By Coach Songee Barker:

Hey you! Yes, you, reading this right now. How is your back feeling? Do you get to the end of a long day and feel a dull throbbing in your lower back? What about at the end of an intense workout, do you feel pain in your lower back or a tightness in your hips? If you answered yes to these questions, you’re not alone! Back pain is unfortunately common, in 2013 the Mayo Clinic published a study stating that back pain is the third most common reason people visit a Doctor in the US*. Some common causes of back pain include sitting for extended periods of time, repeated poor posture, imbalanced/weak core muscles, or mis-alignment in the spine/hips.

The great news is that the back pain caused by sitting or standing all day, poor posture, or imbalanced/weak core muscles is an issue that you can proactively work to fix. It will take time and consistent effort but it is possible! This is where mobility work comes in. Without integrating mobility work, muscles and tendons can become tight, causing strain and pain in the body.

Below are some common causes of back pain and a few ways to work on improving them. 

Common Causes of back pain and areas to work on mobilizing:  

Sitting for extended periods of time

Why: Sitting for extended periods of time, i.e. during the workday, at school, or even on the couch, can cause the muscles around the hips and glutes to become very tight. When these muscles get tight they can start to pull the lower back out of alignment, causing back pain. 

What to try: Activate and mobilize the hips by doing a pigeon pose in the morning and evening to open up the muscles around the hips and glutes. Additionally try to stand every hour and go for a quick walk, even if it’s just down the hall!

Poor Posture

Why: When the spine is in a rounded position for example, while sitting at a computer, hunched over a steering wheel, or scrolling through a social media feed on a cell phone, the spine is not in alignment, spending too much time in this position can cause upper back pain. 

What to Try: Immediately try to fix your posture by engaging your core muscles, think of broadening through your collarbone, and rolling your shoulders up and down to release your shoulders away from your ears. This will set a nice neutral spine. Regularly work to strengthen the muscles of your core (your abdominal muscles as well as the muscles along your back) with core exercises such as sit ups, and “supermans”. Do mobility work targeting your upper back, such as foam rolling your upper back gently at the end of every day to decompress your upper spine. 

Imbalanced/Weak Core Muscles

Why: The core muscles, including the muscles in your back, hips, and abdomen, are the muscles that support proper alignment in your spine,** if there is an imbalance or weakness in these muscles your spine will lack the proper support it needs to maintain proper alignment. 

What to Try: Along with strengthening the core muscles through exercise, be mindful when working out to stabilize the core muscles to avoid further imbalances and protect the spine. Work to mobilize the core muscles with stretches such as cat cow, downward dog, child’s pose, and a supine twist. 

If you are interested in learning more mobility techniques to address common causes of back pain we have a 4-week long mobility course focused specifically on mobility for back pain. Click here to sign up or learn more!

Tools: 

15 minute yoga for back pain – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeXz8fIZDCE

6 minute routine for tight hips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG9qbvAN3gQ

References: 

* https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(12)01036-1/abstract

** https://www.healthline.com/health/lower-back-pain-when-sitting#upper-back-pain