Aches and pains in the lower back can make even the simplest of activities practically unbearable. Some of the common causes of back pain include: poor posture, incorrect exercise technique, inactivity, your working environment, lack of flexibility and obesity. Thankfully there are some simple things you can do right now to start ridding yourself of back pain and living a happier pain-free existence.
1. STRENGTHEN YOUR TRANSVERSE ABDOMINIS MUSCLES
These are your deep abdominal muscles. They lie under the obliques and rectus abdominis muscle groups six-pack muscles. The transverse abdominis are responsible for core musculature and help stabilize the pelvis and lower back. The best exercises to begin with do not include sit-ups or crunches, even though these are good core exercises. Try instead mat-based Pilate exercises. For example consciously do your exercises by contracting the abs in and outwards. This gives the feeling of zipping up really tight pants. Imagine you’re drawing your navel in towards the spine and up towards the center of the ribcage. You do not need a gym to exercise these muscles. This zipping exercise can be practised anywhere.
TOP TIP: Don’t confuse this exercise with breathing in. A definite contraction and relaxation of the transverse abdmonius is required. The more you practice activating this muscle group the easier it will become.
2. STRETCH YOUR HIP FLEXORS
Sitting too much is not good for us, but inevitably we still have to do it. We sit at work, in the car, at the dinner table. In fact we SIT way too much! You may not realize the tightness of your hip flexors from sitting, or how this tightness can put stress on the lower back by forcing the spine into an unnatural lordotic position (overly hollowed lower back). Ensure that you stand at least once every hour and stretch the hip flexors.
TOP TIP: Set an hourly alarm on your phone to force yourself to stand up and stretch. All it takes is five minutes. If every hour is a little too much try at least a few times a day.
3. FOCUS ON YOUR GAIT
Many women wear high heels and have taught themselves to walk on their tip toes. This can have a dramatic impact on our posture and the way we walk (gait). Our bodies are not designed for such extremes of position and therefore lower back complications can arise. By simply adjusting your footwear to something more practical which allows for a more natural hip position can reduce lower back pain substantially. This simple change will reduce compression in the lower spine and return the hip to a natural position.
TOP TIP: Walk naturally as intended. If you need to wear high heels or shoes with elevated heels put them on at work and take them off when you leave. Travel to and from work in comfortable shoes which encourage good posture.
4. STAND UP STRAIGHT
Our mothers always insisted that we stood up straight. Perhaps you do the same for your children. Apart from making you feel and look more confident, it also reduces any unnecessary pressure you may be putting on your lower back. This change takes time and reverting to bad postural habits from time to time is inevitable. Stick at it and remind yourself to stand up straight.
5. EXERCISE MORE
Inactivity and being sedentary can play havoc with the lower back. Getting mobile can really help loosen up the back, improve posture, strengthen muscles and shift any excess weight that might be putting your posture out of whack. Don’t have time? Nonsense. Try this 20 minute HIIT routine for maximum effectiveness and minimum time.