I have had some low back issues lately. They have been occurring occasionally with severe acute presentations. I had an MRI done and discovered that I have a moderate L4/5 disc bulge. Part of my issue is that my core muscles were not strong enough to stabilize my spine. I am now doing specific exercises to help to strengthen these muscles but like any muscle that is being strengthened, that didn’t fire properly before, needs to be taught to fire properly. On closer analysis, I’ve come to realize just how much my muscles were not firing when they should.
I went for a bike ride today. What I experienced is that my back muscles were working hard with the position that I was riding in, but my abdominals were not firing or working as they should. This ride I decided to not fire them intentionally, but to use them by keeping my pelvis tilted in a neutral position and not allowing the torso to rotate at all when I was riding. To control this, requires good core stabilizer control. It also requires that my hip muscles (glutes, quads, hamstrings, tfl) allow proper movement of the hip joint. Tight muscles around the hip always cause excess compensatory movements in the spine.
I have also come to realize how tight my hip flexors are after my rides. That is a big contributor to my issues with spine stabilization as the hip flexors attach to the spine, usually at around 20 – 30 degrees from the spine. My low back felt a little bit tight after the ride so I spent some time stretching my glute muscles and hip flexors and I’m consciously keeping my core muscles tight and I’m doing very well.
In my experience, dysfunction in other areas often cause problems with the back. Strength, mobility of all surrounding areas and awareness of an triggers during the day that can be accentuating the pain can really help with progress for a healthy back for years to come.