Does your low back ever hurt?
My low back hurt for more than ten years, and the only solution my doctor(s) gave me was pills. There was never any mention of stretching, exercise, or physical therapy.
I still recommend you go to a doctor like I did so that they can rule out anything serious, like a fracture. If they find nothing and recommend the same treatment I had, to take OTC anti-inflammatories, day and night, please READ ON.
You may find that, like me, your low back pain gets so bad that no anti-inflammatory relieves the pain. Do you need something stronger? NO! You need better info.
I was taking the anti-inflammatories, but my back was hurting more and more. I didn’t know what to think. I was out of ideas and feeling a little desperate. I was beginning to stop doing certain activities and adjusting how I did others.
In my moment of desperation…
In my moment of desperation, the words from my friend and fellow massage therapist surfaced in my head: Dude, you gotta stretch your quads! He had been telling me this for a long time!
But I just could not see how muscles in the FRONT of my legs could affect the pain in my BACK! And I also realized I could not go on any longer with my constant, worsening low back pain without some remedy.
So, I decided to finally try his suggestion – stretching.
I stretched my quads several days in a row, every day. I used a stretch that some people call the Table Stretch (see photo below). Then, one day, after several days of stretching, came the eureka moment.
MY BACK!!! It feels BETTER!!!
I had become very skeptical in nature, having seen way too many Cure-All-Remedies. That’s why I was absolutely dumbfounded that my back and my Sacroiliac joints in the center of my low back/pelvis were almost pain-free!
I can honestly say, that was the day my self-care began.
It was when I realized there are good reasons to create a self-care regime. You can get out of pain, feel better, and have more energy and strength to do all the fun things you enjoy. If you think like me, you’ll begin to wonder, what else can I do to feel better?
This was literally the beginning of a new life for me.
As time has gone by, I have learned other things I can do to help my low back. I have added a few other stretches to my quadriceps stretch, which you can Google: the Piriformis Stretch, the Figure Four/Pidgeon Pose stretch, the Hip Flexor stretch, and the Groin/Inner Thigh/ADductor stretch.
Structural Pain is caused in many cases by two things:
Muscles being used get shorter; Muscles NOT being used atrophy.
Therefore, I realized I needed to not only stretch the tight, shortened muscles I just described above, but I also needed to strengthen the atrophied muscles which had been idle for too many years: muscles in the pelvic floor, the deep hip muscles, the sides of the hips, to name a few.
So, I began adding in exercises like Dead Lifts, using weights that were not too heavy but still made me sore at first. Next, I added in Lunges, being careful not to over-bend my knees so I strained anything there. Lunges produced sore muscles deep in my target area, the pelvis/back side, so I knew I was on the right exercise path.
After 10-plus years in mild to severe pain,
being pain-free 99.9% of the time is one of the biggest gifts anyone could ask for!
Being 99.9% pain free now for a couple of decades has inspired me on the days when I did NOT feel like exercising or stretching to get out there and do it! There is NO WAY I want that pain to come back. Ever!
And now, on to a few stretching details.
I encourage you to start easy; increase the stretch until you feel a nice, moderate stretch.
Do NOT force or overstretch!!
In the beginning, it is super important to stay focused and pay attention to how things are feeling in your body during the entire stretch. You can hurt yourself by not paying attention and letting your mind drift off.
Do this at least once a day when you have NO low back pain. You can do this stretch several times a day when you feel the old pain coming back or when you actually DO have low back pain.
Need help getting started?
A good massage will help you feel better right away.
The improvement you will get from a massage will serve to inspire you to continue on with your own self-care in addition to the massages. The massage will also address other tight and shortened muscles which can contribute to your low back pain.
I always like to recommend my clients see their medical doctor when something is hurting longer than a week or two, depending on what it is, of course. A doctor can take X-Rays if necessary and can refer you to a good physical therapist, which is usually covered by your health insurance.
A good physical therapist will first give you a thorough assessment. They will have you move in certain ways and perform special orthopedic tests to understand where your muscles are shortened and tight and where you are weaker and need strengthening.
The secret to the success of a physical therapy program of any kind, even the one you create yourself, is to do the stretches and exercises religiously, every day, two (or more) times a day if recommended.
Don’t give up until you are out of pain!
Way too often, someone comes in to see me for a massage, and they have gotten discouraged and given up! This is understandable, but should be avoided at all costs!
If you are faithfully doing your physical therapy home exercises and you have no results after 2-3 months, then it might be time to go see another P.T. who can reevaluate you with fresh eyes and give you some better ideas on what to do.
Sometimes you may have to go to the top! Find a trainer or sports medicine specialist from a professional sports team to work with. Many times they have seen your exact same problem dozens of times!
Persevere until you are pain-free!