Hop, hop, hop … oomph
As soon as the muscle on the right side of my low back seized up and sent me into teeth-gritting pain, I knew that my simple morning workout of practicing jump-rope double unders had suddenly resulted in a debilitating injury.
A low back strain. Sprain. Spasm. Pull. Whatever you want to call it, it hurt like heck and within twenty minutes I could barely stand.
But despite back injuries like this sticking with many folks for months, years, or even a frustrating entire life of dealing with nagging aches in the spine and hips, I was personally back in action and fully healed within just four weeks.
So how did I heal a serious low back injury so fast? You’re about to discover how I healed my low back pain naturally, and the best exercises and workouts, best treatment, best gear, best supplements and best books and resources for healing your own low back pain without surgery and medications.
The Best Exercises And Workouts for Low Back Pain
Contrary to popular belief, and as I discuss in my article “How to Workout With A Low Back Injury,” you don’t simply have to lay with your feet up on the couch on a heating pad when you have injured your low back. Movement will not only increase blood and lymph flow to allow your low back to heal faster, but will also keep you burning fat, maintaining muscle, and avoiding going slightly insane from being a complete sedentary slob as your low back heals.
So in addition to the link above, what are my favorite exercises and workouts for low back pain? Here’s what I do:
ELDOA, which stands for Étirements Longitudinaux avec Decoaptation OsteoArticulaire, or Longitudinal Osteo-Articular Decoaptation of the Spine in English, is a form of deep fascial stretching that elongates the space between the discs of the low back and decompresses the spine – using nothing but your own body weight and a few simple stretch moves. To learn more about what exactly ELDOA training looks like and how it works, listen to this recent podcast I recorded with my own personal ELDOA instructor. Below are links to sample videos of how to do it (I simply did each of the exercises below once per day for sixty seconds each).
-In addition to daily ELDOA stretching, I also recommend you do the daily Core Foundation program from Dr. Eric Goodman’s book True To Form. I actually interviewed Dr. Goodman in my podcast, and I have written an article on Foundation Training. Check out the interview with Dr Goodman, Why Your Back Is The Most Important Part Of Your Core Workout, and read my article on Foundation Training to understand exactly how this process also decompresses your spine and “turns on your butt”, which is very important for eliminating low back pain and keeping it from happening again. I did the exercises from the book aboveonce per day, and they take a total of about 10 minutes.
-Finally, avoid the two worst positions for your low back: sitting for long periods of time or (surprisingly) standing for long periods of time. Both can compress your spine or cause your spine muscles to spasm and lock up, especially when they’re injured. Instead of sitting, adopt a lunging or kneeling position, and if you must sit, for example, in an airplane or car, then tuck a lumbar support pad, towel, blanket or pillow below your low back. If you have a standing workstation, remove pressure from the spine and discs by standing with one foot elevated on a raised platform and by frequently changing positions. Here’s a video I recorded demonstrating my own setup in my office that allows me to move in a variety of back pain relieving positions during the day at work.
The Best Treatments for Low Back Pain
Rather than rushing out to see a back surgeon, who may prescribe back surgery that you don’t actually need, I’d recommend you first consider the following, each of which I personally did:
– Chiropractic or osteopathic adjustment. Often a low back injury results in ribs, hips, vertebra or other joints that are out of place. An adjustment can be as simple as “popping” these back into place. To learn more about chiropractic and osteopathic adjustments and how they work, listen to my interview with my own personal chiropractic physician. I had three adjustments over the course of my four week healing period.
-Deep tissue work. Foam rolling and other tools like lacrosse balls, tennis balls and the type of apparatus described in the book “Becoming a Supple Leopard” should be used not just on the area of pain around the low back, but just as importantly on the lower front of your body, in areas such as your psoas and hip flexors. By rolling and kneading and massaging these areas, along with the erector spinae, gluteus medius and the quadratus lumborum in the low back area, you will remove a great deal of pressure from your lower back. So remember: deep tissue therapy on the front of the body is just as important as working on the back of the body, even if the back of your body is the only part that hurts. Once you “free up” the muscles on the front of your body, you’ll find you can often move far more pain-free.
For the first two to four weeks of your injury, keep moving, but only with non-weight-bearing exercise. This means, in addition to the ELDOA and Core Foundation exercises above, you can keep moving with workouts such as swimming, elliptical training, cycling, easy walking with deep nasal breathing or breath holds, super slow exercising on machines, and light upper and lower body elastic band or cable work, like I demonstrate in this video. Resist the urge to engage in heavy weight training and resist the stress that you’ll somehow “lose muscle”. As I highlight in this article, light, high-repetition exercises can be just as effective as heavy, low-repetition exercise at maintaining and even building muscle. When it comes to maintaining muscle, frequent use of a sauna or, as I discuss in this article, an infrared sauna can not only keep blood flowing and heal injuries even faster due to the release of growth hormone and other healing factors, but can also help with maintaining muscle due to the expression of something called “heat shot protein”. Just be careful with any cold thermogenesis or cold plunges afterwards so that you don’t activate your “fight and flight”, sympathetic nervous system, which can throw your low back into a spasm once you’re all relaxed!
-Yoga. Yoga is one of my favorite low back healing workouts, and during the course of my healing, I did a 30 minute yoga workout three times per week. The specific stretches that I also sprinkled in throughout my day and found to be extremely helpful for the low back included:
The Scorpion Stretch
Any lunging, lying or kneeling hip flexor or hip opener (this article highlights several of my favorites)
Kneeling back bend pose (particularly the Pigeon and the Sphinx, pictured here).
Yoga is also a great way of fighting stress, but choose your yoga wisely, as some types of yoga can also be stressful. Power yoga moves and very intense stretches should be avoided until your back is pain-free. If you take a class or use a yoga video, Hatha yoga is the one that I would recommend, as it promotes physical relaxation by decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system, thereby decreasing cortisol, lowering heart rate and increasing breath volume.
-Breathwork. To lower cortisol and relax your back, you must monitor your breathing and make sure you are breathing properly. To learn how to breathe in a way that destresses the body, check out Belisa Vranich’s recently released book, called Breathe, or listen to my podcast interview with her here.
So now you have the best exercises, workouts and treatments for naturally healing a low back injury. In next week’s episode, we’ll delve into the best gear, the best supplements, and the best books and resources you should get your hands on for healing your own low back pain.
In the meantime, if you have more questions, comments or feedback about how to heal your low back pain naturally, then you can join the conversation at Below.