When you stand for any period, do you get that sharp back pain on the outside edge of your low back? How about if you rotate slightly? It can feel like a knife sticking into your back. I bet you have tried everything to relieve back pain. My guess is you have used ice, heat, salves, stretches, wearing a brace, and maybe even gotten an injection after all the other treatments failed. In today’s post, we will discuss why your back hurts and how you can truly relieve back pain in the comfort of your home.

Why Standard Back Treatments Fail, Long-term

Most healthcare practitioners have been trained to treat the symptom and not the cause. The symptom, in this case, is the sharp pain on the outside edge of your low back when you stand or twist. Some practitioners will suggest using ice or heat initially. Ice can numb the pain and reduce any inflammation. If you leave ice on any area long enough, that area will become numb which will reduce the pain, in the short term. On the other hand, heat draws blood to the area so if there are any tears, the body can begin to heal itself. Ice is great right after an injury, the acute stage. Many times, when you have an injury, the body will become inflamed during the beginning of the healing process. I would suggest you use ice for up to an hour immediately following an injury.

Heat is more for the later, or chronic, stage. Heat draws blood to the affected area which uses the oxygen in the blood to heal the wound. Heat also has a calming effect on the body and brain as a whole. By relaxing the body, the muscle tension is reduced which increases the blood flow throughout the body. Some salves can give you the feeling of cooling or heat. These salves can have a similar effect as I mentioned above. Keep in mind you are changing nothing physically other than inflammation. Once the inflammation is gone, there is nothing left for ice or heat to do.

Many people wear back braces for support. If your abdominal muscles are weak and you have a hard time holding yourself up, then a brace can help. If you are dealing with back pain, the brace may not work because in most cases the cause of your pain is not your back. In many cases, the brace works like a placebo.

Like the brace, the typical back stretches help very little with back pain because the cause of the pain is rarely your back. Most back stretches have you lying on your back and pulling your knees up to your chest or across your body towards the opposite shoulder. I understand the reason why people think this is a great idea and it may relieve some of the pain, however, the pain will come back as you did not address the real cause.

What is Actually Causing Your Back Pain?

In 99 out of 100 cases of low back pain on the outside of the low back, it is a direct result of the upper quadriceps being tight. Usually, the lower quads do not affect the back like the upper quads will. The quadriceps are the four muscles on the front of your thigh that attach below the kneecap, run up your leg toward the hip, and attach on the backside of the pelvis. When these quadriceps become shortened from use, they will pull the pelvis forward as you stand, which increases the compression in the lower back.

Walking with shortened/tight quadriceps for a long period of time will cause the Tensor Fascia Lattae (TFL) to go into a spasm on one or both sides. The TFL are two little muscles on the sides of your hips that attach at the top of the pelvis and run down to the hip joint. In fact, you can feel it if you find the hip bone and move your finger up the side of your hip until you feel another bone, the pelvis. Every step you take forward causes this muscle to extend out as the TFL on the other side contracts back as the leg goes behind you. Having a pelvis that tilts forward forces the TFLs to overwork in both directions. This will increase the pull on the outside of the low back.

Tensor Fascia Lata

When twisting, the TFL can restrict the movement of the hip rotating muscles. Due to the pelvis being tilted forward, the five hip rotating muscles are at an odd angle anyway, and as you twist, the TFLs need to pull harder to make the rotators work as best as they can. If one of the TFLs goes into a spasm it can shift the pelvis downward on the side that is in a spasm, which will set off pain on the opposite side of your pelvis.

There are specific stretches for the TFLs, hip flexors, and upper quads. I will add the stretches for the TFLs and hip flexors as there are many newsletters with the quad stretch already there. I would suggest doing stretches every morning and evening.

Why Do I Have Back Pain?

The big question I get is, “What did I do to cause this pain?” If you sit at a computer and the monitor is at an angle on the desk forcing you to twist to see it, the risk of this pain can be high. As you sit there, you are twisting your hips and TFLs to make the move. Many think it is their back or abs, however, it is their hips. Other things that can set off the pain are doing rotational pulls with a rubber band at the gym, doing twisting motions while doing yoga when your hips are tight, wearing high heels, and taking too long a stride when walking.

I have seen people trying to stretch the sides of their torso and overdoing it, or reaching too quickly, at an angle, for something a little heavy. Both can create a spasm in the TFLs. Though they are small, they are mighty and can really affect your back. If you do any of these activities, using a tennis ball on your sides each day several times will help. Be sure to use the tennis ball on the wall and not the floor. Otherwise, you may not like me for not telling you as it will be painful.

How to Relieve Your Own Back Pain!

Solving your back pain can be easily done with a couple of stretches. Below is a couple of stretches for the upper quads and the TFLs. I would do them every morning when you wake up and then every night before bed. Don’t forget to do the Tennis Ball Massage each day as many times as you need it.

Quad Stretches

Stretching is more about feeling the muscles letting go than forcing them to stretch. If you are forcing the muscle, you could be doing strength training, not stretching. Make sure you are feeling the intended muscle stretching. If not, the form could be wrong. Holding for 5 seconds allows the brain to release the muscle before it senses any danger. Repeating the stretches 10 times allows the brain to learn it is safe for the muscle to move that way.

Hip Abduction Stretches

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Don’t forget the Tennis Ball Massage!

Softening your hips and back is easy when you use the tennis ball. Just lean against the wall and apply enough pressure to feel the painful area. The temptation is to press harder but resist it. Instead, breathe out and allow the muscle to soften under the ball. Then move to another spot and repeat. Continue doing this until most of the painful spots are gone. Check out previous newsletters to see the video.

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