pain free.  To achieve balance in strength and flexibility between the two groups of muscles, you must first wake up the weakened, sleepy stabilizer muscles and make them stronger.

Obviously, if you are currently inactive, the first step is to get off your duff and start moving.  I am not suggesting that you sign up for a gym membership and hop on a treadmill.  I want you to start moving slowly and with common sense.  To do this in a safe and effective manner, I want you to you to become focused on how you are exercising.

It is pertinent that you perform exercises in the correct order. You must strengthen the musculature that stabilizes the spine before you aim to strengthen muscles that move the spine. Yes, this feat will require commitment, patience, and consistency.  In order to work on the stabilizers, you should first perform exercises involving minimum motion of the spine and pelvis. Body weight exercises work well for this purpose.  Here are some tips to help you get started.

Mobility and dynamic warm-up

Mobility exercisesAlways remember to perform a proper mobility and dynamic warm-up prior to your workout. This warm-up does not need to be painstakingly long. Usually, ten minutes or so will suffice. Address problem areas by foam rolling with a roller, the stick or a tennis ball. Dynamically stretch and activate muscles needed for your exercise by performing movement specific drills.

Think natural and practical

Do not be afraid to use this as a time to improve your natural human movement skills. This is practical training. When we train with practical intent, we give ourselves a better chance at leading a healthy, optimal life. One thing I have learned after becoming a MovNat Certified Trainer in August, is that when one improves their efficiency with natural movement, they are able to naturally strengthen the core, improve and prevent injury, and better their overall quality of life. When we focus on becoming more efficient with all elements of human movement, everything else seems to fall into place. It is a very balanced approach to fitness, and balance is good!

Get down like a bear

bear crawlNow back to working the stabilizers. Here is an example of an exercise that you can add to your routine:

Progress slowly and strength will follow

If you add exercises like this into your routine, you will slowly build your mobility and strength. Your stabilizing muscles will become a lot stronger than when you started. Once these muscles are strong, you can progress to more complex exercises which involve dynamic and full range of motion of the spine. Here are some examples of correct progressions:

  1. Become efficient at the “get down like a bear” position before you attempt to progress into a bear crawl, which involves movement.
  2. Perform and master prone plank exercises before you attempt to perform weighted cable rotations or medicine ball throw exercises.

After a few weeks of adding mobility drills, stabilizing exercises, and movement skills training to your workout routine, your core will be a lot stronger, you will be able to move more efficiently, and your back will be feeling a lot better. Continue to progress in a safe and effective way and never compromise efficiency or safety. This will help reduce any further injuries and allow you to avoid negative socioeconomic, emotional, and physical disturbances in your life caused by low back pain.

Try theses exercises and give me feedback

What are you waiting for?  Go get ’em. Try some of the exercises I have described and let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 🙂

Cheers!

Related

References

  1. Anderson GB (1999) Epidemiological features of chronic low back pain. Lancet 354: 581–5.
  2. Katz, Jeffrey N. Lumbar Disc Disorders and Low-Back Pain: Socioeconomic Factors and Consequences. The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Volume 88, issue 2 (2006), p. 21-24. DOI: 10.2106/JBJS.E.01273  http://dx.doi.org/10.2106/JBJS.E.01273
  3. Strunin, Lee; Boden, Leslie. Family consequences of chronic back pain. Social Science and Medicine, Volume 58, issue 7 (April, 2004), p. 1385-1393. ISSN: 0277-9536 DOI: 10.1016/S0277-9536(03)00333-2 Elsevier Science

Author Details
Founder and CEO of BambooCore
Jennifer is a certified NASM Personal Trainer, MovNat Trainer, and a C.H.E.K Holistic Lifestyle/Nutrition Coach. As the Founder and CEO of BambooCore Fitness, she delivers sustainable lifestyle, nutrition and movement strategies to people looking to improve their health and performance.

When she is not slaying fat and building muscle, Jennifer can be found trekking barefoot, traveling, cooking and refining her photography skills. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.
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Founder and CEO of BambooCore
Jennifer is a certified NASM Personal Trainer, MovNat Trainer, and a C.H.E.K Holistic Lifestyle/Nutrition Coach. As the Founder and CEO of BambooCore Fitness, she delivers sustainable lifestyle, nutrition and movement strategies to people looking to improve their health and performance.

When she is not slaying fat and building muscle, Jennifer can be found trekking barefoot, traveling, cooking and refining her photography skills. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.

Comments

  1. Therefore it is advisable to work on your back pain much in advance
    in order to get healthy as soon as possible.

    You know, the type who has very little physical activity during the week, but once
    the weekend arrives, they push themselves way too much.
    Then i would start with some squats followed up with some leg extensions and then also some leg curls.

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