Growing up playing sports it was not uncommon to have injuries. However, I developed chronic low back pain when I was twelve years old…..you read that correctly. Twelve. Way too young to be experiencing chronic pain. Read on to see how I learned 4 easy steps to reduce and prevent low back pain, and some common mistakes people make when trying things at home.
My childhood experience led me to study physical health and wellness. After college I began working at a physical therapy clinic helping patients recover from surgery, chronic pain, and other injuries.
The primary advice I received for my back pain was take pain relievers and stretch. Guidance regarding prevention or the appropriate ways to stretch weren’t even mentioned. No one, let alone a twelve year old kid should be regularly using any medicine like I was. I had to take pain relievers every four hours on game days just to feel up to playing.
Because of the feeling that this couldn’t be the answer I began looking for solutions so I wasn’t just masking my back pain.
Common low back pain prevention mistakes
In this post we will cover some of the ways to reduce and prevent low back pain, but we have to cover some basics. Some common mistakes people make in regards to back pain (more detail below) include:
- Relying on pain relievers and remedies alone,
- Ignoring pains,
- Stretching cold muscles,
- Lack of resistance training to strengthen your muscles (your spine is supported by your glutes, hamstrings, and hips, if those are weak, you will experience back pain), and
- Not cooling down after exercising and stretching.
4 Steps to Reduce and Prevent Low Back Pain
Below are the four steps I use to not only relieve back pain, but can reduce the likelihood of it.
Step 1: Properly warm up your muscles
If you are experiencing back pain and you start stretching out of the blue, you may cause more harm to your back. You HAVE to warm up and get the blood flowing in any area you want to stretch. Warm muscles are more elastic and can therefore stretch better than cold ones. Cold muscles will strain when you stretch them. Much like the tight feeling you may feel after you have been sitting for an extended period and get up to walk across the room. Avoid causing more pain by warming up properly.
How to warm up (pick one method):
- Use a heating pad (10-15 minutes laying on a heating pad to loosen up those muscles),
- Take a warm shower, or
- Take a 10-15 minute brisk walk or run
Next up, stretching those low back muscles.
Step 2: Stretch properly
What not to do when stretching:
- Pushing through sharp pain (if you ever have sharp pain, stop stretching);
- Not holding a stretch long enough (use a timer and hold your stretches for 30-45 seconds;
- Poor posture during stretching (you may not achieve a full or proper stretch while simultaneously straining other muscles while sitting or laying improperly).
Tip: Try stretching in a mirror or having someone watch and correct your form.
My Low Back Stretching Routine (PDF):
Use the PDF linked (made at HEP2GO.com) above to see how to do these stretches:
- Glute squeezes
- Knee Rocks
- Hip Flexor
Directions: Hold each for 30 seconds, each side and repeat 3 times. I also recommend if you get good relief from these to repeat these 2-3 times a day. If you get really sore, try once per day until you build up to 2-3 times a day.
You can feel either mild discomfort or even relief during these low back stretches.
Once you have completed all these stretches three times, then you can move on to the next step, strengthening your muscles.
Step 3: Strengthen your muscles
Things to remember when you begin strengthening your muscles:
- Make sure you use enough resistance
- Include resistance training on a regular basis
- Make sure you practice good form while doing exercises (straight back, shoulders back, etc.)
Check out these exercises for low back pain:
- Supine hip bridges
- Bodyweight squats
- Calf raises
- 4-way hip (use a band for resistance!)
- Walking lunges
- Side-lying clams (use a band for resistance!)
Directions: 10-15 minutes, repeat 2-3 times through.
Contact us for a PDF or videos of each exercise with proper form.
Once you complete the warmup, stretching and strengthening, then all that’s left is to cool down.
Step 4: Cool down after stretching
Since you will be doing a lot of work with an area causing you pain, you will want to apply ice for 10-15 minutes directly on your back to reduce the blood flow to those muscles for a bit. This will help reduce inflammation in the area from all the hard work you just accomplished. Check out my favorite ice packs to use!
Quick tip: Do an ice massage! Get a paper cup and fill it with water. Freeze it. Once frozen rub directly on the area of pain in circular motions for 8 minutes. It will burn and ache, but then feel numb. Do this once up to 3 times per day. Its worth the slight discomfort for longer relief where you are experiencing the most discomfort!
Additional tools and resources for helping relieve low back pain:
- Foam Rollers
- Chirp Rollers (my husband’s favorite after sitting at a desk all day)
- Light dumbbells for at home strength training
- Deflame Diet Book reducing inflammatory foods in your diet can also bring pain relief
- Sleep Better With Lower Back Pain with some tips from one of our partners
Special note: Always consult a doctor when experiencing any kind of pain before beginning a new exercise regimen. None of the advice in this article is meant to replace medical advice and is the opinion of the author only.
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