Over the past decade working in the fitness industry one of the most common types of pain that many of my clients come to me for help with is back pain. Lately this has increased so much that I thought it might be useful to put a little article together.
Some experts estimate that as much as 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. It is one of the worst places to hurt because we use our backs for almost every movement. When your back hurts you feel like you can’t do anything at all.
I too have suffered from lower back pain, predominantly as a result of super tight hip flexors due to all the cycling I was doing. Now I am seeing the majority of chronic back pain in my clients is the result of poor movement and long periods of sedentary positions.
These patterns of behaviour are causing wear and tear in the spine or inflammation in the muscles of the back, or really tight hip flexors which pull out the alignment of the spine causing back pain. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that movement patterns and muscle recruitment can be improved to reduce the occurrence of back pain. Knowing what causes your back pain is the key to overcoming it.
Here are 3 common causes of back pain that I typically come across:
Over-active hip flexors
A lot of people sit for most of the day. In a seated position our hip flexors become shortened and remain in an active contracted position when we hold our bodies in this position for long periods. Combine this with a general lack of overall abdominal, oblique and inner core muscle strength and you have a recipe for back pain. The solution is NOT doing a whole heap of sit ups. What you need to do is disengage the hip flexors while activating the core muscles.
Our daily routines are such that we are often not working the hips in bigger ranges of motion and as a result they get contracted and feel tight. Tight hips need to be stretched out to help lengthen the muscles supporting the hip. Loosening up the hips allows the hip joints to move more freely so that the low back doesn’t have to compensate as much.
A diet that is high in “pro inflammatory” foods tends to make susceptible joints and areas of the body hurt. Pro inflammatory foods include those that people commonly have intolerances to (eg. gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, processed sugar and vegetable oils, and alcohol). Food intolerances can cause your body to have an immune response causing symptoms such as digestive issues, skin issues, sleep issues, fogging thinking. As part of the immune response the body increases the number of immune cells to mount a defensive response. Having an increased number of cells is painful and makes the body feel stiff.
In summary, work on deactivating the hip flexors, stretching out the muscles around your hip and eating a low inflammatory diet. The more often you can implement some of these strategies, the more likely you will see some reductions in your back pain. Everyone is different and, although this advice will likely help most of you reading this, some of you may need a more individualised approach.
If you need the assistance, my FeelGood Momentum and mobility programs can help you with a structured personalised program to follow and support from me to make sure you are doing things properly and to get you feeling good again.