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Stretches to Relieve Lower Back Pain

Just how common and prevalent is low back pain?

According to the Cleveland Clinic:

"Around four out of five people have lower back pain at some point in their lives. It’s one of the most common reasons people visit healthcare providers."

And according to the CDC:

"Low Back Pain is Very Common, Causing More Disability Around the World Than Any Other Condition. In one study, it was the most common type of pain reported by patients, with 25% of U.S. adults reporting LBP in the prior 3 months."

AND

"Despite an overall lack of evidence to support its efficacy, opioids continue to be prescribed to treat acute Low Back Pain when patients seek medical evaluation. In one study, 13.7% of 2017 visits for acute Low Back Pain covered by private insurance were associated with an opioid prescription."

According to an NIH study conducted over a 14 year period, incidents of low back pain more than doubled from 1992 - 2006. 

Low back pain continues to be on the rise, even though so many treatments have been employed to try and solve it. There could be a number of factors for this, an aging population that wants to stay active longer than pervious generations, a greater incidence of people actually reporting their back pain, and of course increases in sedentary lifestyle. 

What are the traditional Treatments?

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Medications: 

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers 
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Topical pain relievers 
  • Narcotics
  • Antidepressants

Physical Therapy: 

A physical therapist can teach you exercises to increase your flexibility, strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, and improve your posture. Regular use of these techniques can help keep pain from returning. Physical therapists will also provide education about how to modify your movements during an episode of back pain to avoid flaring pain symptoms while continuing to be active.

Surgeries: 

  • Cortisone injections
  • Radiofrequency neurotomy
  • Implanted nerve stimulators
  • Surgery

Alternative Therapies:

  • Chiropractic care
  • Acupuncture
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Massage
  • Yoga

What we think at Bendable Body:

When it comes to any kind of pain, injury or even illness in the body, at Bendable Body we know that on the muscular level there is an associated muscle (or more than 1) that stopped shortening. That is an explanation you won't often hear. However, perhaps given how many people are unsuccessfully solving their back pain with all of the traditional methods out there... an alternate explanation is just want is needed. 

There are a few muscle groups that could be impacting your low back pain. In addition to impacting the low back, they are impacting the hips, glutes, knees, knees, ankles and shoulders. 

  • Medial Hamstring
  • Central Hamstring 
  • Lateral Hamstring
  • IT band
  • Latissimus Dorsi

So why do we associate these particular muscles with low back pain? It all has to do with fascia and the pelvis and the spine and the way in which they are impacting one another.

If you look at this image above of three hamstring muscles, the latissimus dorsi and the IT Band, you can see that one thing they all have in common is their attachment at the pelvis.

When any one of these muscles (or a combination of) becomes hard and stiff with an accumulation of unhealthy fascia, they stop working and moving. It's most common for muscles to stop shortening. Particularly when we sit too long and are hunched over at a desk or computer, we train all of these muscles to be perpetually lengthened and not shorten.

When this happens, the shear force of the muscle with all of that hard fascia in it, pulls the pelvis out of alignment. The most common form of a mis aligned pelvis that we see in Western Cultures is a flexed pelvis. This is a forward tilted pelvis. When the pelvis is stuck in a flexed position, it creates compression in the low back and low back pain. 

The fastest home remedy for low back pain and most long lasting solution is to address it at the root cause - the dense fascia that has accumulated in the above muscle groups. 

What exercises to do for low back pain and exercises ect to avoid with lower back pain?

If you want instant relief for low back pain, your best bet is lateral hamstring stretches, also associated with the bladder meridian. This muscle group is most prone to unhealthy fascia, so if you can make a change to that the chances of immediate relief are strong. Beyond that there are a number of other stretches to help lower back pain for the central and medial hamstrings, the IT band (especially if the low back pain is radiating from side to side) and the latissimus dorsi muscles in the upper body.

In terms of left / right / middle low back pain stretches, your best best it stretch the muscles in both legs and not focus on one side more than another. The reason for this is that where you feel the symptom (say for example more on the left side of the low back verses the right side of low back) doesn't mean that is where you should focus your stretching. The root cause of your low back pain is dense hard fascia in your legs that you can't feel at all. So focus on both legs no matter which part of your low back you have the pain. 

Exercises (and movements) to avoid when you have low back pain is anything that causes further compression in your spine or over stretches your spine. Examples would be: squats, forward bends, downward dog, sitting too much, back bends, excessive twisting at the waist. 

Watch this video and learn the best stretches for lower back pain: 

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