The body thrives on balance. Our muscles and joints are happiest when they are getting equal and total range of motion. The spine is no different and since it’s range of motion is smaller than most other joints, imbalances can be felt more intensely.
The spine requires the stability of the supporting muscles that surround it to keep up upright and mobile. When a link in this system is weak, the body will compensate in order to expend the least amount of energy.
A common issue seen causing that dreaded lower back is due to tight hip flexors, tight spinal erectors, accompanied by weak abs and glutes, also referred to as the lower cross syndrome. The tightness of the body in one area causes another area of the body to become weak.
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” – Buddhist Proverb
So how do you fix or prevent this? Here are four things you can do today to make sure your glutes are firing, your core is tight, and your hips and back muscles stay strong but supple.
- Single leg glute bridges, to strengthen the core & glutes. Aim for 3 sets of 15 on each side. Plant the bottom of your feet and palms firmly on the floor. Stack knees above ankles. Lift one foot off the ground and perform a single glute bridge with the other, pressing firmly into your palms, shoulders, and foot to take any pressure off the neck. Try to get the hips as high as possible, then lower to the ground.
- Couch Stretch, loosen the tight hip flexors Aim for 2 minutes on each side. Using a couch or a bench, get into a low lunge in front of your object of choice, and the goal of this stretch is to use the front leg to support your weight as you put your back foot on a couch or bench and get your knee as close to the couch or bench as possible to stretch the hip of the back leg.
- Supine single-leg twists to loosen the tight muscles in the lower back.Lay on your back, hands out to a T, and legs together, bring your right knee up to your chest and let it fall to the left side of your body. Try to keep the spine stacked in a straight line. Repeat on the left leg, bringing left knee to chest then letting it fall to your right, knee resting on the ground or a block. Spend at least a minute on each side.
- Cat and Cow. In a quadruped position (hands and knees on the floor), start by extending your spine as much as possible without bending your arms (cow). The key things to feel in the cow position are, a nice stretch in abdomen/anterior (front) side of your body and a nice contraction in all of the muscles on the posterior (back) side. From cow, slowly transition into cat. In cat you are going to slowly contract your anterior core muscles till you start to feel your back round and your posterior muscles start to stretch. This exercise is a great way to wake up spinal range of motion and flexibility. Complete 3 sets of 45 seconds of work on a daily or every other day basis.
Incorporate these four exercises and stretches into your routine to help ease and prevent lower back pain. As always if anything causes pain, don’t do it and always consult your doctor before trying new things.