Low back funk. It can put one out of commission for months. Not ideal. And definitely not fun.
So, what exactly causes lower back pain?
I see it and treat it All. The. Time
Generally speaking, lower back pain can be caused by damage to the intervertebral discs, damage or compression to neural pathways, or simply incorrect movements of certain spinal joints.
The most common cause of acute lower back pain? Muscular strains, ligament sprains, or muscular spasms. These are injuries seen by incorrect movements, such as improper form or bad posture, and can actually contribute to compression of neural pathways.
Chronic back pain is often due to disc damage or possible vertebral fractures. Often, treatment is more invasive or long-term. X-rays or MRIs may be done to determine the definite cause.
The sciatic nerve which runs from the lower spine and down the leg can become compressed due to these injuries or spasms of the muscles. Compression of the sciatic nerve can cause radiating pain, numbness, or tingling in the buttocks and down the legs.
Many rehabilitation programs for lower back pain focus on stretching out certain problematic muscles to relieve compression, as well as core strengthening to prevent further problems.
Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional prior to starting any new exercise program. If the exercises increase pain, numbness, or tingling, STOP. Aggravating the issue further is taking steps backward, not forward. The following outlines 3 stretches that may ease lower back pain and discomfort.
1. Piriformis Stretch
A very small but most problematic muscle, the piriformis sits deep in the buttocks close to the sciatic nerve. When the piriformis muscle is tight or spasms it compresses the nerve. The compression can cause tingling, numbness, or pain down through the buttocks and legs. Stretching out this muscle can provide relief from the neurological symptoms, as well as pain in the buttocks and lower back.
Lay on your back to start. Bend both knees with your feet positioned flat on the ground and hip-width apart. Cross one ankle overtop of the opposite knee. Using both hands, pull your knee toward your chest, lifting your foot off the ground. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat for both sides. Do 2-3 times throughout the day.
2. Knee to Chest Stretch
The knee to chest exercise stretches out the hamstrings and the glutes, groups of muscles that are often tender or tight in those suffering from lower back pain. To start, lay on your back with your legs straight. Carefully bend one knee toward your chest. Using both hands, hold the knee in the same position for 20-30 seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch in the lower back, back of one leg, and hips. Repeat for both sides and do 2-3 times a day.
3. Cat & Camel Stretch
The cat & camel stretch guides the back through a gentle range of motion stretch in flexion and extension directions. Begin on all fours with a straight back. Slowly look up toward the sky, extending the back and bringing the stomach toward the floor. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Slowly look down toward the ground and flex the back upward creating a hunch. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat approximately 10 times and do 2-3 times a day.
While these stretches can provide varying degrees of relief for many individuals, strengthening the core should be a top priority.
The transverse abdominal (TA) muscle is a deep lower abdominal muscle located between the hip bones. Although small and not part of those ‘six-pack muscles,’ isolated strengthening of this particular muscle has proven to reduce back injury and pain. As with anything, it does take practice!
Finding time to do the above exercises can be a task in itself for some. I get it. Life gets busy. BUT it is your health and above all, your quality of life. They are not entities you want to mess with or worsen. Schedule the time it takes to get better. Seek the advice of a local healthcare professional to properly diagnose the issue and get you on the right track today!