One of the most common fitness questions I get is about achiness in the low back. Low back pain is something that affects many, many people and it doesn’t matter how fit or active you are, it can hit suddenly and become an ongoing issue! It is estimated that up to 80% of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain can have such a negative impact on your physical and mental health, preventing you from moving freely and doing what you love. It can make sleep nearly impossible and leave you angry and frustrated.
I had never experienced an episode of back pain until last summer (not counting some little twinges when I was pregnant). I woke up one morning with severe discomfort in my lower back, making it difficult for me to bend forward or lift things. It turned out to be an issue with the sacroiliac joint, which led me on a journey to figure out how to make it better and prevent further issues (as much as possible!) I worked with an amazing massage therapist at Massage Addict and a physiotherapist to stretch and strengthen various muscles and, knock on wood, I have not had a recurrence. If you ever would like to know more of the details, feel free to get in touch! I will share some of the stretches and strengthening moves in the video below.
Why me? Why now?
There are many different reasons for back pain. It may be caused by the effects of aging like degeneration in the discs or arthritis. It might be caused by a new injury or an exercise that aggravated an old injury. Our lifestyles can also have an impact on lower back pain. We spend so much of our time seated at desks, contributing to tight hip flexors, weak glute and core muscles and rounded posture. Tight hip flexors can prevent you from engaging the glutes and core when you move, meaning the lower back muscles will try to pick up the slack.
So the good news is that movement can be very helpful for preventing lower back issues and also for easing some of the discomfort you may feel. *As a disclaimer, it’s essential to consult with your Doctor any time you are having back pain as it could be more serious*
Exercises that can help
Here are a few moves that can be very helpful:
- Cat/Cow stretching – moving slowly and mindfully through this classic yoga move can help to mobilize the back and identify areas that are tender and tight.
- Pointers (sometimes called Bird/Dog) – an excellent strengthening move to activate the muscles in the core, allowing you to brace rather than flex the back in a traditional crunch.
- Figure 4 Stretch, seated – this stretch can help release tight glute muscles as well as the deeper piriformis muscle.
- Windshield wipers from seated – helps to open up the hip flexors and give a gentle rotation to the hips and back.
- Supported bridge pose – using rolled blankets, a booster, or a core ball (*my favourite) under the lower back and hips can help your muscles feel supported and relax. You can extend the legs and even raise the feet with a yoga block. You can also use a yoga block to support but that can feel a little hard, especially if your back is feeling tender. Arms out to the side to feel supported.
It’s also important to take time for self-care as you recover from any low back issues. Take some time to have a bath with Epsom salts (these contain magnesium that will help your muscles relax!), drink an herbal tea that helps with muscle relaxation (e.g. chamomile), get lots of sleep, and – MOST IMPORTANTLY – reflect on your posture as you move through your day.
Consider trying out a barre class if you have never done one. In barre, we focus a great deal on setting up strong posture at the beginning and throughout the class! This type of class may be just the kind of exercise that will help you strengthen those postural muscles so you can prevent lower back issues from occurring.
Did you find these tips helpful? Please share with a friend, drop a comment below, or get in touch and let me know! 💕