Client Case #1: Office Worker With Chronic Lower Back Pain
I wanted to share the following story with you because I see SO MANY individuals in the gym making the same mistakes – I sincerely hope you pass it forward to ANYONE in your life that this might help and I’m certain that you know many as the client profile you are about to read is quite common!
A few months previously a young lady who was suffering from chronic lower back pain came to me requesting my professional advice. Her profile matched that of so many young office workers who I consult with about the basics of health and fitness.
- She spent the majority of her 8-12 hour days in a seated position – slouched forwards over her keyboard tapping away or leaning to one side as she screened phone calls.
- Excluding the odd washroom break – she NEVER left her office chair. It sounds crazy – but it’s incredibly common.
Interestingly enough – this young lady was already taking action! Upon noticing the onset of this nagging back pain she had purchased a gym membership and started a regular training regimen 3 X per week. She even prioritized exercises that she was certain were going to strengthen her core! She continued this regimen for 3 months – never missing a workout. Oddly enough her back pain became worse…
But isn’t this just what the doctor ordered? Train your core and strengthen your back and voila problem solved – no more lower back pain! Not so fast…
I often coach individuals who work in similar environments BUT I am the initial “take action” stage, the beginning of the continuum of lifestyle change. This young woman was already taking action – but something was off. Instead of rattling off a list of suggestions and resetting her at square one I saw a wonderful opportunity to improve an already developing habit. So I inquisitively I requested a list of her current “core training”.
- Sit Ups
- V Ups
- Back Extensions
Most people would assume that the above is a decent abdominal program. Many individuals perform a slight variation of exactly routine!
It’s important to understand that your abdominal muscles are NOT meant to bring your chest closer to your knees.
Rather they are meant to stabilize your trunk and prevent extension, rotation and lateral flexion of the spine!
Most of the exercises my client was performing on her own involved aggressive flexion of the lumbar spine which can be incredibly damaging over time. This approach promotes a hunched / kyphotic posture which was the exact opposite of her primary aim.
Envision the position you are in when seated at a computer.
Now envision the position you are in at the top end of any sit up variation.
Every individual is unique relative to the exercises they should prioritize with their core training.
But EVERYONE that is suffering from lower back pain from habitual sitting should eliminate core exercises that focus primarily on flexing the abdominals and thus the lumbar spine.
There is very little need for any of those exercises BUT that’s for another blog.
I suggest incorporating exercises into your training that focus on:
ANTI – EXTENSION - any exercise where you are actively resisting extension of the lower back.
ANTI – ROTATION - any exercise in which you are actively resisting rotation or twisting relative to the lower back.
ANTI – LATERAL FLEXION – any exercise in which we resist lateral flexion of the spine (bending to the side).
Just remember when it comes to strengthening your lower back, the primary focus should be on STABILITY. Too often individuals focus on exercises that incorporate too much MOBILITY relative to the lumbar spine and do more damage than good!