If you were to tell me 5 years ago that walking was a good exercise for lower back pain I would have looked at you like you were crazy. I used to think that walking was something you did when you got old and unable to really workout.
I was wrong.
Today I want to touch on one of my biggest secrets to smoothing out early morning back pain, getting my body primed for a workout and what I use to start my day off on the right foot.
This is a GREAT question I wish more people would ask because it opens the door to really taking control over your rehab. As a back pain sufferer, there is really only one thing you need to think about, beating back pain. You don’t care how or what you have to do, you just want relief. Today, I want to cover how I approach medication and back pain and how you can make a smart decision with your approach and keep your recovery moving forward.
Real life desk job hacks for back pain sufferers from a real life desk jockey!
“Your back hurts because you sit too much.”
We have to put an end to this pointless diagnosis.
“Your back hurts because you sit too much” is probably one of the most overused blanket statements for diagnosing low levels of back pain. If I was completely honest, when I first started teaching about beating back pain over 8 years ago I would often say this myself. I want to set the record straight and fill you in on some of the most powerful and simple to apply “desk job” hacks you will find.
If you have been convinced by the fitness and medical industry that being in better shape equals less pain I am going to pop that bubble today. Both the super fit and couch potato have their own mountains to climb but are no different once they enter into the world of living with chronic back pain. Its time we stop trying to reach this unobtainable level of being fit and start focusing on what matters.
The number one reason I started this site was to offer other back pain suffers hope and direction other than the typical medical system. I knew there was a way out and was determined to spend the next 7+ years of my life in the trenches testing and fine-tuning what worked and didn’t. My approach to treating lower back pain is both hard and simple at the same time. I respect the complexity of back pain and each individuals case and preach hard work and determination which is what makes it hard. The easy part is the fact that you can beat lower back pain without doctors, drugs, and surgery. I have been saying this for years and continue to be living proof of what should have been a two level fusion and a lifetime of pain medication continues to be a drug, surgery and doctor free recovery.
My mission now is to equip you with the knwoledge and expereince I have gained over the years so you have a simple step-by-step approach to treating your lower back pain on your own.
If you were to google “core exercises for back pain” right now you would get a couple articles from webmd.com and Spine-health.com’s site talking about generic exercises they prescribe to any and all who are willing to click and consume what they have to say. It drives me crazy because like any other normal human being typically the first thing that pops up in google is the first thing we go to seek answers to our questions from. It’s because of this that millions of back pain sufferers are having the wool pulled over their eyes and guided down a path with zero chance of getting the relief they want and deserve.
This freaking drives me crazy.
Today we are going to bust the medical and fitness industry-wide open and explain why you can’t always apply what the guru’s are saying.
Yesterday we talked about coordination and how back pain sufferers tend to spend way too much time focusing on strength. They think simply a STRONGER core will bring relief to their lower back. That’s wrong thinking that unfortunately a lot of sufferers pick up from their trusted medical professionals. I want to dive even deeper into this “coordination” idea and break down what exactly you’re looking to coordinate.
The best practice for anyone with lower back pain is to check in with their breathing and practice the right way often.
Try this: Breathing Crash Course.
-Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach and take deep breaths into your belly with the goal of making ONLY that hand rise with every inhale. Do this with 5 breath cycles.
– After the belly breaths, breathe only into your chest and try to only make that hand rise as much as possible. Do 5 breaths of that.
– Now that you have learned to separate chest breathing from belly breathing. Place both hands back over your chest and belly and do a slight contraction of your entire core. One way I like to coach this is to have you brace your abdominals and then do a quick short breath out. That ties in the obliques and any other muscles that are not activated.
-With this contraction on, I want you to breath into the base of your ribs. Think of it as the halfway mark between your belly and chest. You want to go through a few cycles of breaths focusing on the brace being on and your breath filling that area between both hands.
How was that? Hard? Easy?
Learning how to separate the chest and belly compartments through breathing teaches you control. Control, allows you breathe properly whether you are at the gym exercising or working around your house. This is key. Shutting your breathing down or only limiting it to your chest is a recipe for disaster and the body to not operate seamlessly.
Bracing is not just preparing for a punch to the stomach.
