For the past 9 years, I’ve personally experienced all types of chronic lower back pain (mainly on the left side, the right side, and a lot of pelvic inflammation as well). It wasn’t until 2016 that I’ve experienced living completely pain-free. For that matter…
I’m almost confident that at least 1-3 ideas on this post will help you get some relief.
I’m sure you’ve already looked at different articles online, and you landed here, I’m assuming you’re confident the pain isn’t related to internal organ problems, and probably also exhausted all possible solutions (probably tried it all too). I want this post to be as useful as possible, so I’m going to divide it into 3 sections:
- I’ll talk about what you need to do to rule out any sinister causes (which is very rare).
- We’ll talk about the possible cause of lower back pain (whether the pain is on the left or right side).
- I’ll give you some suggestions on what to do to get relief AND to avoid triggering the pain.
Back Pain on The Lower Left Side…Is it Serious?
Listen; if you’re experiencing chronic lower back pain for no reason at all, it’s always a good idea to visit your doctor and even do a scan.
I’m not a doctor so I don’t want to get into the details here but…
If I personally didn’t investigate my chronic lower back pain (that was mainly on the left side and hip bone area), I wouldn’t have been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (and wouldn’t have taken action into doing something about it).
I do have to mention that my pain was very different from any muscular pain I’ve had before, my hips were sore to touch.
Again, You want to rule out any sinister causes like spinal infection or spinal arthritis.
I don’t want to scare you here (I know you’re already freaked out). The majority of lower back pain is not caused by anything dangerous but it’s always a good idea to do a scan.
The Causes of Lower Back Pain
Whether you’re experiencing lower back pain on the left or right side, there is always a cause behind it. Your body usually won’t give you signals (pain) until it reaches a pain threshold. There is always a trigger for the pain and the more repetitive that trigger is, the faster you’ll start feeling pain.
If you feel numbness and you experience incontinence, please don’t wait. See a Doctor immediately.
Now we can get really deep into these triggers (emotional, postural, load, movement, dietary)…but that’s for another post.
For some people, the muscle tissue has become so sensitive to the trigger that it’d flare-up almost immediately following that particular trigger. Let me give you an example…
Flexed Posture Intolerance
For example, sitting is one of the most common triggers for chronic lower back pain or hip pain. And that’s because when we sit, we perform spinal flexion. So the body is very intolerant to flexion at this point. And each time we do that we experience pain. Ever noticed this:
Watch a person sitting on a desk for more than an hour. What do you see?
Very likely the following: Eyes locked on the computer, rounded shoulders, forward head, curved back. This is probably 90% of the times you observe someone sitting at their desk job for more than an hour. As Paul Chek puts it…
Today, our modern culture is characterised by “sitting disease.” It is reported that a sedentary lifestyle is the single strongest predictor of death, ahead of smoking and hypertension.
Many busy adults sit far too long at desks in front of computer screens working or relaxing in front of mobile devices or a TV. We see the results in posture-poor bodies whose heads fall forward, shoulders that are hunched and backs that become rounded.
Physically, prolonged sitting shortens the frontal muscles of the body and the deeper psoas major muscle, along with the scalenes at the neck, creating inflexibility and soft bones at all levels. Worse, sitting compresses the diaphragm where breathing deeply becomes compromised, strangling blood innervation to the organs and glands, and putting the person at risk for developing all sorts of diseases.
Without pumping the body, we have a difficult time removing waste from tissues or stimulating peristalsis action in the bowel. When the body becomes stagnant, so do our thoughts and moods. As Paul reminds us, “Movement is life!” Stop moving and we slowly die.”
Weak Stabilizing Muscles
I know you must have heard this a billion time…that you should be strengthening your core muscles. But, I can almost assure you that…
… barely anyone knows what the core really is, let alone how to actually activate the deepest core muscles (and keep them ON throughout the day).
Your core is your spine’s safety belt.
And your core is not just your abs.
The core is made of an inner and an outer unit. Both these units work together so that we are able to accomplish simple daily tasks and more advanced athletic performance. Let’s break this down so you can understand what the core really is.
