When it comes to chronic lower back pain, breathing, bracing and being able to find YOUR neutral pelvis will always have a HUGE impact on how you recover. The medical industry over complicates and treats back pain as if it’s cancer. They cut away at your discs and fuse the bones together as if the fact that your bones move freely and discs respond to abuse is a bad thing. The “medical professionals” are only here to do one thing and that is to treat the damage, not the cause. Getting long-term relief from chronic lower back pain can be frustrating if you’re trying to do it on your own. You have to know where to start and in what direction to go.
In today’s post (Part II of this series) we are continuing what will go down in history as the number one source for ANYONE looking to take the right steps towards finding freedom from chronic low back pain. Specifically, we will be diving into correcting the way you’re breathing, bracing and locking in a neutral pelvis and how these three being happily married is a necessity for beating chronic low back pain.
The first thought to come to my mind once my acute back pain started turning into chronic pain was DEFINITELY not about learning to move better. Instead if fixing the way I was moving and using my body, I spent hours on Google and YouTube searching for the answer. I was desperately looking for THE stretch or exercise that was going to not only bring me instant relief but offer a lasting solution to my pain. Odds are, you made that same search and guess what usually hits on the top 10 best answers on Google?
Nothing that actually works.
In today’s post, I want to offer you a different approach to your “first few steps” to working towards rehabbing a bad back. There is no reason to sugar coat this and keep talking about stretching this or foam rolling that. We have to address the way you move and use your body. Whether you have been diagnosed with disc issues, coming from a surgery or have zero damage to your spine but chronic lower back pain, over the next few weeks I want to give you an inside look at how you need to unpack your own personal rehab journey.
Today, we cover two entry level techniques that will lay the first layer to your foundation to getting the relief you want.
I don’t know how else to say this so I’m just going to be straight forward. Lower back pain is not a mind over matter type of thing. The pain is very real, it’s not all in your head and guess what…
YOU are the cause of what’s going on.
Not you throwing your back out at practice when you were in high school or slipping on some ice in your driveway 6 years ago. The way you move is what’s causing your pain. (If you want to see 25 of the most common habits check this out). Your movement is junk and unless you learn to do it right, these dysfunctions are going to eat away at your body. I’m not talking about the complex movements you do in the gym or anything spectacular. I am talking about the way you brush your teeth, how you bend to tie your shoes, how you lift your kids, fold the laundry, wrap Christmas presents, the list goes on and on. It’s the things you do hundreds, sometimes thousands of times a day that has gotten you to where you are today.
My vision for the next few weeks is to shed light on what actually is important when it comes to creating your own recovery plan and getting the most long lasting relief possible. I’m not talking about stretches or exercises either. We are going to cover ground zero today and work our way up over the next few weeks.
I’m going to break up this content into small bite-size nuggets so you can focus on one thing at a time. If you’re NOT seeing progress with your own strategy I want you to really consider taking a long hard look at the print offs your PT gave you and reevaluate what you’re doing. Each new article will be separated by one week which will give you 7 days to implement what you have learned before the next progression is covered.
** Warning ** If you are going to be following along with this series and implementing what you see here,
A) Make sure you’re cleared by your doctor to even begin any kind of movement outside of daily life
B) You need to stop ALL extra curricular activities and fully commit to following what this series is about. This means no more exercise, no more intermural sports, no more weekend softball league. Everything needs to stop and you need to focus on healing, desensitizing your lower back and learning to move better.
C) Your recovery is on YOUR schedule. Just because I am posting once a week doesn’t mean your body is ready to progress on a week to week basis. If you need more time, take it. If you are able to progress pain-free, do it.
This series is not meant to be your personalized guide. Every back is different but ALL bad backs need to make sure they have these things covered!
Where to begin to move better when dealing with chronic lower back pain.
“Secret tip”: This stuff needs to be hammered every single day. You need to become obsessed with correcting the things we are going to cover today and for the next few weeks. This is not a “when I can remember” kind of thing. There is no other place to start when it comes to getting control over your pain so this stuff needs to be treated as if it was the cure for cancer. If you still believe more rest is what’s best for your chronic lower back pain, it’s time to face the music.
Desensitizing the lower back
-Turn off your back-
Before you can start ANY rehab program you have to learn to cover the basics of being able to lower the demand on the muscles that are causing you so much pain. The first layer of your foundation is learning to shut things off.
This is a very simple topic and it has to do with how we as humans tend to default when it comes to how we move. The problem with a lot of back pain sufferers is they don’t know how to preserve their tissue. Most of the time their lower back muscles are always “on” which over time leads to greater issues. What I mean by “on” is that they are moving in a way that forces their posterior chain to always be working. It’s not your muscles fault, they are just doing their job. The entire posterior chain is there to counterbalance the anterior chain. When one is working the other has to back off or create balance. You create a problem when one side is super weak and the other has to become hyperactive to make up for what’s going on.
