You’ve been doing your stretches, following through with your exercises and finally starting to feel better until you had to bend over to pick something off the floor…and snap! You felt it right in the lower back… A sudden, yet very sharp lower back pain, originating from the lumbar spine and expand in the lower back area.
Your body’s protective response triggers muscle spasms and inflammation to protect that area. And you know what that means… A great amount of pain, calling in sick and spending a few days in bed. Been there, done that.
For most people, an incident like this can occur at random times, usually when they’re not paying much attention to their posture. For example, brushing teeth, loading/unloading the dishwasher, putting shoes on in a rush, or even while working out and lifting weights. So, if you’ve experienced something like this recently, you’ve come to the right place. I want to show you a few key techniques to fix this.
These techniques will also help you prevent triggering the pain and protect your spine from damage and microtears…but first, I just want to quickly explain why bending over from the spine triggers this sudden pain so you understand better how to prevent it.
Why Do I Keep Getting Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain affects 80% of adults. This makes it one of the most predominant chronic injuries among people who work in offices and spend more than 3 hours sitting. Nowadays, you don’t need to work in an office to sit for that long. Almost everyone sits for long periods of time due to our sedentary lifestyle.
As a fitness and strength coach, I can tell you that there are days where I have to sit for more than 5 hours. Of course, I try to switch between sitting and standing but the bottom line is…we have to sit to get work done and that will have an effect on our posture and spine health. If you do sit for long periods of time, check out my post here on sitting without triggering hip pain.
Injuries to the vertebral disk happen when the external (outer) fibrous structure of the disk fails. And the internal content of the disk gets out and is extruded. This internal material irritates the nerves creating that shooting pain sensation.
But I Don’t Have A Disk Herniation…
You may not have a disk herniation or extrusion to experience lower back pain. Lower back muscles can spasm when there is added pressure on the spine to protect that area from injury. There are certain movements and postures that put your spine in a very vulnerable position and adds a lot of stress to the lumbar and pelvic protective tissues. And we’ll discuss these now…
What Happens To Your Lumbar Spine When You Bend Over.
Lumbar flexion puts tension and stress on both the spine and the muscles surrounding it. Bending forward from the spine involves flexion at the lumbar spine. Every time you sit down or bend over, there is a decrease in spinal lordosis.
Lumbar Spine Rotation
Compression from spinal flexion (bending from the spine), lateral bending (side bending from the spine) and added twisting or rotation have been demonstrated to increase the occurrence of disk herniation and lower back pain.
I’m not saying you should not bend or twist. What I’m saying is…engaging in these movements from the spine is what triggers pain and creates microtears in the disks leading to serious disk injuries. The goal is to spare your spine as much as possible and transfer the force into the muscles whenever you’re moving. And I’m going to show you how to do that today…
How To Avoid Lower Back Pain When Bending Forward
Activate Spinal Stabilizers
The muscles surrounding the lumbar spine and pelvis are responsible for protecting your spine and hips from tension and load. So it’s extremely important to strengthen these inner core muscles and make sure they’re firing up at the right time to spare your spine.
When these muscles aren’t activated at the right time (specifically the transverse abdominis and multifidus muscles) or are almost dormant because they haven’t been used in a long time, then there is a serious muscle imbalance. And that force will be transferred to the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and joints.
Investing time to activate your deep core muscles (transverse abdominis, multifidus, internal obliques) will help you not only prevent sudden pain when moving around but also protect and prevent disk injuries in the long-run.
Fix Flawed Movement Pattern When Bending
You can certainly move, bend, twist and lift heavy weights without hurting your spine or causing a disk herniation. And I’m going to show you how. For the past few years, I’ve been able to work out and lift weights without re-injury and flare-ups applying the techniques below.
Keep in mind, I’ve been very diligent and strict in following these techniques and I can certainly feel their effects in terms of remaining pain-free for years. So here goes:
- To bend over, always initiate the movement from the hips. This is called the hip hinge. It doesn’t matter what you’re trying to do. Bend from the hips, followed by a slight bending of the knees. Keep your back straight as you’re bending forward from the hips keeping your glutes and core engaged. I’ve created a video to show you how below the list, don’t forget to watch it
- To twist or rotate, use your feet as a pivot point. Never twist from your hips. You want your upper body and lower body to move as one unit. So As you’re rotating, use your feet (or foot) as the axis of rotation. You just need to practice until this movement becomes automatic.
- For rotation using your hands (like opening a window or a heavy door), initiate the movement from the shoulders first without moving your hips, then complete the movement by rotating again using your feet as the pivot point.
- Always brace your core and tighten your glutes before lifting, pulling or pressing a heavy item. This will prevent pressure from being put on the disk or joints.
- Only release the core brace after you’re done with the movement. So if you’re moving an item from one place to another, don’t release the brace until you’re back up to the neutral position. As long as you’re still flexed, keep the core brace on.
And that’s how you protect your spine and hips when bending over.
If you’re thinking… Gosh, I need to move like a robot to avoid pain? No, you don’t. As you practice, the movement will start to feel very natural. This is how your body was designed to move…
Flawed movement patterns have contributed to a great deal of chronic pain and muscular dysfunctions and it’s about time people start learning how to move properly.
Yes, you will forget and bend from the spine once in a while and that’s Okay. But you want to be mindful 90% of the time. And by re-educating your muscles to fire up at the right time, you’ll be protecting your back while bending over…and soon you’ll be engaging in proper movement automatically.
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Lu YM, Hutton WC, Gharpuray VM. Do bending, twisting, and diurnal fluid changes in the disc affect the propensity to prolapse? A viscoelastic finite element model. Spine. 1996; 15;21( 22 ):2570-2579.
Herniated disc image: Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
Hey! My name is Sofia and I’m here to help you eliminate lower back pain and piriformis syndrome without spending years in pain stuck in temporary fixes. Click here to learn more about me and how I can help you…