To Beat Back Pain…Strengthen Your Core

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I recently received this question which I thought reflected a general consensus among most people whether postpartum, amateur athlete, or the average joe who spends most of his time in an office chair…

Since being pregnant, breast feeding, and now carrying my baby around all the time I have a lot of lower back pain.  I know it’s important to strengthen my core in order to strengthen my back, but am not sure the best ways to go about actually doing this without needing a heating pad every night.

I can relate to back pain!!!  When I was 19 years old I ran 6 miles about 3 times a week, worked out almost every day, and played in competitive volleyball tournaments on weekends.  One day during a tournament I jumped up to hit the ball, landed, and felt this horrendous pain shooting through my lower back.  I could not stand up straight or lie down without excruciating pain.  I had to go to the emergency room!  I was given muscle relaxers and pain killers but no explanation as to what this pain was!  Later I learned that I had extremely weak core muscles causing extreme stress on my lower back which eventually lead to severe muscles spasms and soft tissue damage.  I’m telling you…back pain is NO JOKE!!!!  Whether an athlete, new mother, or moderately active person… you should aim to have a strong core and learn to engage it properly, protect your back, and keep you on your feet!

An article from Web MD states: About 25% of Americans are affected by back pain in a given year, and they spend more time at the doctor’s office for back pain than for any other medical condition except high blood pressure and diabetes.

Instead of jumping for pills or surgery, says Kelly, people with chronic back pain should first seek out a thorough functional assessment from a qualified trainer with experience in sports medicine.

Some main causes of back pain are:

  • Poor posture and alignment
  • Weak core muscles
  • Improper use of core muscles
  • Structural damage like a herniated or ruptured disk

If there is no structural damage, the keys to alleviating lower back pain are:

  • Posture (during all exercise and during regular life)
  • Core Strength Exercises
  • Training the Nervous system to fire muscles correctly

Why does core strength matter: Your core is made up of muscles ligaments and tendons.  The structure of the back & core is made up of bone, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.  There are a multitude of factors that can impact these elements to cause lower back pain.

4 exercises to strengthen your core:

Side Plank: The side plank requires alignment and core activation to be done correctly. Lineup ear, shoulder, hip, knee & ankle, draw navel in, and hold the position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. DSC_6010
Side Angle Pose: Side angle pose is a yoga pose requiring balance, leg strength, and core activation. I am not a yoga teacher or expert, just a participant so I have included a link  with instructions to help you do this pose. DSC_6005
Plank Using Exercise Ball: Plank using an exercise ball requires shoulder strength and core activation. Line up ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle, draw navel in, and hold for 30 -60 seconds. DSC_6032
Chest Press Using Exercise Ball: Chest press using an exercise ball requires core stability, upper body strength, and balance.  It’s a great exercise to help you learn to activate the core during strength training. DSC_6053

You should not feel lower back pain during any of these exercises.  If you do, they are too advanced or you are holding them too long.  If you have chronic back pain, I recommend scheduling a session or two with a qualified exercise specialist just to focus on core strengthening exercises, flexibility, and posture.  With the right professional, it can dramatically improve your core strength and reduce lower back pain.  Let me know if you would like more information about this by sending an email to: Jes@jesreynolds.com!

Back & Core Strengthening Exercises

If you deal with chronic or acute back pain, it can be debilitating.  One minute you are in your normal fitness routine and the next minute you are hunched over or leaning to one side just so you can walk comfortably.  Back pain is very common and it can also be very severe.  Even minor “pulls”, “spasms” or “injuries” can be debilitating and when things are severe (like bulging and herniated disks, it’s even worse!)

Not only can the pain be difficult to manage, but it can also leave a person feeling confused as to what exercises they can do or fearful of doing any at all!  If you have regularly occurring  back pain, you should consult your physician or physical therapist about the nature of the injury before taking action.  They will probably give you some back strengthening exercises and stretching to prevent recurrence and improve overall core strength.  Regularly performing these exercises is an important practice for staying mobile, preventing injury and managing back pain.

Today I found a fantastic YouTube video that demonstrates some excellent back & core strengthening exercises, practicing some of these every day or even every other day will fit perfectly into any strength training workout.  The video is done by a personal trainer and offers a good explanation of about ten exercises. It’s about 8 minutes long and the exercises are demonstrated in quick succession. If you are serious about performing some of these exercises, you may want to take a quick set of notes or watch it a few times in a row.

Toward the end of the video, he demonstrates some exercises and suggests they should be excluded from your back routine for 4-6 weeks. I am not really sure of his reason for avoiding these exercises, but if you decide to follow his recommendations exactly, let me know about your results.

Including two or even three different exercises everyday or every other day along with two or three stretches is something I highly recommend, especially if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You are over 21 years old.
  • You have had back pain at any time during your life.
  • You regularly participate in sports that require jumping, cutting, running, or sprinting.
  • You have a job that requires a lot of sitting.
  • You perform heavy lifting on a regular basis.

So that basically includes 95% of the people living in the United States! I’m serious, take notes on a few of these exercises and do them! You’ll thank me…If you already do your exercises and still have chronic back pain, you should definitely consult with a medical professional before doing any type of strenuous exercise.

I often work with clients who experience back pain.  I can say that it has really helped them to have the guidance and knowledge of a professional when performing exercises.  If you want to learn how to strengthen your core, manage chronic conditions, and prevent injuries contact me at jes@jesreynolds.com and we can set up an appointment!

