Back pain? Don’t stretch!

Read time: 3 minutes
The first solution that comes to most people’s minds when talking about back pain? Stretching!
I did it too, reaching for my toes, and twisting and turning my limbs in all kinds of weird pretzels. But instead of fixing my back problem, they got worse.
It turns out, pulling on painful muscles might not be the best solution. 🤷

What is back pain?

Before we talk about a better alternative, let’s look at where back pain comes from. 🕵️
No matter if it’s a disc bulge or a painful tightness in the areas around the spine, the root cause is the same.
Your muscles are supposed to stabilize and protect your spine and they were not strong enough to do that (disc bulge) or are struggling to keep it together (tightness).

So what’s the problem with stretching?
If you ever had a disc touch a nerve, you already know.
The problem is that you can’t stretch at all. As soon as you move close to your pain, it stings and radiates and makes you go 😖.

The overall strategy here is to regain stability, not to loosen everything up even more by stretching.
Mobility training is always part of the answer but if you have acute disc issues you need to see a health professional to figure out what you can do and if other tools are necessary.

If the back pain comes from tightness, stretching some of that tension out feels good for a moment. But the relief only lasts for a very short time, gets the muscles into an even worse position, and often the pain returns amplified.

Also, you increase your risk for further injuries by reducing stability.
Flexibility without control does not solve the problem, if anything it makes it worse.

The solution: mobility training
While flexibility is your passive range of motion, how far you can relax into a stretch, mobility is your ability to move into certain positions using your own strength and not relying on gravity to pull you in.

This means when you practice mobility you not only get a quick fix but also work on the root issue, the muscles around your spine being not strong enough or not working together well.
Engaging tight muscles instead of just pulling on them makes them more responsive, filled with blood, and more enduring in the long term.

All this helps them do their job better: keeping the parts of your spine where they should be without getting tired.

How to do mobility training?
Start with easy moves like Arm Rotations and Hip Circles.

I do them both every morning, for as many reps as I’m years old.
Might be just me but I can’t wait to be 100. 🤪

The goal is to always be in control, going through the full range of motion deliberately, with a medium tempo, and for 30+ reps.

After you get used to the two foundational moves, pick out a few more.
Here are some I like a lot:

Put together a small, daily routine of around 5 moves that you do for a minute each. Then do it daily. Maybe even twice. 😱

Focusing on a small number of moves that you like and can do well also makes it easy to turn them into movement snacks.

Keep moving!

Want to know my #1 strategy against back pain?
I do my mobility routine in the morning, then I snack on movements during the day to never let the stiffness creep in.

It works the same as snacking yourself out of shape, by doing a little bit all the time you gently and without crazy effort start to change into a person without back issues and good posture.
Of course, a bit of strength training and cardio is also important for your health, body composition, and sanity.
But integrating mobility work in your day is one of the easiest things you can do to change how you live in your body.

Check out the examples above and get started right away!
Enjoy and keep moving!