Back pain is often described as the disease of the century. We will talk here about mechanical back pain (the most common) which occurs almost instantaneously and as a result of a wrong movement, the carrying of a heavy load, or an unusual sporting practice. We will not go into details (sciatic nerve for example).
What is the cause of back pain?
Most of the time, it is pain in the intervertebral discs. This pain manifests itself here because the muscles at the periphery are too weak to contract effectively in everyday life (or during an unforeseen event). The discs will therefore be overworked to a critical point, resulting in acute pain that can become chronic if the muscles are never strengthened and posture corrected.
Too often, the solution doctors offer to suppress back pain (like any muscle pain) is to mask the pain, not treat it at the source.
Of course, sometimes the pain is so intense that there is no other way. Anti-inflammatory drugs can be useful in the short term while the pain subsides, but they are really not a solution to consider in the long term because the pain is bound to return. It is therefore a good idea to tackle the problem with a few weight training exercises to prevent it from getting worse.
There are dozens and dozens of exercises, all more or less effective. Rather than knowing 20 exercises and doing none of them, I recommend that you learn no more than 4 or 5 but practice them daily. You will have much more results focusing and improving on 5 exercises than doing an occasional 20.
Here are 5 exercises that can help you relieve your back pain, listed in order of difficulty. As most of the time back pain is in the lumbar region, the exercises will be adapted to this area. We assume that the pain has disappeared after several days of rest. These exercises should be done to prevent the back pain from coming back again.
These exercises can really help you, but they are not quick fixes. It is always a good idea to consult an osteopath to make sure that sports practice is suitable and not dangerous.
5 exercises to suppress back pain
- Self-massages: it is not really considered a bodybuilding exercise (whatever the pain we feel when we are not used to it leads us to believe the opposite… In addition, self-massages require sheathing) but self-massage is extremely effective in reducing tension and pain, in the back and even in any muscle group. To be done with a massage roller like this one ( click here or on the image to access it).
- The goal is to succeed over time in massaging your back along its entire length, from the lower back to the neck, while always remaining well sheathed (abs contracted).
If the self-massage on the floor is too painful, an easier variant exists by performing the same movements against a wall.
- Core Strengthening: Core Strengthening is the basic exercise, extremely effective in strengthening the back and abdominals. It is very interesting because it does not require any equipment and can give very good results if it is practiced daily. Example: 5 sets of 15 to 30 seconds with 1min rest, every 2 days.
- The Superman: Calm down, you’re not going to turn into a superhero right away. Let’s not cut corners. The superman exercise will help strengthen the lumbar part but also the glutes, which is interesting because the weakness of the glutes is often one of the causes of the chronic pain that remains in the para-vertebral muscles ( see explanation below in deadlift exercise). Example: 5 sets of 15 repetitions with 1min rest, every 3 days.
- Pull-ups: the 3rd exercise to strengthen the back. It doesn’t necessarily have to be done after self-massage and sheathing (it can often be done at the start), I placed it here just because pull-ups often require a minimum of force to be considered. However, they are not inaccessible for beginners or overweight people. Indeed, solutions exist such as elastics allowing to reduce the weight to be towed.
The advantage of traction lies in the fact that the exercise is done in spinal unloading, which means that there is no pressure exerted on the intervertebral discs, unlike the squat for example where the bar is placed on the upper back, which compresses the vertebrae.
This spinal unloading is ideal for strengthening the back without any real risk of injury. Example: 5 sets of 15 repetitions with a very resistant elastic band and 1min30 of rest, every 3 days.
- The deadlift: The deadlift is often very badly perceived, still avoided in some weight rooms. While if performed correctly, it is probably one of the most effective exercises for strengthening all the muscles of the posterior chain, including those of the back.
While the pull-ups will target the upper part of the back (latissimus dorsi, upper trapezius, rhomboids, etc.), the deadlift will allow it to target the lower part (lumbar, middle and lower trapezoids…).
In addition, the deadlift helps build the glutes, which are often weakened by sitting. This weakening of the glutes is problematic because it will tend to cause muscular compensation from the para-vertebral muscles (they will contract in place of the glutes), causing this mechanical back pain.
Be careful to consult a sports coach to learn the correct positioning and the technique necessary for his practice. He can teach you some variants adapted to your profile, like doing it with a dumbbell placed between the legs to limit the work of the back, in order to strengthen it gradually. Example: 5 sets of 15 repetitions with 1min 30 rest, every 3 days.
Most of the time we tend to take a dim view of pain. But this is nothing more than a signal of malfunction, an alarm system set up by the body to make it clear that something is wrong. We must try to understand why this back pain exists and persists.
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