The Core Inner Unit
The inner core stabilizes, supports, and protects the spine. Without the inner core, our spine, pelvis, and joints will be constantly under stress leading to injury.
The muscles responsible for stabilizing the spine, that are part of the inner core are:
- Transverse abdominis: a deep abdominal muscle that acts as a belt around your waist to protect your spine – let’s imagine you want to pick a box from the floor, and your transverse abdominis (the belt) isn’t engaged to stabilize you, all that is left to do the work is your spine and pelvis. Once they are overloaded, injury can happen quickly.
- The other important stabilizers in the inner unit are the pelvic floor (connected to your pelvis), diaphragm and multifidus.
Before attempting to work on the outer core unit (making your abs look good or performing advanced exercises), you’ll need to make sure you have a stable and strong inner unit. Think of it this way…
The inner unit as your house foundation, if the foundation is weak then no matter how nice your house looks like as you are building it up, it will end up collapsing at some point.
Build a strong foundation first, and then move on to the next level. Or as Paul Chek puts it “You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe.”
The Core Outer Unit
The outer core unit is responsible for movement. What is the outer core unit composed of? Primer movers – the muscles that move your trunk – in addition to the obliques, the rectus abdominis, the shoulder girdle, back, legs and the rest of your body.
The outer core is an integration of ALL these systems. Crazy… right? Who knew that the core was much more than just a 6 pack of abs?
Now, a weak inner core will contribute to chronic lower back pain. The more stable your spine is, the less pain you’ll experience bending over, standing and sitting. I’d highly encourage you to test your inner core strength. How to test your inner core strength?
Here’s a super simple test: stand nice and tall. Lift one leg up (bent at the knees), and then back down, then left the other leg up. Do you notice that you were shifting a lot to one side whenever you lifted your leg? And do you notice you were holding your breath during the lift?
If you also feel unstable walking, bending over, and also feeling a lack of confidence overall when exercising…you’re lacking the inner core foundation and it’s important to work on that as a long-term solution to healing from chronic lower back pain.
You can get started with the deep core training that I created specifically to help you build your inner core foundation. The Back Pain Bootcamp, however, contains everything you need (from posture assessment to strengthen your stabilizing muscles). Here’s where to read more about the Back Pain Bootcamp.
I’ve also created a video on how to investigate the causes of chronic lower back pain.
How to Get Quick Relief From Chronic Lower Back Pain
I’m not gonna sit here and tell you to simply take this purple pill, or wear this belt, and all your back pain problems will disappear. It just doesn’t work that way. Everyone is different, and each person has different lifestyle habits and health history.
In addition, fixing postural or muscular imbalances requires daily effort (not necessarily a lot of hard work, but daily mindful effort), and if you’re looking for a shortcut, you won’t find it…
I’m sorry to say that but it’s the truth.
There are no shortcuts to health. You have to do certain things on a daily basis to maintain your health and a pain-free state – just like when you maintain your car by changing the oil and the filters, and so on… You also need to maintain your spine and health on a daily basis.
There are however a few things you can do (not shortcuts but more like supportive tools) to help you get relief.
I’ve listed them all on a separate blog post which you can read here:
Can Exercise or Machines Make Lower Back Pain Worse?
Machines are a good way to supplement your training or as a way to introduce yourself to working out. However, they should be used in moderation. The main program you are following should be based on corrective exercises that integrate all systems and train muscles together. Why is machine training not recommended?
Machine training restricts the nervous system. In addition, the neurological engagement between the isolated muscles and the brain decreases. So you’re actually not improving your mind-body or mind-muscle connection which is very important.
For example, a functional, corrective exercise program should include:
- 3-ways lunges
- Hip hinge
A corrective exercise program will get you the foundation you need to get stronger by maintaining structural integrity which will help prevent injury and ultimately lower back pain and other muscular imbalances like piriformis syndrome and pelvic instability.
I would love to help you inside the Back Pain Bootcamp. The #1 fitness program created specifically to help you fix chronic lower back pain, build strength, correct posture and get back in shape safely and injury free.