Whether you lead a sedentary life or work out without an understanding of muscle balance, you will likely experience lower back pain. Lower back pain relief is often found by improving weak or imbalanced muscles.
Common Muscular Causes of Back Pain
Weak Glutes: The gluteus maximus, medius and minimus muscles in the buttocks work together to facilitate a number of motions, such as rising from a chair or lifting the legs to step forward or climb stairs. These muscles are often weak due to prolonged periods of sitting, which leaves them compressed and unused. Lower back muscles often compensate for weak gluteal muscles, which causes muscle strain in the back.
Tight Hip Muscles: Whether you sit a lot or participate in sports like cycling, you likely have tight hip muscles, namely the psoas and iliacus muscles. These stretch from the lower back to the upper thigh and are used whenever the lower and upper body are brought closer together. The hip flexors are not stretched by any normal daily movements, but are shortened and tensed by most of them. Tight hip muscles pull the pelvis down in the front, increasing the lumbar arch; this causes uneven disc pressure and tension in the lower back muscles.
Weak Abdominal Muscles: Abdominal muscles, along with glutes, lower back muscles and hip flexors, are part of the core group. These muscles need to be strong and balanced in order to support the spine and keep the pelvis aligned properly. Weak abs leave the lower back muscles alone to support the upper body’s weight and offer no balancing pull on the front of the pelvis to keep it neutral. Along with tight hip muscles, weak abs contribute to pelvic instability.
Chest/Shoulder Imbalance: Either from slouching throughout the day or focusing too much on your pectorals at the gym, the muscles in the chest are often shorter than those in the upper back and shoulders. This pulls the shoulders down and the head forward, pulling on the muscles of the upper back. These muscles attempt to return to normal length and become strained. As the upper body slumps forward, the lower back may flatten out, pulling on lower back muscles and causing uneven pressure on spinal discs.
While weight lifting is a great way to build bulging muscles fast, it is all too easy to cause postural dysfunction and muscle imbalances this way. Weight lifting generally involves the isolation of muscle groups, which is unnatural. Muscles of the body work together to perform movements and work, and require balanced development and flexibility. A workout regimen that builds strength in many muscle groups in one motion is called functional training.
Kettlebell training is functional training. A kettlebell is a weight fitted with a handle. The movements of kettlebell training engage numerous muscle groups, which encourages balanced strength and flexibility. Muscle memory is developed throughout the course of kettlebell sessions, training the brain to activate the appropriate muscles required for a movement to be performed with maximum efficiency. This is what makes kettlebell training a great form of back pain exercise.
Kettlebell training can provide lower back pain relief by strengthening gluteal, shoulder and abdominal muscles while restoring flexibility to tight hip flexors. It also encourages both strength and endurance of the erector spinae muscles that support the spine.
If you have lower back pain and are considering kettlebell training as part of your treatment plan, consult with a trained exercise therapist or physical therapist first to make sure your condition doesn’t contraindicate the exercise. Also, as with any exercise, proper form is key. If your form is off, you could cause further back pain. It is best to begin a new exercise program with the guidance of a trained therapist.