Do you have Lower Back Pain?
Through my career, my ever learning career with relentless education my knowledge about the body has obviously improved from my early years. Yes I used to tell people to stretch their lower back if it hurt them because I didn’t know any different. I thought it was a harmless approach to trying to relive back pain. God how wrong was I. The more education I do, the more assessment protocols and screening I learn and the more experience I develop, the topic of back pain becomes clearer and also extremely telling to never do these types of stretches for lower back pain.
There are many leading authorities in the world of movement and lower back pain that I have studied for years and sured up my application of exercise and movement to cater for lower back disorders. The lumbar spine is made for STABILITY. And if we were to define stability it means the ability to control a movement without unwanted or excessive motion, while motion happens elsewhere. Stretching, mobilising and taking the lumbar spine to extreme ROMs will sure enough set you up for a disorder somewhere down the line, especially if you perform wight based training.
If you do have pain in your lower back, the issue will not be because the lower back is immobile. Direct lower back disorders will be things like endplate fractures and herniated discs from direct trauma to the lumbar structure (most direct lower back, if not all disorders are from too much mobility)
Your problem, or issue that causes your lower back pain will undoubtedly be elsewhere. Whether that may be hip mobility/stability, thoracic mobility, core/pelvis stability, motor skill, movement breakdowns, improper technique, or lifestyle overloads etc. you will have to find out through a range of specific assessments I use to determine the cause.
So why do these lower back stretches feel good?
Stretching is analgesic, which basically means it has temporary pain relieving effects with a ‘perceived benefit’. So yes, doing these stretches will feel like they are working all the whole you perform them and maybe 10-15 minutes after. Give it an hour or so and you find yourself doing the same stretches because the pain has returned and is probably worse. Or, you find yourself doing these stretches over and over again because the issue still hasn’t been sorted - incorrect prescription of rehab exercise.
Full spinal flexion, like these stretches above. The Jefferson Curl, the Childs pose and the standard Knee Hug, all produce extreme mobility, extreme posterior shear force and anterior compressive force which is all massively bad news for spinal health, and severely increasing your risk of lower back disorder in the future, if not now. If your training also includes weight based exercise, deadlift and squat variations, or you want to get the most out of your sporting performance (excluding sports like MMA, Gymnastics and BJJ) I strongly advise removing these exercises unless one of your goals is to be able to tie up your shoelaces with your teeth.
Luke French, Health Coach