If you are someone who has struggled with back pain or have recurring pain that comes back then this article is for you.
Back pain is the number one problem that comes through the Premier doors, and after treating over 25,000 people in our clinic, we know that often the actual cause of your problem is often located nowhere near the pain you feel.
These “hidden causes” of back pain are more common than you think and when left unidentified your back pain can get more severe and continue to come back. This can be incredibly frustrating and can prevent you from enjoying everyday life. Once the true cause of your back pain has been correctly identified it can be effectively managed to give you back your life. You don’t have to put up with this pain anymore- no matter how long you have had it for!
We are often consulted for second opinions from patients who have been to other clinics where they receive a simple massage over the sore area and are then prescribed some generic exercises. A massage may feel like exactly what you need, and will make you feel better for a few days, however the cause of the problem has not been fixed and the pain will come back. However if you have back pain that is reoccurring or present for more than 8 weeks, this will not be effective. Read on about the 5 hidden causes of back pain & what you can do about it.
We will reveal:
- The hidden muscle at the front of your spine you should be stretching
- The muscle in your butt you should be stretching
- Why stretching your back may not be the answer
- How your gut may be causing back pain
- Why strengthening your core may be the worst thing you can do for ongoing back pain
Tight hip flexors (psoas muscle)
If you are an office worker or someone who sits for long periods of time, then this will be your number one muscle to target. The psoas muscle starts at your lumbar spine (lower back) and runs through the pelvis to attach to the top of the thigh bone. When you sit it bunches up and shortens. If this position is sustained it can begin to pull on the lumbar spine and cause back pain.
If you are someone who notices a stiff back after sitting for a long time you may need to stretch your psoas muscle. The key is to do this stretch regularly, not just when you feel stiff.
Take legs into a split position, keeping hips square.
- Back knee rests along the ground.
- Push hips forward to feel the stretch through the front of the pelvis, ensuring your pelvis does not rotate.
- Arms can be by your side or raised up like shown to further the stretch.
- To further the stretch, place your back foot up on a chair and also target the quadricep muscle.
- Hold stretch for 20 seconds and swap sides.
- Repeat twice, 2-3 times per day.
Tight glute muscles ( i.e your butt)
The glute muscles take a lot of load during our everyday activities such as stairs, standing and walking, yet are frequently neglected. When the glute muscles are not stretched they stay tight and overload the smaller muscles in the back to work harder than they should.
Almost all back pain patients are tight in at least one of the gluteal muscles, and in most cases releasing this muscle provides the biggest relief- despite not being where they had the pain.
The best way for you to find and treat these tight muscles is with a spikey ball or tennis ball. Place the ball on the ground or against a wall and lean into it. You will feel the spots that are sensitive and tight – these are the ones that need to be released. Focus the ball into these areas until the pain subsides, and then move around to find another.
Follow with some stretches as follows:
- This one is great to do at your desk. When leaning forward, ensure you pivot from the hips and don’t bend your back over. Think about staying as tall as you can.
- Hold for 10 seconds and swap legs.
- Placing one leg on the knee of the other, bring your arms through and pull forward the bent knee to stretch. Keep back flat on the ground with your head and neck relaxed.
- Hold for 10 seconds and swap legs.
As stated above, the glutes are responsible for a lot of the movements we do every day. They are the powerhouse of your back and strong glutes will make a huge difference in helping your back to function properly. From our experience, weak glutes are frequently seen in two groups of people:
- Office workers that don’t work out regularly
- Chronic back pain patients
Often in people with chronic back pain, we find one side of the glutes significantly weaker than the other side, and if the problem has been around for years, there may be a significant difference in muscle mass (smaller muscles are always weaker). A specific strengthening program is essential to get the weaker muscles stronger to support the lower back.
Here is a test you can do to compare your left and right sides to determine where strength is lacking.
Laying on your back with one knee bent, and the other out straight on a 45 degree angle, arms flat by your side.
Squeeze the glute muscle and dig your foot into the ground, raise your hips up and hold for 30 seconds, keeping the pelvis level. Make sure your arms are not pressing into the ground and helping.
Repeat this exercise on the other leg to compare which side feels harder, or which side you can hold longer.
This test can be turned into a strengthening exercise by squeezing the glutes up and lowering down, 10 reps, 2 sets each side.
An increasing amount of research and evidence suggests the link between our gut health and its effect on the entire body. A diet high in processed foods and alcohol can disrupt the normal balance or microorganisms in the gut and can lead to numerous health conditions such as pain in muscle and joints around the body. Although your pain may feel very muscular and it hurts to touch, the underlying cause may be a chronic gut inflammation issue.
You should consider this as a potential source of your pain if you:
- Wake up with your back pain
- Have multiple sites of pain and achy joints
- Lack energy and vitality and wake up feeling tired
- Have gut symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation/diarrhoea
If you think that this might be an issue for you, the first step is to cut out processed foods, alcohol and smoking while increasing your intake of water, fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and lean meat. You may consider consulting a dietician or nutritionist through your local GP to help.
There is a common belief that back pain is caused by a weak core, and while this can be true for some, most patients seen at Premier that have ongoing back pain have an overactive core that is constantly switched on.
During movement, this prevents muscles from working in harmony and will start contracting excessively and against each other for even the most basic movements. This excessive imbalance reduces mobility and causes pain and stiffness in the back. If you have low back pain that feels incredibly stiff, then this may be the cause.
With the help of a professional that has experience in this area, you can learn to retrain and disassociate the muscles in your body to contract only when they are needed. Gently retraining your body to move in a more efficient way can be done through pilates or yoga classes, which help us learn to be mindful and aware of our bodies movements.
The advice in this article is general in nature and should not replace specific, expert medical care. If you feel as though you may benefit from a specific treatment program, the team at Premier Sports and Spinal Medicine will conduct a thorough examination in order to tailor the most effective program for you.
Our experience, knowledge and expertise can be used in combination with our state of the art AXIT muscle testing system to help solve chronic and complex cases of back pain where others have failed.
To find a practitioner suitable for you, please call our wonderful reception on 9481 7794, or book online here.