by Zeinab Ndow, BSc Kin
Low back pain (LBP) is a very common issue that impacts many of us. There are a multitude of factors that influence the incidence of LBP, such as workplace ergonomics, acute incidents, and muscular weakness and joint irregularities.
There are ways to prevent the incidence of this injury, as well as stretches and exercises that can help lessen the discomfort as well as strengthen the surrounding muscles.
To address workplace ergonomics that may contribute to LBP, make sure if you are seated at a desk, that you opt for a chair with support that contours to the curvature of your lower and upper spine, or add a lumbar roll pillow to the chair. You should not be leaning too far forward or too far back. Be sure to also take frequent breaks from sitting, at least once an hour!
If your job is physically demanding, and requires heavy lifting, make sure that you are lifting with the proper technique. This means approaching the load or item squarely if possible, (not at an angle, or not bending sideways to lift), feet shoulder width apart, and securing a solid grip. When you lift, bend at your knees and lift upwards, by powering through your legs, driving the floor away with your feet, keeping the load as close to you as possible. Do not hinge at your hip or round your spine as you lift. Your spine should remain neutral and stacked throughout the duration of the lift. If the item is too heavy, do not attempt to lift it on your own, instead, ask for help.
Because the body is so interconnected, when there is weakness in one region, that region and others nearby may become more susceptible to injury. In some cases, LBP can be linked to weakness in the glutes and abdominal region. Because the low back is directly above the glutes, and directly opposite to the abdominals, if those regions are weak, the muscles in the low back may compensate and potentially get tight, and become more vulnerable to muscle spasms and discomfort. This is known as lower-crossed syndrome.
Below are a few exercises to help relieve the discomfort and tightness that you may feel in your low back:
- Lumbar rotation stretch:
Lie on your back. Slowly twist through your hips and bring one leg so it is rotated over the other leg and bent at the knee at 90 degrees. Let the arm on the same side as the bent knee hang off to the side to feel the full stretch, and place your other arm on the bent knee, gently push down on the knee and twist through your lower back. Hold on each side for at least 30 seconds.
- Posterior pelvic tilting:
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Find a neutral position for your pelvis. Slowly tuck your pelvis under, by squeezing your glutes. Return back to neutral. Repeat this 10x.
- Cat & Cow:
Get on your hands and knees.
For cat: slowly round through your spine by pulling your belly button towards your spine.
For cow: arch through your spine by tilting your pelvis forward and bringing your glutes into the air.
Try these exercises 10x.
*if either of these movements reproduces symptoms, adjust the range or try only the opposite movement.
Below are a few exercises to strengthen the abdominal and gluteal region:
- Glute bridges
Lie on your back with similar positioning to the pelvic tilt. To start this exercise, tilt the pelvis under, the same as the pelvic tilt exercise, and raise your glutes upwards, squeezing them together during the ascent and at the top. Slowly lower your glutes and repeat. Try this exercise 10x
- Side plank
Lie on your side, knees and hips stacked, leaning on one elbow. Place a towel or pillow under the elbow if this is uncomfortable. Slowly raise your hips upwards, maintaining a straight line in your torso from your head to your knees. Hold this for 30seconds. Repeat on the other side.
- Bird dog
Get onto your hands and knees. Slowly raise one arm forward in front of you, and the opposite leg behind you. Make sure your hips and aligned, and extend through your spine, making sure the entire spine is in line (ie. don’t crane your neck upwards). Squeeze your glute as you lift your back leg. Repeat this on the other side. Try this exercise 10x.
For more guidance on exercises, book an appointment with one of our kinesiologists, or for treatment to address low back pain, book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists.