According to the Center for Disease Control nearly 80% of adults will struggle with back pain or sciatica at some point. If you're dealing with back pain you know that it's a serious issue.
It disrupts your sleeping and waking cycles. It lowers the levels of serotonin – the our “happy” chemicals – in the brain.
And it can be stubborn. If you do the wrong things you will almost definitely keep yourself in pain.
The tricky thing is, some of the things you think will make you feel better are actually the worst things you can do.
Here are three mistakes that people with back pain make everyday, according to fitness coach and back pain specialist Emily Lark.
Mistake #1: Stretching the wrong muscles in your back
It might feel good to get a nice back stretch, but be careful. If you're stretching your sore area you could actually be making things worse.
You're not supposed to directly stretch your sore area. To get rid of the pain you should actually be stretching other areas.
For example Emily talks about tight shoulders. You might think you need to stretch out your shoulders, but it's really your chest that needs to be stretched.
It's the same thing with other areas of your back that hurt. Your body sends a sort of false signal about what to do. With back pain, you need to stretch muscles away from the painful area if you want to get better.
Mistake #2: Trying to strengthen your back muscles
Here's another myth about back pain: it happens because your back is weak.
The truth is most back pain isn't because of a weak back. Emily says:
[T]he vast majority of the time, back problems aren't caused by a weak back, they are the result of a weak core.
-Emily Lark, fitness coach and back pain specialist
Core weakness makes you have to overcompensate with your back. Over the long term this leads to back pain.
Fixing this does not require hundreds of crunches. Instead, you want to focus on strengthening your entire core, which is more than just your surface level six-pack muscles.
Mistake #3: Too much rest
It's totally understandable that you want to rest your painful back. It can even give you temporary relief sometimes.
But bedrest is one of the absolute worst things you can do if you want to feel better. It makes you more stiff and increases your pain. And it only takes a few weeks of bed rest to lose 20-30% of your muscle mass.
What you need to do to get out of pain and moving again are simple, gentle movements, according to Emily.
If you've been paying attention, you can probably guess what Emily Lark prescribes for back pain (and sciatica): Gentle movements that stretch the correct muscles in your back and strengthen your core.
She has a routine that's roughly 10 minutes long. She uses it for her clients and also makes it available online.
You can learn more about it at her website here. Or, read what we had to say about it here. It's a system called “Back to Life” (sometimes also called “Erase My Back Pain”) where she teaches you how to use these movements to get out of back pain fast, and keep it away long term.
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