Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Working Out Safely With Lower Back Pain - NASM Personal Training Internship Blog Article

One of my assignments for my NASM Personal Training Internship was to do a workshop or blog article of a subject of my own choosing. I went with the blog article and decided to focus on exercising with low back pain since that is something I suffer from frequently. This is my final blog article and I hope it helps those of you out there who need it!!

If you suffer lower back pain, you're not alone. According to research, more than 85% of adults in the United States suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives and it is the fifth most common reason for doctor's visits. 

There are many reasons for back pain ranging from regular activity to injuries and medical conditions. The chance of developing lower back pain increases with age and lack of activity and can interfere with daily activities. Research has also shown that living a healthy lifestyle and doing strengthening exercises may reduce pain and increase back function over time.

Back pain could be both acute (lasting less than 6 weeks) and chronic (lasting more than 3 months). There are different reasons and causes for back pain. Our bodies function best when all of our muscles work in sync with one another so a variety of things, including injury, improper movement, illness and and weak muscles of the core and pelvis could lead to back pain.

There are many different causes of back pain. 

Some additional common causes are:
  • disc degenerative disease such as spinal stenosis 
  • injury from sprains and strains
  • medical conditions such as as fibromyalgia, osteoporosis and kidney stones
  • improper movement such as lifting objects incorrectly
  • structural problems such as bulging discs, sciatica and arthritis,
  • every day movements such as lifting, sitting, moving and twisting
  • strenuous exercise

Low back pain doesn't always require a doctor's visit but in some cases it's crucial to see your doctor to prevent pain from getting worse and leading to more injuries. 

Please see your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:
  • Back pain that follows a trauma, such as a car accident or a fall 
  • The pain is constant and getting worse
  • Back pain that continues for more than four to six weeks
  • The pain is severe and does not improve after a day or two of typical remedies, such as rest, ice and common pain relievers (such as ibuprofen or Tylenol)
  • The pain is worse at night (most common forms of back pain are better when at rest)
The good news is that despite suffering from lower back pain you can remain active and improve your pain through specific movements, stretches and exercises. You can also find ways to protect your body from further pain and injury by changing the way you move and rest as well. 

There are  also many things you can do throughout your daily life to prevent and improve back pain. 

Some of other things you can do to prevent back pain are:
  • sleeping with pillow between your knees
  • wearing comfortable, low heeled shoes
  • carrying less weight throughout the day as well as distributing the weight you are carrying equally to both sides of your body
  • sleeping on your side instead of your back
  • avoiding heavy lifting and if you must lift something heavy to  bend your knees and keep your back straight so that you are lifting with your legs rather than you back
  • watching your weight
  • exercising and strengthening your core muscles

There are several exercises you can do to prevent lower back pain and well as improve it but please see your doctor before beginning any exercise program!

The top five exercises you can do are:

Glute Bridge: 

The glutes are some of the strongest muscles in your body. They're responsible for movement at the hip, including hip extensions and squats. Weakness in the glutes can contribute to back pain because they’re important stabilizers of the hip joints, and of the lower back during movements like walking and are often in use.


Lie on an exercise mat with your knees bent so that your feet are flat on the floor. Keep your back straight.
1. Place your hands out to your sides palms flat for stability.
2. Raise your glutes off the floor by extending your hips upward while pushing down through you heels.
3. Continue until your back, hips and thighs are in a straight line. Hold for a count of one.
4. Return to the start position by lowering your hips back to the floor.
5. Pause then repeat.

Bird Dog:

This is a bodyweight exercise which strengthens your abs and lower back. It’s great for beginners who feel like they don’t have much lower back strength, because you're using your own bodyweight, arms and legs rather than  weights or resistance bands (although bands can be added as you progress and get stronger).


Position yourself on all fours with knees underneath the hips and wrists under the shoulders.
1. Engage your abs and keep your spine neutral, pulling the shoulder blades towards the hips.
2. Lengthen the left leg until it is straight out and in line with your hips while simultaneously raising and straightening your right arm until it is parallel to the floor. Keep your head and shoulders aligned at all times.
3. Gently lower your arm and leg back to the starting position and alternate with the other arm and leg.

Dead Bug:

This exercise allows you to strengthen your abdominal muscles and all the front sides of your core while minimizing the pressure on your lower back.


Lie on your back. Extend hands straight above towards the ceiling. Bring your knees up to a 90-degree angle. Shins should be parallel to the floor. Exhale and bring hips off the floor.
1. Begin by extending one leg forward. The foot should be hovering just above the ground.
2. Pause then return the leg to it’s starting position while extending the opposing leg. Keep alternating legs while maintaining a tight core.

Forearm Plank:

Because the plank requires very little movement while still contracting all the layers of the abdominals, it's a great way to strengthen the core, which then reduces low-back pain. As the abdominal muscles get stronger, your mid-section tightens. When done correctly, the plank not only uses the deep abdominal muscles but it also uses the hip, shoulder and upper-back muscles.


Get into a face down position on the floor supporting your upper body on your forearms. Your elbows should be bent at 90 degrees.
1. Extend your legs straight out behind you, supporting them on your toes and balls of your feet.
2. Keep your body in a straight line by tightening your abdominal and oblique muscles.
3. Hold for as long as possible.

Cat-Cow Back Stretch:

This stretch helps maintain mobility of the spine while strengthening the back and abdominal muscles. It also works to strengthen, stretch and release the tension in the spine. The movements of this exercise use all the sections of your spine, increasing flexibility and circulation.


Step 1: Bring your hands and knees onto the floor. Ensure your knees are in line with your hips,your wrists are in line with your shoulders and your back and head are centered.
Step 2: On an inhale slowly drop your belly towards the floor as you lift your hips, roll your shoulders back and raise your chin towards the sky.
Step 3: On an exhale, press your palms firmly into the mat as you curve your spine, rounding the shoulders and tucking the tailbone in.
The purpose of this pose is to connect movement with your breath. Slowly alternate between cat and cow pose keeping in rhythm with your breath. (Slowly inhale into cow. Slowly exhale into cat)

There are also exercises that could injure your back further as well as increase your pain. These exercises need to be avoided until a doctor has cleared you to do them. Here are the top five exercises to avoid with back pain.

Exercises to avoid:

Superman due to most people experiencing discomfort with this exercise, as well as research showing that it creates the highest amount of stress to the joints of the low back.

Sit Ups due to them putting a lot of pressure on lower back.

Double Leg Raises (lifting both legs together while lying on your back) due to  them putting a lot of demand on your low back.

Standing Toe Touches due to them stretching the back more than the hamstrings which may aggravate an already existing back injury.

Russian Twists due to them aggravating any pre-existing lower-back issues, especially when done with improper form.

Working with a Certified Personal Trainer could be helpful if you suffer from lower back pain for several reasons. One, they will conduct a full risk assessment to be sure that you are ready to exercise and will be able to suggest a doctor's visit if needed.

They also know what areas of the body to focus on the most and how to lengthen and strengthen the muscles that will support and protect your lower back. They are also able to teach you how to move correctly to protect your back and how to perform every exercise correctly, with the right form, as well as help improve your posture and daily movements and reduce risk of further injury.

In conclusion back pain can range anywhere from irritating to debilitating but it does not have to prevent you from living your life and getting and/or staying in shape. You just have to know the right things to do to make that happen!

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