Low back pain (LBP) is the most common injury/disability that we come across in the gym environment. In fact it is one of the leading chronic disabilities globally (2) and the majority of people will experience some form of low back pain in their lifetime. There are so many reasons / causes of Lower Back Pain and we have never worked with two cases that are identical.
What we do know and commonly see is that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to Lower Back Pain. Sitting down for extensive periods of time is seldom the cause for an injury as there simply are not enough forces going through the spine for an injury to occur. However, prolonged inactivity leads to weakened muscles, which make you more vulnerable when performing everyday tasks such as picking up your shopping, a child or performing a ‘basic’ task. Sitting can actually aggravate an already existing injury. The top recommendations from the NHS are to stay active, exercise and stretch. Strengthening muscles, improving posture, plus aerobic exercises and stretching!
Exercise is a key treatment for Lower Back Pain. Stronger muscles will support your spine and manage movement. For sufferers of Lower Back Pain exercise can seem daunting, as movement is often associated with pain. The intensity, frequency and type of the exercise need to be individualized. A good place to start is with these key exercises - McGill Big Three that are gentle exercises and super effective if performed regularly. You can then progress to more demanding exercises.
4 Week Step-by-Step Programme to Improve Back Pain
The exercises need to be performed frequently, everyday or every other day for best results. Tempo refers to the speed at which the exercises are performed. For example with the Modified curl-up, use two counts to curl up, five to hold and two to lower. The following links contain demonstrations of the exercises in the program.
McGill Modified Curl up
Side plank variations
How do I know when I have progressed?
The exercises should be performed at a moderate intensity. Once an exercise feels easy, you are ready to progress to a more difficult variation or increase the intensity by manipulating sets / repetitions / time.
What if the pain doesn’t go away?
Low back pain normally improves within a few weeks without medical help. You should be seeking help for pain that lasts for more than three months as it exceeds the perceived soft tissue healing time. You should also seek help for severe pain, pain that gets progressively worse, and pain that stops you from doing your daily activates.
This may not be your cure but a good place to start?
There are many reasons for lower back pain. Daily activities and other lifestyle factors may be triggers for pain. An individualized intervention plan taking into account the whole picture generally leads to the best overall results. On your own The McGill Big Three are a good place to start as they are gentle and easy exercises which will not cause you harm.
1. McGill SM. Low back exercises: evidence for improving exercise regimens. Phys Ther. 1998;78(7):754‐765. doi:10.1093/ptj/78.7.754
2. Hoy D, Bain C, Williams G, et al. A systematic review of the global prevalence of low back pain. Arthritis Rheum. 2012;64(6):2028‐2037. doi:10.1002/art.34347