A Simple Way to Alleviate Lower Back & Neck Pain

When I answer questions about fitness or even when I am working with clients, it amazes me how often the exercises cause lower back pain. The truth is a good fitness plan, one that includes flexibility, core exercises, strength training and lower back exercises should help alleviate back pain (or get rid of it permanently)!

People just assume that lower back pain is a natural and normal part of exercise and daily life…NOT TRUE! If you perform exercises correctly and develop a balanced program that incorporates the important aspects of fitness (functionality, mobility, core strength, muscular balance, flexibility, etc) you should have no back pain during exercise at all!

Remember, an important component to any core strength training program is having a balanced program. Your plan for a stronger core must include back strengthening exercises, reduce lower back pain, and generally alleviate back shoulder, and neck pain. Here is a brief video (done by my fitness hero CJ) that demonstrates some simple techniques to alleviate back, shoulder, and neck pain. Let me know what you think!



Managing Injuries and Chronic Pain While Staying Active

It’s not uncommon for people to lose focus due to painful knees or because they can’t seem to find the right back pain solution.  Its as if injuries and chronic pain cast a paralyzing spell on us that causes us to become more and more afraid that there is no viable solution.  We become depressed and stop playing our favorite sports because we don’t know what to do, or we’ve received a partial (or just plain inadequate) diagnosis that tells us our days of sports and fun are over.

How discouraging is that?  Especially for those of us who are athletic and have a true love for active living!

Things like migraines, arthritis, back pain, knee injuries, & fibromyalgia are some of the common maladies that prevent people from staying active and maintaining their health plan. When an injury or illness presents itself, you are challenged in two ways. First you must address the condition itself and on top of that you have to manage the frustration of being immobilized and diverted from your health plan.

The most important thing to remember when you are dealing with an injury or chronic pain is to first seek the medical attention you need to manage your condition. If you’ve already seen a medical professional regarding your condition and you’ve received diagnosis, then hopefully you have the information you need to heal.

In addition to traditional medicine or physical therapy, there are a variety of alternative therapies available to you. Therapeutic massage in Shenzhen, Chiropractors, vitamins and natural herbs have become increasingly popular because they encourage the body to heal on it’s own and they are non-invasive. If you are working through and injury, the right personal trainer may be the very thing you need. A well trained personal trainer will understand how far you can push yourself without making our injury worse. In addition, you’ll learn specific stretches and exercises that will promote balanced muscular development.

Many people are of the attitude that they can work through the injury on their own (I know I am). In one sense it’s an asset to be this way, because mental attitude, belief, and faith are such an important part of healing and overcoming challenges. But this attitude can also be a drawback though because it often leads to stupid choices that make your injury worse (that’s me!).

Dealing with back pain, an injury or illness requires a delicate balance of determination and wisdom. We need determination to overcome the problem and wisdom to know how to address it properly. So often in our stupid pride we keep ourselves from simple solutions that professionals can easily provide. Instead of suffering through the pain or accepting chronic pain as a way of life, make the choice to learn about your condition and the possible solutions that are available to you. Do your best everyday and never give up on yourself!


Core Strength Training To Reduce Back Pain & Injuries

Neglecting proper training of the core and lower back can potentially develop into a muscular imbalance (meaning on side is stronger or more dominant than another) or extreme weakness of the core which often causes an improper pelvic and spinal position during activity.  This improper position and muscular weakness causes excessive or uneven force to your spine and according to Hodges PW, Richardson CA, a researcher indexed in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, a weak or poorly controlled core has been linked to low back pain and increased risk of injury.

Since back muscles control movements such as extension and flexion of the spine and trunk rotation, core strength training, specifically for the lower back, is an important part of any well balanced workout routine.  The stronger and more correctly balanced the core muscles are, the less the uneven strain on the spine.  Why is it then, that core training (unless it’s abs or crunches) and flexibility is often an afterthought when it comes to putting together your weekly workout plan?

For me, even though I love core exercises and core strength training, I find it very easy to skip the stretching of the lower back and core. The exercises are kind of boring, I don’t get overly fatigued, and it takes time away from other fun exercises like running, jumping rope, or weight training.

The only way I can motivate myself to make an effort to perform lower back strengthening and stretching on a regular basis is to remind myself that it helps prevent fluke injuries and develops my body strength in a balanced way and to schedule it on a certain day, like Saturday, when I know I have more free time.  It helps me stay motivated enough to do the exercises at least once per week.

While searching the web, I found two reference articles you can use as guides to incorporating lower back exercises into your routine. The first article demonstrates back strengthening exercises with the use of an exercise ball. The second article shows lower back stretches and strengthening moves you can do at home, without any equipment.

Strategies for incorporating these exercises into your workouts

*Perform the lower back stretches and back strengthening exercises between difficult sets (as a rest period).

*Rotating between challenging core exercises and easier lower back exercises at the end or beginning of your workout.

*Lower Back exercises and stretching at the end of my workout as a cool-down.

In addition to preventing injuries, improving strength and flexibility of abdominal and back muscles helps to stabilize the spine and make it easier to maintain correct posture. Five or ten minutes a week of invested time can prevent injuries that can require weeks of slow recovery and continual pain (I know about this very well). Instead of ignoring the importance of these exercises, just give in and do them! You’ll thank me!

If you do your exercises and still have chronic back pain, you might want to check out this website I found that deals with rehabilitation and natural pain management.