This is not medical advice. If you’ve recently had an accident, go see a doctor.
Instagram won’t fix your back pain!
A physical therapist or a mobility coach posts “Does your back hurt? Try this exercise to fix it.”
There’s usually no context, warnings, or explanation, and the more crazy and advanced the exercise looks, the more likes it gets!
This article is a first step to fixing your back pain!
Step One: ‘Diagnose’
Your back pain may be caused by a structural issue (bulging disc) or a functional issue (gluteal amnesia), but usually it’s a combination of both.
Although there are many different structural causes for back pain, there are really only 4 primary functional causes: Flexion intolerance, Extension intolerance, Extension with rotation intolerance, and Load intolerance.
Your first step to overcoming your back pain is to identify the functional causes of your pain. Back Mechanic by Dr. Stuart Mcgill is the perfect tool for you to self-diagnose your pain and begin your journey back to health!
Once you know the triggers that cause your pain, you’re halfway to success!
Step Two: Lifestyle Change
The first and simplest improvement to your back pain is to spend more time in positions that make you feel good and less time in those that tighten you up.
For example, if you’re flexion intolerant, spend more time lying on your stomach and make sure your chair has plenty of lumbar support, or avoid sitting if you can!
If you’re extension intolerant, sit back in your chair so you don’t overextend your spine.
If you’re extension with rotation intolerant, make sure throughout the day you stand and sit evenly - don’t shift your weight to one side and don’t cross your legs.
Finally, if you’re load intolerant, improving core stiffness is a great option.
Step Three: Strengthen
The two most effective stretches I’ve found for back pain are the couch stretch and hanging from a bar. The couch stretch will loosen your hip flexor muscles and hanging will stretch your spine and every muscle in your upper body.
To strengthen your core I’d start with the Mcgill Big-3: Side Plank, Curl-up, Birddog.
If these movements cause pain or they’re not challenging for you, watch some YouTube videos or find an experienced fitness coach or physical therapist who can guide you through how to properly perform these movements.
The most effective strengthening routine depends on your individual case, but it is common to see athletes with back pain also have an inability to properly activate and coordinate their glute muscles.
Starting by holding a glute bridge at the top will help you discover if your glutes are active or if you feel your hamstrings and lower back muscles working hard.
From there you could try a single leg glute bridge to see if you have one side that is significantly weaker or tighter than the other.
Every exercise is a clue to your specific solution to your back pain. Hopefully this article can begin by pointing you in the right direction. If you want to work with me, apply for coaching here.
Hope this helps! - Tom