Well, when you don’t know how to shut them off and find balance, something is going to eventually get over-worked.
When it comes to the way you stand, there is a simple technique that I personally use and teach my clients to practice every minute they can. The goal of this technique is learning to shut the lower back off and find a sense of balance in your body.
<<Do this now>>
If you weren’t already, you need to start implementing this 1,000+ times a day minimum…okay, that’s a bit unrealistic but I’m trying to get you to completely reprogram the way you move and use your body. In order to do that you have to understand that what you’re doing now is broken. Practice this technique as soon as you set foot out of bed, while you stand waiting for your coffee to finish, while standing to use the bathroom (for the guys), while talking on the phone with your boss that won’t shut up. Whenever you’re sitting or standing, learn to reset yourself and do it every single day until you don’t even think about it.
-Walk with confidence-
Most people have a bad habit of walking with their head to the ground. Because of this, you will typically see the rest of their upper body favor a more forward flexed position when walking. It’s as if their forward movement is being driven by momentum alone. Whether it’s because you’re deep in thought, love looking at your new yzy’s or scared to step on a crack cus you’ll break yo momma’s back. This habit has got to be broken. Stacking your body segments and being able to carry them in a healthy position is huge when it comes to preserving tissue. If your not in a balanced position, these posterior chain muscles become hyperactive. Remember, Chronic pain is a result of chronic poor movement and positions.
Your one solution to actively addressing this issue is this.
Walk with confidence.
You can see the person in the first image has everything hunched over and looking towards the ground. This doesn’t allow for stacking the body segments the way they should and is causing the back line (back of body) to have to work overtime to keep the body upright and moving forward. This is not an efficient way of moving.
When aiming to correct your posture when walking it simply takes practice and a willingness to make the changes to your daily habits. Over time, just like using the technique to shutting off your lower back muscles, if you actively pursue a better technique with walking, new habits will be formed. All you have to do set reminders for yourself to check your form to ensure you’re on the right track.
So what does “good walking posture” really consist of?
Well, it starts with your feet. This is actually a great video on looking at the feet when it comes to walking properly. Making a few simple intentional changes can be huge.
Just so we know we are making positive changes to our walking technique lets dive in a little deeper and give you some actionable cues to use when trying to improve your lazy style of walking.
<<Do this now>>
To get a better feel for what your feet are doing when walking I recommend practicing outside in your bare feet. Learn to grip the ground with your toes and use the muscles in the foot and leg to make the movements happen. An easy way of remembering this is to always think to use the muscles in your body while you walk “Intentionally”. If you’re looking to dive even deeper into looking at how to balance the body when walking and making sure you’re activating the right muscles and doing things efficiently, this is an easy read that covers just that.
I wanted this first “ice breaker” post to be easy to implement but super powerful. It’s the simplest way of looking at the first few steps you need to take in seeing long lasting results. If this is old news for you and you are already doing everything we talked about, do an audit of these two things and make sure you are actually doing them right, every single day. If you don’t make these changes permanent, you can’t move on to the next stage of your recovery, it’s as simple as that. Stay tuned for next week as we dive into your next stage of gaining more control of your movement and pain management!!
I need your help! I passionately want to reach people just like you and me who are struggling to find solutions to their back pain and don’t want to go the traditional treatment route. I need your support! If you found this article helpful in any way please share it to your social media platforms or with a specific friend in mind. There is so much crap on the internet that back pain sufferers are consuming and implementing every day. Help me make a positive change! Share the wealth! Thank you!
Believe it or not, you can actually make your back injury WORSE by doing the Lat Pull-Down the wrong way. If you’re looking for ways to improve the way you train and promote good health and healing to a bad back, the Lat Pull-Down is another exercise you need to dial in. This week’s video is for anyone who uses the Lat Pull-Down machine or enjoys working in pull-ups into their program. Whether you are a beginner or more advanced lifter, these issues need to be addressed. If you’re doing these wrong, the solution to your pain will always be two steps ahead of you.
A few weeks ago we covered a few other popular back exercises when it comes to common mistakes a lot of back pain sufferers make. If you missed that article you can check it out here. Or just click the image below.
Today, I want to cover the Lat Pull-Down, another super popular exercise that all beginner to advance “exercisers” like to do. Unfortunately, A lot of back pain suffers are told to “strengthen their backs” in order to get rid of their back pain. Not knowing any better, they run to their nearest gym and hop on one of the most well-known machines available. The Lat Pull-Down. It’s a pretty simple movement that just about anyone can mimic, even if they are not taught how to use the machine in the first place.
