In all likelihood you have experienced back pain at some point in your life, especially if you are over 50. Here are a few quick facts about back pain:
- Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.
- One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
- Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work.
- 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives.
- Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain
According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors for back pain include:
- Age. Back pain is more common as you get older.
- Lack of exercise. Weak back and core muscles can lead to back pain.
- Excess body weight puts extra stress on your back.
- Diseases. Some types of arthritis and cancer can contribute to back pain.
- Improper lifting techniques can lead to back pain.
- Smoking can keep your body from delivering enough nutrients to the disks in your back.
So, where do we start to reduce back pain? See your doctor first! Get a diagnoses to establish if there is any risk to starting a core strengthening program. (Yes, the core is where your training should begin.)
The first exercise for most individuals (everyone’s case is different) is to learn and practice core bracing. This is where you draw in the waist as if you are trying to fasten pants that are a bit too tight. This girdling creates pressure inside the abdomen which, in turn, supports the low back. Because this exercise supports the back and doesn’t bend and/or rotate the spine, it can usually be done with no harm to the back. You need to practice this to both strengthen the core muscles and to be able to call on that strength when needed.
In my experience, one of the best ways to “find” this bracing is to sit on the edge of a chair and then, while keeping your face straight forward, push the top of your head toward the ceiling. I call these “sit-talls” because that’s what you’re trying to do, sit as tall as you can. In order to be tall, you need to lengthen your spine. To do that, you need to draw in your navel toward your spine and that is the core bracing.
Once you learn what bracing is and how to do it, other static (non-movement) exercises can be incorporated to get you started on the road to better back function with less discomfort.
Let me know if you have any questions.