Lower back pain is a big problem. Almost everyone will suffer from some form of back pain in their life and all too often the only advice that people are given is to "take painkillers" and "don't do anything" or "rest."
As fitness coaches, we know that there is a lot more you can be doing to not only get out of back pain, but also to avoid it in the first place.
In this article, we are going to look at some of the most common mistakes that we see people make when it comes to low back pain.
Mistake #1: Not understanding your pain triggers
If you are one of the unfortunate people who is predisposed to back pain, then you don't want to just walk into a gym and start moving things around with the attitude that “exercise is good for me!”
You need a game plan and a fitness program to fit that plan. This is the first step: start by understanding your pain triggers.
Get into the habit of writing a “pain journal” or “pain trigger list.” Log how your back feels pre-workout, during workout, and post-workout.
This will become a guide in understanding what exercises trigger your pain, and will enable you to plan exercise around your triggers, giving you relief and making pain a thing of the past.
And talking of relief….let’s talk drugs. Yes, medication can be helpful in a short term setting, especially when you can’t sleep or function.
But taking the wrong kind or for too long can make things worse because it masks your pain, leading you to overwork and possible injure yourself more.
Your goal should be to use movement to keep yourself out of pain, not drugs.
Mistake #2: Bad posture
Hunched over at your desk? Feel like you walk around stressed with your shoulders up by your ears?
Poor posture may be contributing to your back pain.
You may not feel any issues after sitting with poor posture for a few hours, but over time the stress that poor posture places on your spine can lead to structural changes in your body.
This, in turn, can provoke back pain through:
- constriction of your blood vessels
- nerves getting pinched
- limited range of motion when you do try to move/exercise
- weakening of core muscles (more load on your back)
- disc degeneration
All of these things add up to make poor posture something to avoid. So, to keep good posture, make sure you are exercising regularly and finding alternatives to sitting (more on this soon!).
Mistake #3: What’s a warm up?
Not warming up because you don’t have time, or not warming up properly before exercising, is asking for back pain!
If you don’t have time to warm up, you don’t have time to exercise. Warming up should be a crucial part of your exercise routine - it doesn’t need to take hours and can be done efficiently.
But when I say warm up, I don't just mean going on the treadmill or bike for 10 minutes. I mean doing exercises that actually warm up the areas of your body that will be needed to keep your back safe.
That means getting your core and hips working while also stretching out the muscles that limit your movement.
And when you get in a proper warm up, you not only keep your back safe, you also get more out of your workout...meaning better results!
Mistake #4: Too much sitting
Sitting at your desk? In meetings? At lunch? What about driving to and from work?
If you are like most people, the answer is a resounding “YES” and that all happens before you even get home!
I know you need to rest, and that’s okay, but try to be mindful of how much you sit.
Take regular short walks throughout your day. Go with a friend, breathe deeply, and go slowly. March in place.
If your job requires sitting, get up every hour and march for a minute. Why not have a walking meeting?
Stand up desks are also fantastic for reducing lower back pain.
Mistake #5: Wrong exercises!
If you’re doing sit-ups or the wrong stretches, you could be doing more harm than good. Here are two exercises to avoid:
Sit-ups – You’ve no doubt heard that back trouble comes from a weakened core (and that is true), but sit-ups and their variations don’t help.
If you’ve got a disc problem, which is true for 70% of low back pain sufferers, sit-ups will make things worse. Each rep, you are actually compressing the discs and reinforcing poor posture.
Instead, opt for plank variations where you keep your back straight, but are still working your core!
Hamstring stretching – When your hamstrings are tight, stretching, believe it or not, is not always the best approach.
This is because it can destabilize your lower back and make it worse. It is much better to find out why your hamstrings are tight and fix that problem.
If you do suffer from low back pain, the first and most important thing you can do is go to a trusted health professional to find out what the cause is.
I would recommend a physical therapist or chiropractor that really understands the body.
Once you have started on your path to recovery (or if you are just wanting to avoid back pain in the future), then it is time to start working with a fitness coach (aka personal trainer).
While exercising on your own is great, when you are worried about low back pain, it can be good to have a coach so that you make sure that you are:
1. Doing the right exercises
2. Doing those exercises correctly
It is hard to know if you are actually doing your exercises the right way when you are on you own. When you have a coach, you can be confident that you are spending your time in the gym well, and that you will make progress...not backtrack.
So, if you feel like having a coach would be helpful, I invite you to check out our 28-Day Kickstart Program. In this program, you will get the exact exercises you need while having a coach to show you how to do them correctly, and also keep you accountable to your plan.
Here is what is included:
- Full fitness and goals assessment
- Personalized fitness coaching to teach you the exact exercises you need to safely and effectively move better and build stamina
- A simple meal plan to help you decrease inflammation
- 1-on-1 success coaching to help guide you as you work to change your diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits
Get the support you need and know that you are keeping your back safe as you go. Click here to learn more and take back control of your health and fitness today!
Mint Condition Fitness empowers people to take control of their fitness and fully enjoy the life they have built.