As a physical therapist and pilates instructor, clients often ask me “Should I do stretches for lower back pain?” You may have even asked the same question before. Believe me, it’s a common question and you’re not alone. Around 80% of adults will experience lower back pain at some point in there lives. Over 25% of adults surveyed have reported experiencing lower back pain during the past 3 months.
Most times, lower back pain is acute, or short term, and lasts just a few days or weeks. With self-care, it typically resolves on its own. Generally, acute lower back pain involves mechanical disruption around the components of the back like the spinal vertebra, musculature, intervertebral discs, and nerves.
What Causes Lower Back Pain?
Lower back pain can arise as a result of twisting, bending, or lifting something heavy, or it can arise simply as a result of age-related changes to the spine. In addition, sedentary lifestyles where poor postural habits develop and a routine of less physical activity can set the stage for lower back pain.
So, what do I tell my clients and patients that ask me about stretches for lower back pain? Simple; I tell them there’s plenty of stretches they can do and I’m happy to teach them some. BUT, I also stress that there are strengthening exercises for their lower back that can be just as important as stretching. And possibly more important, I emphasize exercises for improving hip and mid (thorax) back mobility.
Core Strength Is Critical
Our lower back is just one component of our “core.” You’ve probably heard that term before – “core stability”, “trunk stabilization”, “core muscle activation.” No matter the term used, core strength does have an important role in reducing the likelihood of lower back pain, it’s just not the only factor. Here’s where having thoracic and hip mobility/strength simultaneously with a strong and stable lower back can help alleviate acute lower back.
From my own experience with treating patients with both acute and chronic lower back pain, I find that a majority have limitations in their mid-back thorax and hips. So, when people are required to twist, bend, or lift during their normal daily activities, their hip and mid back limitations shift all the required movement to their lower back. Over time this poor distribution of movement can take its toll on the lower back. And at some point, it’s reached a tipping point.
So, back to the answer I give my patients/clients. By not only strengthening your core and improving the mobility of your mid back (thorax), you can reduce the likelihood of lower back pain, improve your posture, and improve the efficiency of how you move. Now this is much easier said than done, but by paying attention to how these types of limitations could be contributing to your own lower back pain that you can take the first step into at least understanding why you get lower back pain.
In good health,
Marvin Hayag, PT, DPT