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Lower Back Pain

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This is really the only injury I have ever had.

About 15 years ago I damaged my tailbone in a biking accident. The worst issue was some sciatic/nerve pain that would spring up seemingly out of nowhere. It was actually a crippling pain that required medication and rest for a couple days before feeling better. This pain continued to spring up a few times a year for about five years. After that it tapered down to maybe once a year, and has now been absent for a few years.

The other issue that arose out of this injury was a more typical muscle imbalance/tightness/knots in my lower back and It still bothers me from time to time. So after dealing with lower back issues most of my life, here is my current best rehab exercise list:

Lying Spinal twist

  • Lie on the floor with your arms outstretched (so your body forms a T shape)
  • Lift one leg up (straight or bent) and let it fall gently over top and past the other leg
  • Keep your shoulders glued to the ground
  • Keep this position for up to twenty seconds
  • Repeat with the opposite leg
  • Do not force your leg. Leg gravity do the work. If you hold for twenty seconds you will find that your high leg will naturally fall closer to the ground. This is good, just don't force it

Exercise ball

  • If you don't have one, buy one and keep it in your TV room (or another room you find yourself often sitting in)
  • Use the exercise ball as a chair. Even 5 minutes on it will do wonders for posture
  • Slowly roll back and forth on the ball to stretch out your back
  • Roll side-to-side with your butt

Romanian deadlift

  • Use a light weight but heavy enough to stretch you out
  • Start with the bar in the hang position and your knees slightly bent
  • Slowly descend and let the weight stretch your hams and gluts
  • Let the weight go as far down as you can while maintaining the same bend in your knees (ie bend ONLY at the hips - think of them as a hinge)
  • Keep your back tight and bring the weight up with proper form
  • Do 10-12 reps (this ensures you didn't pick too heavy of a weight)

I currently have no back pain and I credit this routine. And if I sense my back starting to tense up, I'll use these stretches and it either goes away completely, or is short lived

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Good stuff, a lot of the time sciatica like symptoms (when not because of impact to structures of importance) is usually because of the piriformis or at least that was my experience at the beginning of my lifting.

One thing I find that helps me when my lower back is in agony is actually planks, they tighten the transversus abdominis which compresses the sacroiliac joint and the lower back.

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I hurt my back last week doing hack squats (never again!). I'm using those sticky heat patch things and doing some light stretching. I bought an exercise ball because of the above advice and it helps a bit. I'm wondering whether swimming would help or hinder my recovery. Any thoughts?

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I'm wondering whether swimming would help or hinder my recovery. Any thoughts?

I think swimming is generally regarded as the #1 rehab/active recovery exercise

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I think I injured the erector spinae in my deadlift incident.  Things are fine for every day life, but I still have to work around them with lifting for the time being.


Protocol currently includes:

  • Stretching everything in the surrounding musculature
  • Exercises where I can keep my back more vertical

Is there anything I'm missing?

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First off - the back story.


I've been plagued with back issues since my late teens.  I remember trying to pull something out of a construction dumpster when I heard (and felt) a loud crack in my back and I could hardly stand up.  It lasted a couple of days and then I was back to normal.  I never told anyone.  Since then, I've had issues pop up here and there, the worst being in my mid-to-late twenties.  I don't remember what I did, but my back hurt so bad that I couldn't walk.  Standing upright or putting weight on my feet was not possible.  I literally had to crawl from the couch to the bathroom.  My doctor at the time told me to take a week off of work and get bed rest.  It finally calmed down and I was back to normal.  I haven't had a problem that bad since (knocks on wood).  Typically I'll feel a bit tender for a couple of days if I lift something with sloppy technique, but it never lasts. 


Whether related or not, my right lumbar region gets stiff at times.  Standing for long periods does it, but so can sitting.  I can definitely feel tightness in that area and a good kneading usually helps.  This stiffness does not usually coincide with the sharp pain described above.


Over the last year, I seem to have develop sciatica as well.  Sitting for long periods at my desk or in a car can be quite uncomfortable and I get pain down my left hip and leg.  Within seconds of standing and walking, that pain subsides.


Enough history.


SL5x5 introduced me to back squats.  While my form sucked, the first 1.5 months weren't heavy so I never felt it in my back.  It wasn't until I reached the 150 lb. mark that I started to feel that familiar pain in my low back.  The lower I squatted, the more I felt it.  I'm not talking about muscle pain; I'm talking about a sharp, pinching sensation very low and on the right.  I stubbornly continued to work on squatting, deadlift and rowing, the big three that aggravated it.  It wasn't until the last couple of weeks that I stopped those and focused on getting my back in order.


I've been stretching my hamstrings, quads, hip flexors and back pretty much everyday.  Stretching the hams helps the most and I can feel the pull all the way to my upper lumbar region.  My left ham is always tight and everyday is like starting over, even after hammering it for 4+ minutes the day before.  My dad couldn't bend over and touch his knees, let alone his toes, so I probably have him to thank.  In addition to the stretching, I've added floor hyper extensions, low-weight good mornings and planking with weight to my routine.  My back feels fine now, except for the sciatica and occassional stiffness on the right side (both there, but in the background, as I type this).  I'm going to continue this path, adding weights slowly to the good mornings, for the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, I continue to loosen up to correct my squatting form.  Hopefully in the next month I'll add those back into my routine.


All of the advise in the posts above is good and include things I am, or have been, doing.


Cliff Notes for the TL/DR crowd:


  1. Dumb kid f's up his back and never tells anyone or gets it checked out
  2. Back issue plagues dumb kid, with the worst incidents occuring during his 20's (20 years ago)
  3. Dumb adult lives with the issue, with only occassional episodes of inconvenience
  4. Squatting, deadliftng and rowing consistently aggravate the problem, and the dumb adult is starting to wisen up
  5. Dumb adult stopped #4 above for the time being and is now focusing on mobility and lower back strength, while advancing on other lifts
  6. Lifts in #4 are being substituted for now; dumb adult hopes to add them back into the routine in the future

Since my back feels good now, it is VERY tempting to try back squatting, etc. again.  I am not going to push it and concetrate on mobility and back rehab for now.  I can still work the legs with dumbbells, as well as advance with upper body work for now.

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