I’m pretty sure everyone has experienced low back pain in some form or another. From waking up a little stiff in the morning, to crippling pain that makes it difficult to walk.
Chills run down my spine every time I think about all of the issues I’ve had (if you know my story, then you get it), but I remember this one time, my wife and I had a trip planned for this huge UFC 100 weekend in Las Vegas (yeah, that’s how long ago it was!). I don’t know if it was the flight out there that triggered the issue, but I just remember hobbling around the entire 5 days, hunched over and trying to walk with the worst back spasm of my life. Fortunately, I had my wife to lean on (and many Fat Tuesday’s frozen 190 Octane drinks) to keep me going.
That was enough to get me through the weekend but I needed to find a solution once and for all so I could not just get rid of the low back pain, but do something to keep it from coming back. That’s why I’ve put together this guide to give you a quick rundown on low back pain so you can better understand the cause, along with 2 amazing exercises that will get your low back on the road to rock star status!
WHAT CAUSES LOW BACK PAIN
The problem with low back pain is that there tends to be a long list of what actually causes it. However, the two biggest culprits are weakness and lack of mobility in the spine. Yep, you read that last part right, lack of mobility in the spine is one of the biggest contributors to low back pain. What make matters worse, is some people choose to get their lower back fused…which leads to even worse lower back mobility. Luckily, orthopedics are starting to do less and less fusions, which is a great sign that the health and fitness industries are understanding the issue better.
WILL LOW BACK PAIN GO AWAY ON ITS OWN?
Most of the time when someone hurts their lower back, the first inclination is to just let it rest. This sounds good in theory, since after a few days the symptoms will calm down, but unfortunately the problem is still there, lurking in the background waiting for the perfect time to strike (like my big Vegas trip).
Resting alone is not going to solve the problem. I’m not saying don’t take it easy for a few days if your back is acting up. But just know that you have to start working on your strength and mobility of the spine if you want to make positive change.
WHAT NOT TO DO FOR LOW BACK PAIN
Now let’s talk about some of the worst things to do when your lower back is all jacked up. Hyperextending (think bringing the top of your tailbone closer to your ribs, or chest out butt out position) will fire that thing up so fast and not in a good way. What’s strange though is when you first do this, it kind of feels good, but it also kind of pinches...but it still feels good.
Avoid excessive extension of the lower back at all costs. All you're doing is jamming vertebrae together which will inevitably make things way worse. I'll go into more detail when I describe the exercise below, but just know you can’t cause any pain or pinching when dealing with the lower back if you want to reduce pain or tightness.
HOW TO RELIEVE LOW BACK PAIN
As I mentioned earlier, the only way to relieve low back pain is by getting all the tissues along the spine to move more efficiently (mobility) while simultaneously strengthening those tissues. For years we’ve been told that our spine must be straight and rigid when doing everything in life. If that actually worked, the low back epidemic would have gone away a long time ago. Unfortunately, you still see people doing dead bugs, bird dogs and planks, which are great exercises, but they don’t improve the mobility. I like to say you need your spine to be rigid like cement, but also fluid like a snake. One of these alone is not going to cut it folks.
THE BEST EXERCISE FOR LOW BACK PAIN
All right guys, it’s time to get to the reason all of you are here. The exercises we’re going to use to relieve your low back pain is a two parter. First we’ll use a mobility exercise called Spine CARs, which will focus on the mobility component to get the spine moving and grooving. If you don’t know what CARs are, do yourself a favor and check out this blog ASAP.
Follow along with the first video below and perform 5 reps up and back. Work on trying to move each vertebra one by one (way harder than it sounds). When going into extension (chest up, eyes up, and butt lifted to the sky), be sure not to overdo it. As I mentioned earlier, it may feel kind of good, but do not do this! If you feel any pinching in the lower back, just cut your range of motion a little shorter.
Next up, it’s time to strengthen that tissue around your spine. For that, we’ll use Pails and Rails, which is a fancy way of saying isometric contractions at our end ranges of motion. Follow along with the video and work on feeling the muscles responsible for those actions. Keep your intensity below a 5/10 the first few times you go through this. Some of these actions will feel very strange at first, but just like anything, practice makes perfect. At the end, finish up with a few more Spine CARs from the first video and you should feel not only like you have a little more range, but you’ll feel more connected to what’s going on.
Moving forward you can do the Spine CARs multiple times a day, every single day. As for the Pails and Rails I would suggest 2-3 times per week and slowly ramp up the intensity after a few weeks.
LOW BACK FRIENDLY EXERCISE ALTERNATIVES
On the topic of not doing anything that causes pain or pinching in your low back, I've put together resources with low back friendly alternatives for common exercises that can cause pain. Note: This is not a pass to skip the exercises above but should hopefully give you relief if you still want to lift.
GET MORE LOWER BACK RELIEF
If you’re always feeling your lower back then you'll love a hip mobility exercise I have for you that will blast through any pain you're experiencing. Click the link below to get my must-have mobility tools that will help you get to work on this. It’s free so don’t miss it.
ABOUT COACH MATT PIPPIN
Matt is a Strength and Mobility Coach with over 15 years experience in his field and has coached over a thousand professional, collegiate and everyday athletes with the goal to help them move, feel and perform at their highest level. He's incredibly passionate about bringing simple and effective online mobility training programs to everyone who wants to take control of their self care and make lasting change. CLICK HERE to learn more.
NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Level 3: Fascial Stretch Specialist
Level 1: Institute of Motion Health Coach
Certified FRC Mobility Specialist (FRCms)
Level 1 Kinstretch Instructor
Weck Method Qualified