MATRIX Personalized Fitness
More than just your muscles


0:00 - Introduction

Hey everybody! It's Shane at MATRIX Personalized Fitness. Today I'm going to bring you a tip from the studio. I figured I'd answer one of the most common questions that I typically get from people. And that's about how to deal with low back pain.

 0:12 - My History with Low Back Pain

I suffered from sciatica. I had numbness down into my foot, a number of years ago. I went to the doctor, did physical therapy, took up yoga, and tried acupuncture. I really believe it was a combination of all these things that allowed me to recover from it. But there were a couple of things that I found most useful. And that's what I'm going to share with you today.

0:33 - Medical Help

Before we begin, the one thing I want to say is that realize there's a lot of different reasons for having low back pain. So, if you're having nonspecific low back pain, a dull achiness across the lumbar spine, that's something you can probably deal with. But it is always a good idea to go to your doctor and have things checked out. If you do have sensations radiating down one leg or the other, definitely go to your doctor and have them investigate it. What you should be looking for from your doctor is a chance to go to physical therapy. The best route to take care of pain is through movement and exercise before you try and do anything surgical.

1:08 - MRI Studies

Just one point to make with this. Oftentimes, people will go and get an MRI, and they'll find out they have a bulging disc or an issue like that. There's been a number of studies that investigate a cohort of people who don't have symptoms of low back pain and a cohort of people who do have symptoms and are suffering from low back pain. They do imaging on both of them and both groups tend to have about the same amount of bulging discs. It really just comes down to whether your body is seeing that bulging disc as a threat or not. This doesn't mean it isn't something that shouldn't be taken care of, but you should definitely want to make sure you're starting with non-invasive, exercise-based approach.

1:44 - Countertop Stretch

So, with that being said, I wanted to share with you some of the things that really worked for me, so that you might be able to try them when you're having issues. The first two are actually some very simple stretches. For the first one what you would need is a countertop. I'm going to demonstrate it for you here with this block and the table that I have. It's really simple, you're looking to line up your heels right underneath of your hips. You place your arms out on top of the countertop. Then you let your chest start to sink down through the middle. You're just going to hang out there for a minute or two, giving your muscles time to relax. Quite often, what's going on in most of the nonspecific low back pain, the ones that are localized to the low back, this is actually a muscle spasm. A spasm that's constant because your brain is thinking things need to be held safely together. What this exercise looks like is very simple. As I mentioned, your hands come on to the bench. You line up your heels right underneath your hips. You take a breath in and then just sink your chest down, spending about a minute there. I'm not going to spend that much time, but it gives you the idea. And that really gives your body a chance just to relax. Allowing the muscles to let go. And hopefully it will start to help make things feel better. It was something I did every single morning when I got out of bed when I was suffering from low back pain. And it's still something I do to this day because prevention is the key.

3:07 - Piriformis Stretch

The second exercise is called a piriformis stretch. The piriformis is a muscle that runs from your hip around and attaches onto your sacrum. And for a number of people, the sciatic nerve actually runs right through this muscle. If the muscle is aggravated or inflamed, then it's possible that you're having nerve issues because that muscle is actually pressing on the nerve itself. To stretch this muscle out, you would bring your leg into a Figure-4 position, keeping a nice long spine and starting to lean forward. Particularly if you're having any type of issue, you'll feel it very quickly. Even if you are pretty flexible, you will feel it pretty quickly as well. This again is something you'd want to hold for a little bit; 30 seconds to a minute and really work on breathing through it. The stretch can be accessed from a number of different positions. You can do it seated just like I am. If you're a yoga practitioner, it's called pigeon pose, with the legs out in front of you like this and the other leg is back behind you. You can also do it, if you need to feel more supported, by bringing your leg up on top of the couch or a bed and leaning forward from there.

4:11 - Overstretching

With both of these exercises, one of the first things you need to know is that if you are in a bout of low back pain, it's really important that you don't overdo the stretches and the releases. That in itself can cause things to tighten up even more. So, this is something you want to do in little increments here and there. And you want to assess and reassess to make sure that it is actually making you feel better.

4:35 - Mobility Work

Now, once you're getting to a point where you think mobility is going to be more important than stretching and relaxing, there are some really good exercises that you can do. And these are things that should be done frequently. Once you're out of low back pain, keep doing these things because, by keeping mobility, you'll be less and less likely to have another bout again. And I believe that's what's really kept me pain-free for the last couple of years.

4:59 - Grounded Lumbar Circle

So, the most basic version of this is done by laying down on your back and drawing your knees up into your belly. From here, you just gently circle the legs out and around. Making sure that you don't rollover. Try it in both directions. This is a very safe and easy way to start to mobilize the lumbar spine. If you are having an issue where you're having nerve pain going down the leg, do be careful with this one because you are bringing your spine into greater flexion, which might cause even more issues.

5:35 - Grounded Reverse Lumbar Circle 

What tends to help people who are having that type of pain is to do the same motion in the opposite direction. That would look more like this. Lay on your belly. Starting with your belly flat, you roll to one side. Slowly start to come up and back. Work across the horizon. Come across and settle down on the other side. Then sliding back into the midline. That one is safer if you are having something going on because going into extension actually closes down the discs and gives your spine more room to move. When you start working on these, you want to start very small at first. Then start to get bigger through your movements. You should not be pushing away and cranking into them.

6:22 - Seated Lumbar Circle

If you want to progress, move on from these laying down positions into something seated. The first variation where I pulled knees to belly, that can be simulated sitting up by just easily rolling down and around. Then you can take the other one, where you were on your belly and came up, and do it seated by bringing yourself back into extension, here. The important part here is that you keep breathing, smooth and easy. Move cleanly. You want to move pain-free, and you'll slowly work into greater and greater ranges of motion.

6:54 - Standing Lumbar Circles

From there, once you found that seated is pretty good and it's assessing and reassessing well, you can begin to work from standing. To do things standing is very similar to seated. You get nice and tall. You bend into the knees. You side bend. You're thinking about drawing the navel in. You're trying to open up through the low back. Come across the horizon. Then you can come into the side bend. Come back into neutral or you can continue all the way back around. Really think about keeping the spine long so that there's plenty of space for all the discs to move and all the vertebrae to move interchangeably. And that's how you teach your brain exactly what range of motion you have available.

7:34 - Activity-Specific Lumbar Circles

Once you get that, then you can start coming into lunge positions and other activity-specific positions to really help you in whatever activities you need to do.

7:42 - Conclusion

Hopefully you found that valuable. These are the exercises that helped me the most when it comes to low back pain. If you have any questions or comments, post them below or head over to our websites and send some comments out there or give us a call. I hope you enjoyed it and I'll be back next week. Take care!