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6 Exercises That Stop Back Pain

Updated: May 14

Office Worker displaying signs of lower back pain

Back pain is an all-too-common affliction for Australians, with a staggering number grappling with it daily. But it doesn't have to be this way! In this post, we'll explore the essential know-how to stretch, activate, and mobilise the areas of your body prone to discomfort. Rest assured, you're not alone in this struggle. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics,

"3.7 Million Australians have back problems. It is estimated that 70-90% of people with suffer from lower back pain in their lifetime."

But why does back pain persist for so many? It all comes down to our movement patterns—those ingrained ways our bodies naturally move, shaped by repetition or lack thereof. Have you ever adjusted your walk to ease an ankle injury? That's a change in your movement pattern right there. Over time, our daily activities, like long hours at a desk, can lead to imbalanced muscle activation and poor movement mechanics, setting the stage for inflammation and pain.


But fear not! The good news is that you can address these issues head-on with targeted corrective stretching, exercise techniques, and even dietary tweaks. In my years of training individuals with chronic back pain, I've found that it's often not just about the initial injury but rather about addressing underlying movement and muscle recruitment patterns.


So, what are these common culprits behind chronic back pain, and how can you combat them? Stick around as we explore three key reasons and the techniques to alleviate them once and for all.

 

3 MAIN CAUSES OF BACK PAIN

  1. Systemic Inflammation

  2. Over-Active Hips & Weak Core

  3. Tight Hips & Weak Glutes

 

STOP SYSTEMIC INFLAMMATION

Our dietary choices significantly influence our overall health, dictating the level of inflammation coursing through our bodies. A diet abundant in "pro-inflammatory" foods can wreak havoc on vulnerable joints and body regions. These foods often include common culprits of intolerances. Consuming food your body is intolerant to triggers a low-grade immune response, setting off a cascade of inflammatory markers.


Intolerances essentially prompt your body to heighten its inflammatory response in defence. If you've ever felt symptoms like pain, fatigue, digestive issues, brain fog, or sleep disturbances post-meal, they may stem from something you've eaten. This state of heightened inflammation stiffens the body and renders areas more prone to pain.

Moreover, overeating exacerbates systemic inflammation, emphasising our eating habits. It's astonishing how many individuals find significant relief from pain simply by adjusting their diets.


Here are some common symptoms of systemic inflammation to watch out for:

  • Pain

  • Fatigue

  • Digestive Issues

  • Brain Fog

  • Sleep Problems


To help mitigate inflammation, avoid pro-inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, processed sugar, alcohol, and processed vegetable oils. Instead, opt for foods known to reduce inflammation, such as whole grains, natural foods, vegetables, fruits, and fatty fish like salmon.


These recommendations are drawn from the insights of experts like Roma Pahwa and Ishwarial Jailal, as detailed in their work "Chronic Inflammation" (published October 28, 2018).

 

OVERACTIVE HIPS & WEAK CORE

In today's sedentary society, it's common to encounter individuals struggling with tight hip flexors. The culprit? Prolonged periods of sitting inevitably shorten these vital muscles. Over time, this chronic shortening leads to tightness that persists even when not seated.


When weak abdominal, oblique, and inner core muscles are added to the mix, you have a recipe for back pain waiting. But here's the catch: the solution isn't to resort to sit-ups. Engaging in traditional core exercises like sit-ups may inadvertently exacerbate the issue by overactivating tight hip flexors while neglecting the deeper core muscles.


Enter the McGill Big 3, a trio of exercises crafted by renowned expert Dr Stuart McGill, founder of Backfitpro (2019). These exercises target and activate the core muscles without putting undue strain on the hip flexors, offering a more practical approach to building core strength and alleviating back pain.




Bird Dog







Side Plank







Modified McGill Curl-Up



 

TIGHT HIPS & WEAK GLUTES

Tight hips are often a contributing factor to back pain. They restrict joint mobility, putting additional strain on the lower back as it compensates for the limited range of motion.


One effective strategy to combat tight hips is regular stretching, explicitly targeting the hip muscles. The Seated Figure-four hip stretch is a simple yet highly beneficial stretch that can conveniently be performed at your desk. I frequently advise clients who spend extended periods sitting to incorporate this stretch into their daily sitting routine every 30 minutes, and the outcomes are consistently positive. This stretch addresses tightness in the lateral hip muscles and targets the Piriformis, an essential muscle in the gluteal region.





Seated Glute Stretch




Regarding targeting the glutes, two exercises are my go-to for activation and strengthening: Glute Raises for the Hip Extensors and Clam Shell for the External Rotators. Strengthening these muscles is crucial for maintaining optimal movement patterns throughout the body.


The Glute Raises effectively target the hip extensors, while the Clam Shell exercise hones in on the external rotators. By bolstering the strength and mobility of these muscle groups, you're enhancing your hips' functionality and promoting better overall movement mechanics.




Glute Raises







Clam Shells



 

To wrap up, adopting a low-inflammatory diet, prioritising prior core and glutes, and incorporating regular hip-stretching routines can significantly alleviate pain for many individuals. However, it's essential to recognise that the journey to pain relief is unique. While these strategies prove adequate for most, some may not experience immediate relief. In cases where pain persists despite these efforts, a personalisation tailored to individual needs may be necessary to address stubborn pain and achieve lasting relief.



Fortify Your Back Program


As mentioned previously, this program has been tailored to help anyone improve their back pain. We have had great success fixing scoliosis, bulged discs, neural pain, you name it, this "skeleton" program acts as a guide to help you successfully maneuver from a debilitating back to fully functioning and thriving.


As mentioned this is a skeleton which means, "rough guide".

We have had some people complete it as is; however, following the instructions and remaining in the current phase until you can comfortably achieve all prescribed exercises without pain will be your key to success. Moving on too soon could exacerbate symptoms or even bring back the injury; your body is not yet ready.


Our best recommendation is to follow the instructions below to access the plan and then show your physiotherapist or assigned health professional for clearance before attempting this program.


The programs are set up on the Trainheroic Software, which is free. You can download the application here if you do not already have it on your phone.



Once you have set up your account, type the 'Program Code' into the 'Enter Access Code' section, and you can freely follow the program.


Program Code: nomorebackpain


We would love to hear how the program was for you and are happy to offer more guidance and help if required, you can contact us in the messages section on the program.




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