Many of us have experienced back pain at some point in our lives (slowly raises hand). Even people who regularly work out and take care of their bodies are not immune to back pain.
There’s no single cause for back pain. You might have poor posture or a tight spot that’s not even in your back. To make matters worse, sitting in a hunched-over position during class, in the car or at home on the couch can exacerbate the problem.
Besides causing discomfort, back pain can actually impair your sports performance. Ultimately, it can lead to injury. So don’t ignore what might be a minor problem now. Incorporate the following exercises from renowned strength coach Mike Boyle, co-founder of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning (Woburn, Massachusetts), into your routine to fix nagging back pain. Check out the video above to learn more from Boyle about fixing back pain.
Releasing the T-Spine
The t-spine, or thoracic spine, is located from the middle to upper back. This part of your spine is designed to be mobile—rotating, extending and flexing. A tight and immobile t-spine can cause a throbbing pain between the shoulder blades.
According to Boyle, this is caused by our lifestyle. “It’s a problem in adults, it’s a problem in children, because we all sit too much. We’re all in this situation where we’re sitting rounded forward,” he says.
A tight t-spine can limit your range of motion in your skills. For example, if you can’t rotate or extend through your t-spine, you may have difficulty getting your arm fully overhead when throwing a ball or swinging a racquet. This limits your power and causes another part of your body, such as your shoulder or lower back, to compensate, putting these areas at risk for injury.
RELATED: Improve T-Spine Mobility to Stay Healthy and Improve Performance
To fix t-spine pain and increase mobility, Boyle recommends the following four exercises:
T-Spine Foam Roll
Foam rolling your middle and upper back massages the muscles that act on your t-spine, helping to release tension and increase mobility.
Peanut T-Spine Roll
A peanut consists of two tennis balls taped together. Your spine sits in the dimple of the peanut, while the tennis balls work into muscles that surround your spine. You’re able to isolate individual vertebrae and improve mobility.
Quadruped T-Spine Rotations – External Rotation
This teaches your t-spine to rotate without moving your lower back—the way your spine is designed to function.
Quadruped T-Spine Rotations – Internal Rotation
The internal rotation variation is a more challenging progression of the previous exercise.
Indirect Back Fixes
Tight hips can actually be the cause of low-back pain. “If I can’t move my hips, then I’m going to move my lumbar spine,” explains Boyle. The lumbar spine is designed to be stable, not move like the t-spine. You want to do everything you can to limit movement in this area of your spine.
When you improve hip mobility, your hips are able to move freely without involving your lower back. “I would go as far as to tell you that you can completely eliminate at least half of the low-back pain in the world if you just got people to improve their hip mobility,” says Boyle.
RELATED: 3 Quick Fixes for Low-Back Pain
To fix low-back pain, Boyle recommends performing the following exercises:
This move stretches your hip flexors and reduces anterior pelvic tilt, which stresses your lower back. It also improves flexibility in your hip rotators and adductors, which helps with overall mobility.
If you can perform a Squat properly, the odds are that you have acceptable hip mobility. This exercise reinforces the primal squat that we know when we’re babies, and can even fix your Squat in one session.
The Overhead Squat is a more advanced exercise. It works hip mobility, while forcing your core to stabilize and your shoulders to mobilize, making for a complete, athletic move.
Other Back Fixes
The exercises above fix common problems, but you should try to get ahead of back pain. Make sure to regularly strengthen your back and improve core strength and stability the right way. Learn seven in-season exercises to avoid back pain.