The key to a good brace is the organization you create around your spine first.
You can “brace” your stomach but if your pelvis and spine are not aligned you are bracing a lumbo-pelvic position that isn’t ideal which could cause more pain and more poor habits when it comes to movement mechanics. You ALWAYS want to organize yourself first then brace.
Let’s walk through how to do that.
This is a quick organization sequence that I use when getting ready to brace myself for a movement.
1 – Rock the pelvis forward and back and stop in the middle, between both end ranges. This is typically neutral. Hold that there.
2 – Draw your ribs down by slightly engaging your abdomen, pelvic floor (these are your “pee” muscles you would use to start and stop your stream. I know, I know I somehow am able to talk about peeing and core strength in the same article.) and bringing the base of your ribs into your stomach. Keep in mind, you are NOT flexing the lumbar spine to accomplish this.
3 – Stabilize your shoulders by bringing them back and down along with your chin back.
4- Once you’re organized, do a quick short breath out with pierced lips and hold the contraction this creates. That is how you quickly brace your core.
I know that sounds like a lot to do before grabbing a load of laundry, starting your lawn mower or taking the weights off the bar at the gym but what you’re doing at first is creating a new movement and bracing pattern. This is key. To break a bad habit you have to constantly reinforce what you want. At first, this is a slow and grueling process but as you go on you won’t have to keep rocking your pelvis back and forth to find neutral. You will just know.
Movement is the next most important thing you need to focus on BEFORE you start thinking about strength and endurance.
No, I’m not talking about Tai Chi or some weird yoga moves.
When it comes to building a stable and resilient core you have to think developmental before you think strong. Your medical professionals will use the term “weak core” as a blanket statement to cover a lack of knowledge or understanding of how core coordination and stability actually affects lower back pain. As a lower back pain student, you have to dig a little deeper to see if its strength you need or if it’s something more.
When it comes to introducing movement into your breathing and bracing you have to start slow. If you are anything like the majority of back pain sufferers, as soon as you start doing “core” exercises your stability muscles start turning off and other muscles start to compensate.
An example of this would be the lack of glute activation when squatting. If you sit a lot or have poor coordination in the chains that make up your core muscles, there will be other muscles such as your erector muscles that kick in and take over. They will practically bypass the glute completely and start taking the load. This is where the importance of coordination comes in. You have to retrain the body to use the necessary core muscles to activate and fire when they are supposed to.
Without this ability, exercises like the Plank, Bird Dog and Stir the Pot are worthless.
I want to teach you the most developmental way of organizing your spine, breathing and bracing at the same time. After watching this video I want you to pick up where it leaves off and do what I instruct below!
To see the very early stages of learning what proper COORDINATION looks like pickup where the video leaves off with whats below.
After watching the video all the way through I want to add this movement once you have the core locking down.
1 – With the deep core on and pelvic floor engaged, I want you to slowly drop the right knee to the side towards the ground. Slow and steady and maintain a normal breathing cycle and contraction.
2 – Before dropping the leg I want you to begin to exhale and continue the exhale as the leg drops. As you exhale the engagement of your deep core and pelvic floor should get stronger. At the base of the knee drop take a full breath in and breath out.
3- Return the knee to the starting position.
4- Repeat this 3 sets of 12 reps (each leg)
This is step one of the entire system I put my personal one-on-one clients through. They don’t move on or progress until they have mastered this (at least a week) and can do it with complete control over their pain and able to do it without losing control of any muscle activation.
How did you do?
How did it feel?
Were you able to keep your pelvic floor on while going through the movements?
A lot of people struggle with this first step and if you don’t that’s great but you might struggle at the next step. That’s the goal of following a well-designed system for rebuilding the core. You go through the process step by step from beginning to end to find where you are weak and to fix these specific areas. No MRI’s, No doctor visits, just trial and error until your weakest points are staring you right in the face and all you have left to do is fix them.
One thing that a lot of people are right about is the power of a well-trained core on correcting a lot of the issues that cause back pain. The disconnect is that you can’t just throw yourself into any old exercise and say you’ree doing good. 10 times out of 10 I will have a student go through an entire rebuilding process which will give you without a shadow of a doubt a fully capable core system and more control over your lower back pain.