The problem I have with this is that most back pain sufferers don’t realize that the way they are doing the exercise could be one of the major reasons they can’t kick their chronic pain. Remember, beating back pain is about promoting healthy movements, controlled loads in the gym and progressing only when you can accomplish the movement pain-free. Just because you are doing a back exercise doesn’t mean it’s going to help you combat your pain.
Whether you use this exact machine at your gym, have a home gym set-up with bands or do bodyweight pull-ups. The concepts covered in this video are addressing the same faulty patterns.
This week’s video is on fixing your broken Lat Pull-Down
As you pursue a life that supports healing to your bad back. I encourage you to do a complete audit of your entire training program. We are told constantly by our doctors to just “exercise more”. The scary part about that is we are not given proper instruction on how to do these exercises the right way. Educate yourself and don’t rely on the person next to you at the gym to have a fat clue about what they are doing. You be the expert and take control of your pain!
Help me spread the word and help more back pain sufferers like you and me! Share this with your friends if it helped you in any way! Thanks so much!
Have you ever contemplated buying that magic gel cushion the salesman promised would eliminate all your lower back pain?
Have you ever bought one of those velcro braces to strap around your trunk to give you “extra support” because the doctor who sold it to you said it will help brace your spine?
When it comes to dealing with back injuries or typical back pain, there are things you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to getting relief. I know one of the number one things I have gained experienced with is not relying on a specific back pain product to bring me the relief I want. If you’re dealing with back pain, you need to be aware of the million dollar industry selling products that convince you that their product is the answer
Today, I want to cover 5 common products that back pain suffers purchase in hopes to eliminate their pain that don’t work!
The key to rehabbing a bad back is knowing what is causing the pain and making sure that what you’re doing in the gym isn’t making things worse. Today, we are going to break down the bent over row and target common mistakes back painsufferers typically make. The point of this article is to put your mind at ease when it comes to doing this exercise right. If you are constantly getting weird tweaks in your lower back or something just doesn’t feel right when doing the barbell bent over row. I am going to go over the most common mistakes people make as well as how to fix them and a couple alternative exercises.
When you start talking about stretching or releasing tight muscles like the Psoas (iliopsoas) most people just start looking at you weird and try to redirect your attention back with “what about my tight hamstrings?”. When you’re trying to peel back the many layers to your back pain and you are finally at a place where tissue release is a number one priority. I always suggest you spend some time on your Psoas. Today, I am going to give you everything you need to know when it comes to releasing a tight Psoas. A few minutes every day working on the things covered in today’s video can really make a huge difference in how you feel.
Most people experience the most pain when initiating any kind of forward bending. Everyone’s lower back pain case is different but ALL back pain cases need to understand what it really means to hip hinge and what muscles need to be engaged to prevent reoccurring pain. Don’t trick yourself by throwing a PVC pipe on your back and using that as a bumper. We need to stop just going through the motions of the hip hinge and start optimizing the way we do. You can start with making sure these 2 ingredients are added!
Who this video is for:
If you’re having back pain when bending.
If your lower back feels “unstable” when you bend.
If you are experiencing acute or chronic back pain.
Last week we hit the essential “first steps” to training your lower body while dealing with back pain. I go into detail on the key warm-up drills and exercises I do that help get the muscles I need firing. You can check that out here.
This week we are going to go over the top 5 exercises I use in my lower body workouts to keep my back pain under control and inflammation down. In this article, you’re going to learn what exercises to pick if you’re dealing with lower back pain, why you should pick them and how you can modify them to fit you personally.
Who this article is for
Advanced lifter looking for recovery options and modifications to commonly loaded exercises.
Beginners looking for some basic movements that challenge the lower body but keeps the lower back safe.
Post surgery and rehab patients who are looking to get back into training again but are afraid of doing the “wrong thing”.
Back pain sufferer looking to pick out underlying issues to common exercises they may be doing that are causing them pain.
One of the most common conversations I have with people regarding back pain is how they should train their legs. Some people are in search for ways to train AROUND the pain while others want their form fixed or core strengthened in attempt to reduce or take away the pain. No matter your goals, I am going to spend the next 2 weeks breaking down what works and what doesn’t when it comes to training the legs while you’re dealing with back pain. Today I am going to kick off this series with the exact warm up and muscle activation drills you need to do before you even lift a single weight
There are claims of over 85% of back pain suffers going undiagnosed (McGill) This is a HUGE topic that has been debated for years amongst some of the top physicians in the world. For some, these undiagnosed pains lead to assumptions that the pain is all in our heads. Basically, our brains could be the sole reason we suffer from back pain. It’s crazy to think about but what if it’s true?
