Back pain isn’t just a nuisance; when you are experiencing back pain, it hangs over every physical activity.
Whether it’s something as simple as moving your couch or playing a game of pick-up basketball with your friends, or a loftier goal like doing a full backbend, if you’re always thinking about how your back is going to be feeling the next day, you’re not moving with freedom.
So, in this article, let’s talk about how to help with that.
I’ll give an overview of the most important information for you to know about your back pain, what’s been shown to work (and what hasn’t), and I’ll give you some resources to start improving your situation.
What You Need to Know About Your Back Pain
You probably know this already, but back pain is extremely common. It’s estimated that the lifetime prevalence is 60-70% in developed countries. That means that most of us, at some time or another, will experience back pain.
But not all back pain is the same:
- Acute Back Pain–This is the most common form, usually brought on by a specific incident. Acute back pain, by definition, will dissipate within about a month.
- Recurrent Back Pain–This is when you repeatedly deal with acute incidents. Each incident may not last very long, but you are prone to those events. When back pain becomes recurrent, it already interferes with day-to-day activities.
- Chronic Back Pain–This is the least prevalent form of back pain (chronic means the pain lasts for longer than 12 weeks), but it is still quite common, and the back is the area of the body most prone to chronic pain.
In this article, we will mostly be discussing recurrent back pain, but the information and suggestions we make can certainly be applied to acute and chronic back pain as well.
We’re not going to focus much on the other two kinds of back pain because acute issues will usually go away on their own (with rest or mild exercise), and chronic pain is too big of a topic to cover in an article like this. If you’re dealing with chronic back pain, I suggest reading our article specifically dedicated to that topic.
The most important thing for you to understand about your back pain is that you’re not alone, and if it’s disrupting your life in any way, it’s something that needs to be addressed.
What Can You Do About Your Back Pain?
Even though back pain is so common, it’s surprisingly not well understood. We don’t necessarily know what causes it (unless there’s an acute injury) or why some people experience it, while others do not.
In fact, there isn’t a good correlation between what’s found on an x-ray or MRI, and what you’re actually feeling and experiencing.
You could have terrible issues with back pain, with a totally “clean” MRI, while someone else might have no issues with back pain, yet on imaging they have some anatomic abnormalities.
But while we don’t always know the cause of back pain, we do know one thing that works well in treating it:
Yup, the days of bed rest for back pain are behind us. Time and time again, the research shows that, as long as you’re moving in ways that don’t exacerbate the pain, movement is one of the most important things you can do. And the specific type of movement doesn’t really matter.
Even something as simple as walking can have a positive effect, and many of our clients have shared that basic locomotive patterns have helped them overcome their back pain:
So what can you do? Start moving and keep moving.
Another issue that often comes up when we talk about back pain is posture–how we hold ourselves throughout the day. Posture is a complex subject, and you can click here to learn more about our stance and approach to posture.
Do This: Solutions for Your Aching Back
But where should you start? Like I said, even just walking can help, but you may find other movements beneficial as well.
The two most important areas to focus on are the spine and the hips. For most people, if you get these two areas moving well, you will begin to strengthen and mobilize the back, which will likely have a good impact on your pain.
- Work on our Back Flexibility routine–If any of the movements exacerbate your pain, either skip or modify those movements.
- Read through our in-depth article on the spine. This article explains in greater detail how the spine works and common issues that occur, which can be responsible for your back pain.
- Go through our Hip Mobility routine–Again, be careful not to move into pain, but work at whatever level you can with these movements.
- Learn more about how the hips work and how they relate to the spine with our detailed hip article.
I recommend working on the back and hip mobility routines daily for a few weeks, then seeing how your back feels.
And if you want to get more benefit from daily movement that targets key areas and helps you overcome restrictions, our Elements course is a good place to start.
It will help you work through existing issues with gentle, but effective movements, and you’ll build a foundation of strength, flexibility, and motor control through locomotive movements, that will help protect you from recurring issues.
Give Your Back the Movement it Needs
Elements helps strengthen the back (and the rest of the body!) using locomotive patterns. So it’s not a bunch of boring stretches, but movement that works.