Let’s face it – lower back pain is no fun at all. Trust me, I know from experience. In fact, let’s rewind back to the Spring of 2004 (my senior year of high school), where I experienced some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life!
There I was, coming off of a great senior season of football and looking forward to my final year of track. I had my eyes on the school record in the 400m dash and the 4×100 and 4×400 relays. Nothing could get in my way… right? So I thought. Until one day I felt a strange pain radiating down my lower back, into my left leg (mainly the nerve pain commonly called “sciatica” or sciatic nerve pain). It had felt like I had been sitting too long.
To make a long story short, I had a herniated disc in between my L4/L5 disc in my spine. This disc herniation was putting pressure on my sciatic nerve and causing extreme pain to the point where I couldn’t stand up without cringing in pain.
It was a tough time for me – I ended up having a minor surgery to fix this issue and unfortunately wasn’t able to run my senior year of track – but this would at least allow me to continue playing football and track into college.
Fast forward back to today – almost 10 years later and my back has never felt stronger. One of the big reasons is due to the fact that I do not neglect strength training and I ALWAYS make sure I am on top my mobility and flexibility work.
This experience led me to find some awesome movements that help alleviate lower back pain on a daily basis – if you’re a serious athlete or simply like to train hard, you need to be taking care of yourself to make sure you don’t experience lower back pain like I did. Here are 3 AWESOME stretches you can include in your routine to ward off low back pain!
- Hip Flexor Stretch – tight hips can wreak havoc on your lower back! When the muscles on the front side of the body are tight (due to excessive sitting), they will pull the hips forward and down. The average athlete has pretty tight hips in general, so adding this stretch into your day will help combat tightness that can be easily creep up on you. Assume a lung position as shown in the photo, let the back knee touch the floor – next you simply push your hips forward and reach up with your arm on the same side of the rear leg until you feel a deep stretch in your quadriceps and hip region. Hold this for 45-60 seconds and switch legs. Repeat 2-3x per leg, 2-3x per day or as needed.
2. Lying Hamstring Stretch – almost EVERYONE has tight hamstrings – adults, kids, athletes, etc.. A simply way to remedy this problem is by lying on your back and wrapping a rope or towel around your foot, or even just grabbing your calf and pulling an almost straightened leg toward you. Lengthening the hamstrings (stretching) will take pressure off of the lower back as well. When these muscles get stiff/tight, you will feel tension in the glutes and lower back as a result. As above, repeat for 45-60 seconds per leg, 2-3x per leg.
3. Piriformis/Glute Stretch – This goes along with the hip flexors – the muscles of the hips and glutes are rarely stretched but when they are (ask anyone who has done this stretch) and they will most likely tell you how effective and good this feels when it is done on a daily basis. Don’t force the range of motion on this if you aren’t ready – just find somewhat of an uncomfortable spot and let the stretch work itself out.
There you have it – 3 stretches you can easily do RIGHT NOW and every day moving forward to help ensure that the muscles around your hips and hamstrings are kept flexible. Tight hamstrings and hips will eventually give you the feeling of lower back pain, one I do not wish upon anyone! Train hard, but remember to take care of yourself too. You’ll be glad to you did!
I’d love to hear your feedback – what is your FAVORITE stretch to help keep your back feeling great? Leave your favorite in the comments area below!
See ya guys,
– John Cortese