Friday I am going to talk about the disconnect that the mainstream fitness and medical industry is causing for lower back pain suffers and why some of the best core exercises in the industry can be the worst for you.
ps. Next week I will be diving into something awesome with my students in my newsletter. If you are not apart of that group you can jump on below!
This is a big topic I see butchered by a lot of people in the medical and fitness industry. We are told our core is weak by our doctors and other trusted health professionals so we head to the gym and start trying all these complex exercises or think adding weight to what we were doing before is going make our “core” stronger.
Maybe you have never been to the gym before in your life. After being told your core is “weak” you start googling “core exercises for back pain” and you’re served a hot steaming pile of Dead Bugs, Planks, Bird Dogs and maybe some Stir the Pots. You get on the floor and start trying these magic back pain beating exercises out, only to have more pain and find yourself doubling up on your painkillers for the next few days.
The problem with the medical and fitness industry when it comes to back pain is that most trainers and doctors don’t know how to respond to clients with real back pain and those that do would rather send you to someone who has more time to break down the process of rehabbing your lower back. So you’re left with nothing but pieces to the puzzle.
We need to change that….seriously.
Over the next week, we are going to dive into the nitty-gritty of where you are wasting time and exactly what you need when it comes to core training for lower back pain.
Training for Strength vs Endurance when it comes to lower back pain.
I am going to be completely honest with you on this one. At first glance, I would say NEITHER. Neither Strength or Endurance is king in all situations. They are both needed and have their time and place when it comes to core training for lower back pain but never start there.
When it comes to putting the pieces that are often left out or overlooked in the fitness industry together I always suggest starting with coordination and muscle activation.
Without these, you can’t properly train for endurance or strength in the first place.
Often times you will have someone with lower back pain attempt a lot of the mainstream back pain reducing core exercises you find on the internet and end up in even more pain. Even when they figure out an “easier” way of doing it they still find themselves in more pain then before.This is where the big disconnect on priorities comes in with core training.
Let’s unpack this a little more.
Coordination and Muscle Activation. This is where you really should start.
A big disconnect you see with people with lower back pain is really understanding how to use your core to bring stability to the spine. It’s not a lack of brute strength or being able to hold a plank for 3 minutes straight. There is a marriage between breathing, bracing and movement that has to be understood and mastered if you want to really get benefit from training the core for relief. We will break these areas down in detail on Wednesday but today I want to focus and make sure you understand this key mindset shift from strength to coordination.
Coordination can be summed up by this.
“It’s the ability to brace and stabilize the spine while moving fluently and without restriction without losing the stability around your spine”
Typically what back pain suffers don’t do well is understand how to not only stabilize their spine properly but maintain a healthy stable hold while moving. Usually what happens is people start with a good brace but as they get tired, stop focusing or simply start moving they lose the stability they once had. They have trained their brain to disconnect with the body once movement begins instead of engaging the mind and all the active muscles that are used with daily movement.
A great example of this loss of coordination is the lumbar spine over working due to weak or underactive glutes. It’s not always about making the glutes STRONGER to help with back pain but learn how to turn the glutes ON when they are supposed to be active.
With each step you make you have muscle “slings” that contract and relax with movement. These slings are simply chains of muscle and connective tissue that connects and is intertwined over joints and segments of the body. They are coordinated with the rest of the body in order for everything to move the way it should. If underactive muscles such as weak abdominal muscles or glutes are present, the body has to continue to connect these “slings”. In this case, it’s typically at the cost of our lower backs. This lack of coordination can manifest itself into a lot of different painful areas such as neck pain, elbow pain, knee pain and foot pain. It just depends on what you currently have going on.
So when looking for help on core training you have to ask this one question.
You can teach anyone to lay on their back while lifting and lowering their legs but can that person achieve that same muscles contraction and stability going from being on their back to standing upright? That’s the magic sauce that I feel 90% of back pain sufferers are missing.
Don’t be worried! Something huge is coming next week but for now, we are going to dive into this topic hard this week so stay tuned!
See you Wednesday!
P.s I will be delivering even more content to those on my newsletter next week so if your not on it be sure to pick up my free gift today and don’t miss out on what’s to come!