Today we are going to focus on 5 things you should focus on if your doctor has diagnosed you with “undiagnosed” back pain.
Diagnosed vs Undiagnosed Pain
The big difference between these two is with diagnosed back pain, a doctor can point to the damage and diagnose you with something like stenosis, herniation, bulge etc. Undiagnosed is when the doctor has nothing to point at to blame for the pain you are in. This can be extremely frustrating especially if the pain you are experiencing is very real.
So, what do you do when the doctor throws his hands up and says ” I don’t know”. Well, for starters you always want to check all other possibilities that may not be physical damage but something else. Your doctor should be able to point you in the right direction to cover those bases.
So, if I am undiagnosed then is it all in my head?
Not exactly. Unfortunately, there are lots of different specialists that look at different potential causes for back pain. Often times surgeons are looking for a specific tissue that could be causing said pain, while physical therapists are looking for certain muscles they can manipulate through manual therapy. Their intentions are good but this could leave someone without direction when it comes to alleviating their pain especially if what they did didn’t work.
The key to dealing with an undiagnosed back disorder is to look over everything with a fine-toothed comb. You can’t just stick with one opinion. There are countless stories of people living with back pain for years due to bad information or a diagnosis that was done outside of the physicians sphere of influence. This sounds crazy but it’s true. Like I always say back pain CANNOT be treated with one technique or practice. You really need to understand the issue.
The reality is, you’re not a doctor so there is only so much you can do BUTT and that’s a big butt. You need to understand the amount of power you DO have. You have way more control over your pain than doctors will lead you to believe.
Let’s say you just left your doctor’s office with an MRI in hand and clearance from all over physicians ruling anything major out. This is what your next steps should look like.
If nothing else, start looking into these 5 things.
Hours and hours of slouching is a recipe for a wrecked back and chronic pain that drugs will only cover for so long. I would invest time and money in getting your posture analyzed and have them point out any dysfunctions you have and immediately start addressing them. Posture is something that has to be attacked DAILY. Be in it for the long hall because it may have taken you 10 years to get to where you are. A few stretches a couple times a week is not going to turn you around within a couple days. Be committed and look at this as a piece to your puzzle!
2. Daily Habits
I talk A LOT about your own personal pain cycle and how important it is to NEVER overlook the small things you do daily. Our pain cycles are all different but they all lead to one thing, back pain. This is the fundamental layer to building a resilient back and learning to control your pain. It’s not just what you do at home. It’s about your home life, work life and everything in between. For more details and examples of the common things you will find in your own pain cycle check this out.
Self-awareness is paramount when working through your own back pain relief program. If you have back pain that means you have created intolerances to specific movements. For example, I have a flexion intolerance with a mild extension intolerance. The extension intolerance is tied to facet joint issues I have had from over extension with heavy lifts growing up and the flexion intolerance is from my poor habits, sitting and lack of glute activation when hinging. I am very aware of what causes my pain but it’s this awareness that has allowed me to desensitize my lower back to the point where it can heal and I can actually see improvement from the other things I do such as core training and soft tissue work.
4. Core Stability and Endurance.
It’s not about strength, it’s about lasting the longest. You use your core all day, the best thing you can do for your lower back is train it in a way that can support your lifestyle. We are so quick to add weight to our backs during planks or add weight during sit ups but anyone can muster up enough strength to hold a position while carrying weight. That does nothing for an 8-hour shift on your feet or your full day on the job site. Take out flexion from your core training and focus on neutral spine work. For more options on training the core check this out.
5. Focus only on the issues.
With the power we have at our fingertips, it’s so easy to get caught up in things like the latest and greatest hamstring or hip flexor stretch or a cool online yoga video for back pain sufferers. I would fall for that crap all the time. I literally remember laying on my back after doing a “yoga stretches for back pain” video in excruciating pain over and over and over. Stretching was not what my body needed but because that’s what I found in my search, I figured it would work for me. If your trusted professional says your posture is jacked up then focus on your posture. I know this is not directly working at the site of your pain but the reality is, the cure for your back pain won’t be found in your lower back. It’s found when the body is able to work together and find balance.
The most common theme I hear the most from back pain sufferers is where do I start to look for a solution? Every back pain case is different but all of these are improvements to your overall daily life that ANYONE can use and find relief doing.
Be patient and persistent!
If you found this article helpful the biggest “Thank You” you could give is sharing this article so that someone you know can start seeing the relief they need. If it helped you it can help someone you know! Help spread the word!
Talk to you soon!
p.s Let me know which one of the above areas has had the biggest impact on your lower back!