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Episode 196: Low Back Pain Relief Drills

Video Highlights

- Reduce pain by lowering threat.
- Improve comfort with moving.
- Convince your brain that pain-free is possible.

Today, we’re going to take a look at some of my favorite low back exercises.

Today, I want to go through some of my favorite mobility drills for the low back. I get asked about low back pain at least ten times a week by email, or from a student, or whatever.

One of the reasons I’m a little bit hesitant to talk about low back pain on our blogs is that low back pain can come from so many different potential causes, but people go, “Oh, well, if I have this pain then I need to do this exercise,” because it may work and it may not.

What I’m going to do instead is just focus on movement. Low back can be affected by your visual system, your vestibular system, inner ear. It can be affected by your gut, by your breathing, by your feet. When someone comes to me with low back pain, I’m never looking just at the low back. I’m looking at the whole body going, “How can we make you move better so that your back can relax?”

That’s ultimately what this comes down to.

This is really important to me because one of the things that we’re continually trying to share, as well, is that the more we learn about how physiology really works the less we want to talk to people about, “Well, you have this joint problem, and this, and this in the low back,” because when your brain believes you have a problem, it tends to believe that you have a problem.

You just have to keep looking for solutions for that problem instead of just recognizing that the pain is coming because your brain thinks there’s a problem somewhere, and that if we lower your overall body threat, a lot of times the pain just goes away.

With that in mind, what I want to do, like I said, is take you through just a few simple mobility drills. I’m going to explain why we want to do them the way that we’re going to do them.

The biggest things for me as you do this, go slow, use a comfortable range of motion.

If you’re currently having any pain, don’t do it to the point that it hurts. If this is a painful range of motion, don’t go that far. If this is a painful speed, don’t go that fast.

You want to convince your body that you can do these movements without pain because that literally is one of the fastest ways to actually get you back up and moving again.

On top of that, if you’re just using or looking for some mobility drills to prep you for exercise or some of your other training, these, again, are some of my very favorites.

What we’re going to do is we’re going to start off in a nice, neutral stance, feet directly under the hips. We’re getting nice and tall, pushing my heels into the floor, the top of my head up to the ceiling.

Low Back Pain Relief: A man in a suit at his desk holding his lower back in pain.

Now what we’re going to do is the head and hips are going to move in opposite directions, all right, and I’m going to start off with just this nice, relaxed motion. We call this an hourglass exercise and you can see it’s almost like I’m going a hula, just a little stiff.

I’m focusing on moving my pelvis and my head in the opposite direction.

Now, when I’m talking to the camera, my head tends to stay more still, but if I was doing this at home, I would be letting my head move around and eyes move around as well. If you’re doing it that way, just be careful because it can make you a little bit dizzy if you’re not used to it.

It is entirely appropriate to literally do it this slowly and this small as long as you’re staying nice and lengthened and you’re having no pain, all right? That’s number one. I just call that a hourglass drill. Now step two to that is we’re going to change our foot position.

One of the reasons I like to do the exercises with the legs and hips internally and externally rotated is that whenever I change my hip relationship to my pelvis, that also influences some of the other structures. One’s called your Sacro Iliac joint and there’s some research that does show if you have some chronic issues or pain in the SI joint region that you’ll also sometimes lack internal hip rotation on that side.

Who knows, but we like to cover all of our bases with our exercise.

In this particular case, what we’re going to do is we’re going to repeat the exercise that we just did, only now we’re going to take our feet and our hips and internally rotate them. For my hips, I’m turning everything in, and now I’m going to repeat the same exercise.

Usually, as you do this, you’ll feel some strange or different sensations through the front of the hips and maybe also into your low back. You want to do maybe five to ten repetitions in each direction and you can still make it very slow and very small because the ideal thing here is comfort.

Next, you’re going to repeat that same drill here. You’re going to externally rotate the legs and feet, and now you’re going to repeat the same exercise. This one is a little bit more challenging for people because we’ve now changed your base of support.

Your balance may feel a little bit more compromised, which means that if you need to, you can decrease the amount of external rotation or widen your feet so that you feel a little bit more safe as you move through the hourglass, all right? Five to ten repetitions in each direction in three different foot positions, feet straight ahead, feet rotated in, feet rotated out.

Now the last evolution, then, of this particular little mobility drill is we’re going to have one foot in, one foot out. For instance, if you have chronic stuff going on with your right side of your low back, you may want to test and see how it feels to take your left leg and turn it out, your right leg and turn it in.

Get your hips facing forward and repeat that same exercise.

It’s going to put you in a strange position. You want to make sure that your hips stay square and facing forward as you do this, but this will often allow you, if you slow down, to get some nice mobilizations into areas that maybe you are not normally able to reach.

It usually feels really, really good, all right? Try that to one side, and then you can obviously reverse it and try to the other side.

In each case when you do this exercise, in between each set you might want to walk around, gently move your low back, try some different rings of motion, and focus only on the exercise positions that make you feel the best because at the end of the day, whenever we’re talking about mobilizing the low back, mobilizing the hips, we want to get you in positions that make you feel like you can move better and perform better when you finish.

If one of these particular positions actually makes you feel tighter or uncomfortable, skip it. You don’t need to do it for now. I just wanted to make sure that you had some different options in front of you.

Finally, after you’ve worked through that, you can also try doing all of those same crazy hourglass exercises in different lunge positions, stepping forward, stepping to the side. We call this a part of our I-Phase template, so there’s a lot of different ways to vary the exercise, but for now, do it all in neutral.

See how it makes you feel, and most importantly, how it makes you perform.

That’s it. If you have any questions about this, let us know. Otherwise, good luck.

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