DEALING WITH LOWER BACK PAIN
Lower back pain is unfortunately a problem that plagues about 80% of the population at some point. Some cases more severe than others. Our lifestyle is such that we are sitting way more than we're meant to. Human beings are naturally walking animals. We're built to walk for long distances and move without that much food compared to other animals. However our lifestyle of driving everywhere, sitting at desk jobs for work, coming home, and relaxing on the sofa for the rest of the evening does not lend itself to keeping a fit, healthy, pain-free body.
Basically most back pain is caused by three factors.
1. A weak core and lower back
2. Tight hamstrings
3. Tight hip flexors (Psoas)
So what are the best ways to deal with these situations. First it's important to point out that simply getting up and going for a daily walk can have tremendous benefits. It may not solve all your problems, but it certainly will help. As for the rest of the factors let's look at them one at a time.
1. WEAK CORE - There are four ways to train the core and lower back. Core stability exercise, core frontal contraction exercises, core rotation or twisting, and lower back contraction. Your basic exercise for contraction is the Plank. Also Bird Dogs, Stir The Pot, Side Planks, and other variations. For core frontal contraction we have crunches as the main exercise. It's important to note that regular sit ups and leg raises are hip flexor exercises, NOT core exercises. To put things simply, the distance between your pelvis and ribcage must shorten in order to properly train your core frontal contraction. Crunches or Reverse Crunches (also known as Bent Legged Raises) are the best way to do this. And lastly we have rotation. For this we have Russian twists, medicine ball rotations, and similar exercises. One of the best exercises I know of to train the core rotation is Martial Arts and Boxing. In those exercises, we rotate the body as we punch and you can feel it not only in your core but in every part of your body. And lastly we have lower back contraction. The Cobra exercise from Yoga is excellent for this as is the Pelvic Lift.
2. TIGHT HAMSTRINGS - The old "Touch Your Toes" exercise can stretch your hamstrings but it may not be the best one for that. For a better stretch, place one of your legs on a chair and then stretch forward. Hold for between 20 and 30 seconds and then repeat for the other leg.
3. TIGHT HIP FLEXORS - Very rarely does someone have weak hip flexors. Every time we step, we train our hip flexors. However tight hip flexors are very common. One of the best ways to stretch them is to kneel on the floor with one knee on the ground and the other leg with the foot on the ground. Stretch by moving forward while keeping the body and torso vertical. This is important. If you lean the torso forward, you end up making the stretch useless since the hip flexor isn't being stretch at all.
So there you go. A few strategies that can help with back pain. There are some other techniques and stretches as well. Far too many to cover here, but these should hopefully get you started!
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