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Anyone who is anybody has most likely experienced a moment where they had to discontinue a daily activity due to chronic low back pain. Low back pain is a nagging injury that unlike a sprained ankle or knee does not have many visual signs for colleagues and teammates to empathize, making it all the more frustrating. Also frustrating is how low back pain is acquired, it can come from too much stress or not enough stress, making it a sensitive subject to argue without understanding patient history and daily activities.
Investigating Low Back Pain
Before anyone is prescribed an exercise plan for low back pain, understanding the exact reason for the pain is crucial. For frequent weightlifters, runners and athletes the problem can be overuse or bad form. Weightlifters should be educated before attempting heavy lifts on how to keep a strong posture supported by the core muscles including the erector spinae and gluteal muscles (buttock muscles). In addition the oblique muscles of the abdomen also assist in posturing the spine. Successful weightlifters and athletes understand the importance of targeting these muscles singularly in workouts to recruit their support for the “money muscles” (i.e. legs for sprinters or kicking athletes, arms for pitchers and quarterbacks and other throwing athletes).
As I’ve stated in previous work: the core muscles form the alliance for the upper and lower muscles to work in unison. When athletes and weightlifters overwork the core stabilizers, taking some time off from weightlifting is recommended to allow muscle fibers to heal. Ice can be used to reduce pain and swelling during the first 72 hours, applied heat and a potential visit with the orthopedist is recommended beyond those three days.
Individuals who experience low back pain but can’t blame it on being a “gym rat” have to inspect other leads. Typically with these folks bad posture and gait during daily activities is also the reason for discomfort. However, it is weakness of core muscles, not strain that is contributing the pain. These folks should begin by assessing the pain based on how much of their daily activities are affected by the pain. First of all: stop bending at the waist. If caught soon enough this may be the only measure needed to relieve pain. If you intend to reach for objects of any size and weight that requires bending over, squat instead and lift with your legs. Keep a “lordodic curve” in the low back with the use of your core stabilizers. It may be comical to others watching you squat but its far less funny and painless than what follows the toe-touch style of bending down. However, even perfect posture can produce pain after long bouts of activity.
To reduce pain, ice and rest may help with some simple static stretching that we will touch up on shortly. If the pain is burning, throbbing, shooting down the legs or up the spine it is time to take a time out and visit your orthopedist as well. In the meantime, ice and rest will help alleviate symptoms.