Suffering from Lower Back Pain?
There is usually a reason for pain.
- Your motor patterns are incorrect, causing irregularities and therefore compensation —> pain
- You are going too far past your current capacity and therefore your body is sending a warning signal.
Whilst it can be a hard pill to swallow, you will eventually have to come to terms with the above facts and start to implement the most effective strategy to move forward.
This includes assessing where you’re currently at, addressing any irregular motor patterns and pain feedback, and then progressing you through the necessary steps of action to full relief.
What you need to understand is, that whilst you may have a perception of what your 100% capacity may have been before you were injured, it will be completely different when you have or are recovering from an injury.
You need to establish your new capacity and be comfortable with the fact that it may only be a fraction of what you are used to or could do before.
This will include a constant feedback loop between your actions and reactions.
Some days you may find that you have overstepped your capacity and will result in being uncomfortable, inflamed or more pain.
It is then that you have to reassess the above.
Recovery is not as simple equation. Unfortunately it is complex and requires time and effort.
The lower back is one of the most common areas to flare up or become “injured” during functional style fitness training due to the high demands needed to sustain force production over a long period of time (high work capacity).
The lower back is used in some form in almost every movement performed during training (and life) either directly with flexion/ extension or as a bracing mechanism for the spine.
Each muscle has its own role to play in the body, either creating flexion, extension, rotation etc of the shoulder, hip or spinal vertebrae themselves.
The most common cause for pain amounts from excessive lumbar flexion (bending forward) without intra-abdominal pressure being maintained, which can lead to muscle spasm (if you’re lucky) or perhaps disc/ nerve damage if you’re unlucky.
I say “lucky” because whilst it is very uncomfortable short term, it is good to know that your body is actually working and protecting your spine with some sort of defense mechanism.
Developing Muscular Endurance
Common sense states that the more you use a muscle, the more fatigued it gets (in terms of work capacity over time).
That’s pretty much why we train.
Our aim is to train in a way that promotes a stimulus which causes us to adapt and develop both ‘strength’ and ‘muscular endurance’ in certain muscle groups, depending on our goals.
For the general population, this is usually to maximise their quality of life and prolong the effects of aging.
Muscular endurance can also be looked at as “resistance to fatigue”.
The more “resistant to fatigue” a certain muscle group is, the less likely it is to switch off.
If the correct muscle group doesn’t switch off, the surrounding muscles won’t have to compensate and therefore you can decrease your risk of injury.
Think of it like this;
You’ve got a veteran bricklayer doing his job. He has been doing it for years and can carry 10 bricks at a time up and down the scaffold all day, without breaking a sweat.
He has become resistant to fatigue and can work all day.
He decides one day that he doesn’t feel like working and calls in the apprentice to take over.
The apprentice is 69kg and has only been working for 3 weeks.
He can only carry 4 bricks at a time but the boss says he has to carry 10 bricks all day.
What do you think will happen to the poor apprentice?
This is exactly what happens with your Erector Spinae (bricklayer) and your QL (apprentice).
When your Erector switch off and you continue to make your body do the work (e.g. Deadlifting), your body will naturally jump to the next best in line (something which can do a similar function).
Which in the case of the lower back, your QL will take over, try and do the same job, however after constant repetitive stress with a workload it can’t handle, it will “jack up” and start to spasm as a way to let you know it can’t take it anymore.
So, our first job is to be able to make sure we are using the correct muscle group for the correct job and make sure that they don’t get to the point where they call for assistance, because assistance usually comes at the mercy of compensation and therefore injury.