If you suffer from back pain, it would be a wise investment to hire a personal trainer. Back problems can be financially damaging (endless weeks off work won’t help your career) as well as physically painful. So its worth spending the money on a personal trainer who will help strengthen your back, correct any muscle imbalances, and restore flexibility to tight muscles.
There are plenty of things you can do to reduce your risk of getting lower back problems:
When did you last buy a new mattress? Chances are your mattress is due to be replaced, and your back will thank you for it. A firm mattress will support your back in the night. Remember, you spend around a third of your life in bed, so the quality of your mattress will have a big impact on your back health.
Don’t sleep on your stomach, but sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs, or on your back. When getting up from bed, sit on the side of the bed for a few seconds before getting up. Never get out of bed sharply, as this sudden movement after a night of lying still can cause you to pull a muscle or disc.
When you hire a personal trainer, they will advise you on a range of exercises you can do to strengthen your core: this includes your abdominal muscles, your lower back muscles, and your glutes (your bum muscles). I recommend you perform core exercises three times a week, for just 15 minutes per session. You can incorporate core exercises into a longer workout which includes other muscle groups too.
Don’t underestimate the importance of glutes strength. Your bum muscles act as a shock-absorber for your lower back, and these muscles are vital for walking, climbing, lifting heavy objects (bend the knees when you lift), and running. Two of the best exercises for your glutes are squats and lunges, and these are the exercises which physiotherapists often prescribe to people with lower back pain.
Tight glutes, tight hamstrings, and tight hip flexors can all pull your body out of alignment, which in time triggers lower back pain. So it’s important to include 10 minutes of stretching after every exercise session, to restore full mobility to your muscles and joints. Hold each stretch for 1 minute for optimum results. Most people don’t hold the stretch for nearly long enough.
In our modern society we spend far too much time sitting down – in the car, on a plane, on a train or tube, at the desk, on the couch – and when we do our posture is often terrible.
As a personal trainer I go into London offices and assess the employees’ postures and seating arrangements. Sometimes new chairs are needed, but often it’s a case of re-adjusting seat heights, positioning of computers, and getting people to sit up straight and not slouch. It’s also worth getting up every half hour and stretching, and walking round the block to relieve the pressure on your spinal cord. The pressure on your discs is three times as great when you’re sitting as opposed to lying down.
Lose excess body fat
A common cause of lower back pain is carrying too much weight, which puts excessive pressure on your spinal discs. There’s an old saying that you carry fat, but your muscles carry you. Excess body fat is a dead weight which you have to lug around with you all the time, and if you don’t have the muscular strength to carry this extra weight safely (and most overweight people don’t, or they probably wouldn’t be overweight) then chronic injuries will occur in time.
Excess weight will put a strain not only on your spinal discs, but on your hip joints and knee joints too. So make it a priority to lose that excess body fat, and you’ll remove a major risk factor for lower back pain and other joint pain.
One of my personal training clients in Canary Wharf was morbidly obese, and he had multiple joint problems arising from his obesity. This makes it much tougher to lose the weight, because you are restricted in the exercise you can do.
However, there are always alternative activities to the ones which put pressure on the joints, such as swimming instead of running, cycling on a recumbent bike instead of running, and glutes raises lying on your back instead of lunging. Instead of full squats, you can perform more shallow squats onto a higher chair, until you’ve gained sufficient muscle development around the hips and knees to enable full squats. It’s all about safe progression, and a good personal trainer will be able to judge when to progress you onto more challenging exercises.
Just as important as exercise is healthy eating, in order to lose excess body fat. Changing from a diet of junk food to a diet of nutritious and wholesome food will have a double effect: you’ll lose excess fat, and you’ll feed your body with the nutrients it needs to get stronger.
Fizzy sugary drinks and so-called energy drinks have a further impact on your lower back health: they attack your bone density. The chemicals in these drinks leech calcium from your bones, which in time can lead to osteoporosis, and a weak and brittle vertebra. Avoid these drinks like the plague.
Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London with over 12 years’ experience helping obese clients lose weight and get strong.