27 Jan How To Manage Low Back Tightness
Dealing with low back tightness? You’re not alone, did you know that low back issues are the most common musculoskeletal complaint and one of the top reasons for time lost at work? However, don’t be too alarmed, another way to look at it is low back pain and tightness is like the common cold of the musculoskeletal system. Just like the common cold, there can be a lot of reasons and contributing factors that make low back issues come around. The best way to manage low back tightness is to treat it comprehensively. In this article, you will learn different methods that you can start applying immediately to give you low back relief.
What is actually ‘Tight’ With Low Back Tightness?
Low back tightness can seem tricky and complex sometimes. You feel the tightness and the pain, you can point to it, but you can’t figure out what it is?! I really like the image above and I picked it because it gives you a global appreciation of how everything meets in the middle of the low back. The white area that you see on the right side is the thoracolumbar fascia, which consists of really strong and thick connective tissue for muscles and other structures to connect to. I like to tell people that sometimes it may not be the back’s fault, it may just be the victim. We have to investigate above and below the low back to see if the neck, shoulders, pelvis, or the hips are contributing to the issue.
Getting into this idea of ‘tightness’ is also a sensitive subject as well, especially when it comes to the opinions of different healthcare clinicians. There is no denying the fact that people do feel and report a sensation of ‘tightness’. However, there is a lack of consensus and scientific evidence to suggest that low back tightness is due to ‘tight/shortened muscles’ 100% of the time.
So Can We Still Stretch What Feels ‘Tight’?
Now that doesn’t mean we can’t stretch and get benefits because clearly it has worked for many! We just need to challenge the common narrative and understand that stretching does a lot more than just lengthen muscles. The same goes for foam rolling and other methods of soft tissue mobilization, there is nothing inherently wrong with using these techniques. However, it may be worthwhile reconsidering and challenging our biases as to what we think is actually happening when we perform these different methods designed to help us stretch.
Foam Rolling Your Low Back
This is a great video that debunks the idea foam rolling your low back is inherently bad, what foam rolling does and doesn’t do, and 3 mobility and stability exercises for your low back. I highly recommend giving the video description a read as I went DEEP into this topic!
How To Manage Low Back Tightness
Like we mentioned earlier, the best way to manage low back tightness is to treat it comprehensively. However, the beauty of a comprehensive approach is there are options and in today’s’ world people like options! With low back issues, there are different methods to get the same solution. I like to give the analogy of 4+5 gets you the same outcome as 6+3, it’s just a different journey you take. For a lot of people, one journey may fit better than another depending on the persons’ lifestyle habits and behaviors, activity level, occupation/job, previous experiences, beliefs, exercise experience, and more. Below we outline a few steps that can help you with your journey!
Step #1 – Identify The Triggers
More often than not, its the small things that add up that are contributing to your on-going low back issue. Before you start doing anything and everything you’ve heard that can help with low back pain, examine your life and try to identify the triggers. Are you a persistent coper? A coper is someone that continues to feed into their low back pain and they don’t even know it, thus they’re coping with the pain. An example of this would be someone that has pain with putting on their shoes. The person knows their back hurts more after getting ready for work in the morning, but they don’t even realize its the strategy of how they are getting their shoes on that is feeding into it.
On the other hand, are you afraid to move? Are you someone that is dealing with low back issues with common day to day movements such as picking something up off the ground. After dealing with this for some time, you have learned other ways to pick up something off the ground, thus avoiding normal back bending. However, now you’re nervous to bend your back with anything. This may feed into catastrophizing thoughts of what may happen to your back if you do have to bend it, which can make it difficult for your body to relax and bend naturally. This is a vicious cycle that can cause more issues, and maybe you just need reassurance and some graded exposure to back bending to get back to normal!
Step #2 – Strategies That Don’t Require Special Talents
Before you scroll down to read more, make sure you’re taking advantage of the low hanging fruit. Below are questions that you should be asking yourself because they don’t require any special talents, but they can go a long way for your back health.
- How is your sleep going?
- What about your relationships?
- Are you managing stress well?
- Are you taking care of your body and eating well?
- Are you doing too much too soon physical activity wise?
Simple reflection can go a really long well. It may not resolve your back issues immediately, but it can help guide you in the right direction on your journey!
Step #3 – Stretching Exercises
Here is a nice compilation of 5 different stretching exercises that focus on the back, pelvis, and the hips!
Has someone told you to stretch your Quadratus Lumborum (QL) muscle? This is an amazing stretch if you’re looking to side the sides of your low back!
Step #4 – Stabilization Exercises
There is a lot of debate about what low back and trunk stabilization exercises are really doing, however we have consistently found them to be beneficial for people with low back pain. Below you’ll find two videos that feature multiple exercises focused on improving trunk stiffness. Minimizing trunk movement with stabilization exercises tends to more tolerable for people that are dealing with pain.
Step #5 – Develop A Warm-Up Routine
Mike knows first-hand what it’s like dealing with back pain from weight lifting. He decided to share the secret to his success – his dynamic warm-up routine that he does before every lifting session! This is especially good to do before squats or deadlifts.
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