When overcoming low back pain, this doesn't get talked about enough

Oct 17, 2023

This might not necessarily be something you think is important. But it is. It’s something that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. That’s why in this tutorial I wanted to go back to basics and  show you why, if you are struggling with lower back pain, you should be rethinking everything you do. 

So, what is this untold secret? 

It's small movement errors, the things that happen when we lift or twist, when we’re in a rush or not thinking. It’s the fact that just a little more concentration on the way we perform these everyday adjustments could make a very real difference on the recovery or recurrence of our lower back pain. 

Let’s get more specific:


  • Rounding the lower back 


When we get ready to lift something, we naturally round the back. Particularly when it’s something we don’t view as ‘heavy’. The problem is this rounding puts extra stress on the discs of the lower back. And whether we’re lifting from a sitting position or a standing position, this extra stress can lead to potential injury. 


  • The hip wink 


You may have heard of a hip wink, or seen it happen when people squat.  As we go down into the squat and get to a certain point, our hips can tuck underneath. It's only a very small movement, but can add a surprising amount of extra stress to the L5 S1 segment of the lower back. And it could irritate the disc, which can then therefore irritate the sciatic nerve. Thus the hip wink, if left unchecked, can cause not just lower back issues, but sciatic-type issues too. 


  • Failing to bracing


When you are lifting a heavy weight that’s in front of you, it’s important to consciously brace the torso and maintain the neutral spine while coming down and then lifting up. This is not only crucial when lifting particularly heavy weights, but useful as you bend to lift lighter ones too. It helps to bring the larger muscles of the abs and glutes online so that they can protect the lower spine during the movement.  

And this can even be beneficial when you’re walking. People often don't realize that simply by swinging the arms they’re stabilizing the spine. Of course this is only a light brace when compared to the conscious bracing above, but even though it occurs semi-naturally with the habit of swinging the arms it’s useful to be mindful of it. 


  • Lifting from the spine 


If you’ve ever taken part in any kind of manual handling course, you’ll be familiar with the idea that lifting from the hips is preferable to lifting from the spine. In fact, this is a combination of those points above – we should be trying to do these things alongside one another. And learning to hinge at the hip as part of this, means we’re lifting from the hips rather than from the spine. 

Why do these small movement errors matter so much? 

What is it about small, seemingly insignificant movement errors that can pose so much of a risk to the lower back? Well, these little things, done consistently, can lead to what we call micro injuries, or micro traumas. Small injuries that go unnoticed. But when left to build up over time, can hit a tipping point.

Perhaps those stuffed shopping bags feel OK to lift quickly into the car. But in fact, in your rush, unbraced and unbeknownst to you a little micro injury check is added to a box in your micro injury account. You get home and slump on the sofa for a rest - micro injury check. You head to the gym and lift some heavy weights – micro injury check. You reach round in the car on the way home to pick up something the kids left in the back footwell – micro injury check. You head to the office the next day and spend an hour hunched over your keyboard writing a presentation – micro injury. And the picture builds. 

More checks, in more boxes on the account. The next thing you know, you’re doing something completely normal, reaching for something at the back of a cupboard, or bending to tie your shoelace. And your back goes. It might not have happened before, or it might be an old injury that seems to haunt you. In either case, it wasn’t the final act that caused it, but the number of little checks you’ve built up in your micro injury account. All those times you were lifting things or exercising with a rounded back. You’ve hit the threshold. 

So, knowing this, what can you do to protect your lower back? 

Put simply, we have to do things the right way, as often as possible. Because not only will that strengthen the lower back and prevent that micro injury account from getting too full, it will begin to build in a margin of safety. The more often you do things the right way, the more often you hinge from the hip, the more likely you are to be able to get away with an awkward movement or two. The more you get yourself into the mindset of maintaining the correct position at all times, and having an awareness of what you’re asking of your spine and how you can best support it. The more you’ll find it begins to happen subconsciously, the fewer checks you’ll be adding to your account, and the less chance there will be of a problem occurring. 

Of course there are numerous every day scenarios in which this becomes relevant. And these will be different for different people. That’s one reason working with a coach can be beneficial. An outsider’s view can help you to recognise and list out all potential risk areas and start correcting these tiny movement errors so you can start adding checks to your healthy spine account instead.   

I cover off loads more examples in the video tutorial above, so have a watch and see if you recognise any that are relevant to you.

 Want help to recognise the micro errors you’re making an overcome lower back pain? Click here: https://www.christopherholetraining.c... Or work with me face to face click here https://www.christopherholetraining.c... 

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