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3 Home Exercises to Help with Your Back Pain

Did you know that according to research, over 70% of Americans will experience back pain during their lives?

Surprisingly, this statistic remains high among active people. Sometimes their training even contributes to it!

One of the things you can do to help reverse this trend is to implement Pilates into your training. Dr. Ciara is a physical therapist and certified Pilates instructor. She has taught us how to incorporate Pilates into the treatment of physical therapy patients right here in Bethesda and Chevy Chase. These principles can also be used in performance training.

The good news is that Pilates doesn’t require you to go to a Pilates studio. Many Pilates exercises can be done from home and performed within your training regimen.

Begin with the 3 exercises below.

  1. Roll like a ball into Zen Teaser (C-Curve)
  2. Single Leg Stretch
  3. Curtsy Reach

The goal of these activities are to teach you how to control your body using your deep abdominals and glutes. Therefore, it is essential to focus on quality of movement, rather than the quantity performed. There are no heros with these exercises!

To learn more about Pilates, check out last weeks article below!

What Actually is Pilates?

Training with back pain may only require a simple modification

Back pain remains as one of the leading causes of disability worldwide and according to research, over 70% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives.

When back pain is measured among such a large number of people, it is impossible for each person to specify the different ways in which their back pain presents.

When treating physical therapy patients with back pain, we see this pain present in many different ways. Since we treat such active people, our patients are very aware of the different movements that elicit their symptoms.

Many times, picking objects off the floor, aka deadlifts, produce their back pain. During these movements, the body bends over by folding at the hips. This moves the spine into a position that is horizontal relative to the ground, resulting in more shearing forces within the spine. Shearing force is the force of one vertebra wanting to move forward or backward relative to the one above or below it.

For many others, squatting movements are problematic, specifically when squatting with resistance (such as when lifting weights). When squatting the spine is vertically oriented (compared to a deadlift) resulting in more vertical compression against gravity.

Do you have back pain? If so, is it worse when picking things up off the ground or when squatting with resistance?

If it is worse when picking things up off the floor, aka deadlifting, you may want to consider replacing deadlift exercises with squatting variations within your training program. While this should not be a permanent solution, it can help you get out of pain while addressing the root causes of the issue.

If your pain worsens when squatting with resistance, you may want to consider switching to more single leg squatting variations in place of double leg squats. Once again, this should not be a permanent solution (although single leg exercises are awesome!), however it can help you get out of pain while addressing the root cause of your pain.

For help addressing the root cause of your pain, simply contact us!

What you can do from home to accelerate your training

When the COVID-19 pandemic began I was feeling stressed and was anxious. Old aches and pains were even returning!

I was no longer prioritizing my own fitness routine, causing me to be more sedentary than usual. This combination of stress and decreased daily movement caused my old back injury from college to become slightly noticeable again.

This was a powerful reminder of the importance of taking care of myself.

I now make sure to prioritize my morning routine which includes meditation, journaling, and most importantly (at least for me), exercise.

While I do enjoy an intense workout, many days I simply go on a long walk followed by 10-15 minutes of light continuous movement using only my body weight.

My back feels great and the most importantly, I am reaping the positive physical and mental health benefits of exercise.

And while my workout routine works well for me, it might not work for others. Your self-care routine is specific to you. What activities help you to feel and function at your best?

Despite the differences, we often find that a variation of physical activity is helpful. I won’t bore you the science of why, however, if you are interested I am happy to share it!

Below are 3 exercises that are fantastic for you to try at home. They are helpful for anyone that suffers from a cranky lower back, is looking to feel better, and/or improve their fitness.

-Heels Elevated Goblet Squat (no weights at home? No problem! Simply hold a backpack filled with books or a jug of water): start with 3 sets of 8-10 reps

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-os3nvr23s

-Bear Position Hold: 3 sets of 5 breathing cycles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9IJ2b_GbF4

-Goblet Split squat (use a weight or the same tool from exercise #1): start with 3 sets of 8-10 per side

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aazACzyUR-Q

-Dr. Zachary Cohen PT, DPT, CSCS

What most runners are missing in their training

At CHP, we often see distance runners for a variety of injuries including knee pain, plantarfascitis, and hip and lower back pain.

In addition to seeing runners as physical therapy patients, we help many runners improve their performance.

There are many things that can be done to help a runner both recover from an injury and positively improve their performance. However, one of the most overlooked pieces is a well-designed strength training program.

Many runners understand the importance of strength training, yet, may be performing strength training programs that are not designed for runners.

These programs commonly contain variations of double leg squats and deadlifts. These exercises are great in the right context, however, provide little carryover to what is required to be an effective runner.

When running, there is never a time when both feet are touching the ground simultaneously. The arms and legs are constantly moving in opposite and alternating directions as the body transitions from one foot to the other.

Therefore, double leg movements have little carryover to running itself.

For these reasons we advise that runners perform exercises that promote single leg control and strength. These exercises include, but are not limited to: lunges, single leg squats, split squats, and single leg RDLs (Romanian deadlifts). Simply adding one of these activities into each of your strength training sessions can have a large impact. Take a look at the videos below for examples of these activities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aazACzyUR-Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KK05iugeIDE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjDtPek261c

A thoughtful and scientific approach to strength training, specifically designed for runners may be all that is needed to help you drastically improve your running performance. It may not even require you to train any harder, just smarter!