Stop Stretching Your Back To Fix Low Back Pain
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I see and hear this, “Oh my back really hurts…” or “My back is really tight…” and the next words are the clincher, “I just need to stretch out my back”. They then proceed to do a variation of this move, which I got from webmd.com-which they say, “stretches and strengthens your back muscles”. How this strengthens your back I’ll never know, nor does this stretch/exercise help the problem. Yes, it does stretch the back. Yes, it also is a common cause of low back pain. Before jumping into some Pavlovian response to ‘fix’ it with stretching you really should ask yourself,
“Will stretching my back really help?”
I would venture a guess that approximately 90% of all low back pain is from what we call ‘flexion intolerance’, or basically the pain comes from bending forward. This could be from bending over to pick something up off the ground with a rounded back, or just sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day for years. Lots of things happen when you’re in this position; your already stretching out some of the back muscles, and your pushing the vertebral discs backwards which leads to herniated discs and nerve pinching.
So when you ‘stretch’ out your back, you’re actually creating low back pain! You’re making matters worse. Much worse! The ‘good’ feeling you often have after doing that stretch is your body saying, ‘Hey, you just stretched me too much’. You might not believe me, but pay attention to how back feelings 10 mins to an hour afterwards. Is your back still singing your praises or has it gone back to being a grumpy old complainer?
When your lower back is flexed, eg rounded, slumped, as seen in the diagram to the right, you’re already stretching out some muscles and ligaments, in addition to pushing your disc out the back. This is a dangerous position to be in. This is why further stretching is a bad idea. Please STOP DOING IT.
There is a very high probability that instead of stretching out your back like the top image here, you actually need to extend the back-like in the bottom diagram. This will relieve the tension on the muscles, ligaments and discs that are most likely causing your pain.
The easiest way to fix your flexion intolerant low back pain-the right way-is to put your back into extension by laying on your stomach and prop your head up on your two fists, or hold a low cobra hold (on your forearms). Hold that for a couple minutes and you’ll feel better and that feeling will last much longer and will start you on your path to a happier back.
If you want a little more challenge and want to strengthen your back-read here for a simple and effective exercise to try anywhere.