Check out these tips to ease back pain from Dana Santas, professional yoga instructor and adviser for many professional athletes in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and PGA circuits.
Whether you’re a corporate desk jockey or a major league baseball player, chances are you’ve experienced back pain that impacted job performance. It’s one of the most common reasons for missing work, and according to a report recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine, more than 80% of us will experience at least one bout of acute low back pain in our lifetimes. Many will face a recurrence within the first year.
But preventing back pain, particularly a recurrence, might be more in our control than previously thought, research suggests. Through a review of studies that covered treatment methods for more than 30,000 participants, the study’s authors found that the proactive use of exercise showed a greater reduction of lower back pain risk than commonly prescribed passive methods, such as support belts, orthotics, and rest.
As a yoga mobility trainer to professional athletes, I (Dana Santas) can attest that a proactive approach to injury prevention and recovery is preferred in sports; it’s one of the primary reasons I’m hired. Team coaches, trainers, and doctors consider prolonged rest or surgery as last resorts, not only because it’s impractical and costly to bench in-season athletes, but because they recognize active recovery as an effective means of overcoming pain for the quickest return to play. They also know that adding back-care exercises to an athlete’s overall strength and conditioning program is key to reducing the risk of re-injury — and preventing pain in the first place.
Prevent pain proactively
When creating back-focused programs, I include exercises to enhance stability and mobility of the spine through all of its functional movements: flexion (forward bending), extension (backward bending), lateral movement (side bending), and rotation (twisting). To that end, I also address alignment and function of primary supporting areas of the body, such as the pelvis and hips, rib cage and core muscles, especially the diaphragm. I’ve outlined a sample sequence of exercises I use with my pro clients that are accessible for most people — athlete or not — to do several times per week for lower back pain prevention and back health.
Not all back pain has the same cause. The exercises below are designed to address a number of potential causes. Check with your doctor to understand the source of your back pain and any associated contraindications before beginning this or any exercise program.