Wednesday musings, 8/3/16: exercise and low back pain

Wednesday musings, 8/3/16
It is estimated 80 percent of the population will experience low back pain at some point during their lives. For most, they will heal with or without intervention and get back to their normal activities. For 10-20 percent, of individuals, however, the low back pain will linger. 

There are a number of theories regarding why low back pain persists in some individuals and not others. From an exercise standpoint, there are many different systems and theories sold as the “cure” to low back pain. The trouble with this is pain is complicated. There are psychological, physiological, and biological factors that, when the forces collide, become the perfect storm for low back pain.

This doesn’t mean exercise isn’t part of that equation. It does suggest that maybe the type of exercise doesn’t matter as much as we once though. This excellent review from cor-kinetic* explores current research on exercise and low back pain. One of the points made is research actually shows individuals with low back pain show increased muscular activation (think “tighten your tummy!”) and increased trunk stiffness. 

Instead of holding your stomach in or doing as many crunches as possible to “strengthen” your core, instead focus on relaxing the muscles in the abdomen and allowing movement to occur through your spine. See if you can breathe in a relaxed manner with a long exhale. Explore rounding and arching at the back, exhaling as you round, inhaling as you arch. Move from different places and see if you can feel various parts of your back moving. If you struggle with low back pain, learn to relax and breathe, but also strengthen your entire body, not just your core.

A little technical, but worthwhile if you are trying to understand the research behind low back pain”