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Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation
How to Protect your Lower Back
By Eric Astrauskas, Spec. Hons. B.A. (Kinesiology), P.T.S.
Personal Trainer in Toronto
As a personal trainer, one of the most common ailments or injuries I witness is lower back pain. The problem is usually due to: repetitive work stress injury, improper lifting techniques, under-use injury, poor workout design, over-training, and poor posture. Below are ways to eliminate or prevent lower back injury.
- If you have an office job where you sit a lot make sure to stretch out your legs walk around as much as possible. Make sure to sit upright and do not slouch. Being in a seated position for prolonged periods causes tight hip flexors. This shifts the pelvis and causes lower back pain. Make sure you stretch your hip flexors.
- Improper lifting techniques and work overuse injuries are common. If you are employed in a job that requires repetitive lifting, a worksite ergonomist should be made available. If one is not, make sure to read a reference book on ergonomics if you want to have a long lasting career with minimal back pain.
- Add a nightly flexibility regime that focuses on stretching your abdominals, lower back, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. A good resource for stretching exercises is Stretch to Win . Check out some of my favourite stretches for the whole body.
- Build muscular balance. Having muscular imbalance creates pull and tightness in the fascia that covers muscle tissue. Do not focus on long-term training of one muscle much more than the others.
- Over-training and not using exercise progression will cause lower back tightness. An example is a seasonal long distance runner who gets over-excited when spring arrives and begins with long duration running sessions. Create a program that progressively requires longer distances.
- When performing exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges, make sure you maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.
- Make sure to breathe using your belly and your chest to increase intra-abdominal pressure. This cushions and stabilizes the lower back, especially during high risk exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges.
- Have a postural assessment. An ergonomist, kinesiologist, or athletic therapist can make an assessment and prescribe exercises that will correct any spinal abnormalities. These abnormalities may become worse if they are ignored and you continue exercising as usual.
- If you exercise regularly but do not see a massage therapist, the least you can do is self myofascial release or trigger point therapy. There are a variety of great self massage tools (including rollers and massage balls) available to relieve muscular tension. Personally and with clients I use Trigger Point Performance Therapy and the Rumble Roller. A good resource for foam rolling is Foam Roller Workbook. Check out some videos of foam rolling exercises.
- Before exercising make sure to warm-up your muscles with light cardio and/or dynamic flexibility exercises. Squatting or deadlifting with cold muscles is prescription for disaster.
- Do not excessively arch back when overhead pressing.
- Make sure to keep weight close to body when lifting from floor.
Personal Trainer in Toronto
Eric Astrauskas, Spec. Hons. B.A.(Kinesiology), P.T.S.
Hours: M-F 6am-8pm, Sat+Sun 8am-12pm