The lower back is commonly the focus of “core” training and posture. With around 80% of individual’s experiencing some form of back pain it has become a massive focus for trainers more orientated towards rehab. With national health service initiatives running programs for lower back care for back pain resolution it is an issue for a large proportion of individual’s on a national level.
A lot of training and rehab protocols focus specifically on this area and in some cases rightly so. If we have weak musculature supporting the lower back then injury and pain can become chronic. In turn though research shows that most back pain will resolve itself within 6 weeks regardless of any type of exercise intervention. This is partly due to the way we adapt to pain- if in discomfort we will aim to get the body pain free, this may mean changing the way you stand or perhaps perform a task. Often this position may not be posturally desirable and the body begins adapting to this new posture or way of moving taking you further away from a more biomechanically desirable posture.
The lower back is an area that needs stability, the torso acts almost like a corset resisting the movement of the lumbar region keeping the area stable and actively promoting anti- rotation. While the spine is able to flex and extend as well as rotate performing this movements through a complete range of movement has been shown to be counterintuitive to spinal health, please note this highlights that end range of motion is the issue flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation are all performed daily and can be trained, the method of training though is the thing that needs to be questioned often. This has led to the prevalence of bracing style exercises such as the plank as an entry-level exercise which aim to provide stability in the core area… however, this may not necessarily be the good for everyone.
In the previous post I discussed that often hip position and pelvic tilt will play a role in lumbar spine position. If we take someone in to a plank based drill or indeed any exercise where there pelvic tilt is too extreme then we may be placing stress on the lower back. If we keep on addressing the lower back or core as the area of issue for training then we are missing the major player in why there is faulty alignment in the back in the first place. Effectively then we may be exaggerating the problem, creating poor movement quality as well as not necessarily resolving the back position issue.
This really highlights that exercise selection often needs to be relevant to the individual. Addressing an are of pain though does not mean “make that are stronger” or just “stretching it” sometimes it means taking a holistic approach to the body and especially with back pain considering the mobility and strength around the hip region and it’s influence on posture further up the chain of the body. This also highlights that while an exercise like a plank may help positive change in posture for someone else it may not, it also highlights that one exercise is rarely the answer and the whole training programme has to address these issues. This is also relevant for those looking to enhance their performance, strength or even speed. Simply said, just because someone does a certain exercise which gets them a positive result it doesn’t mean you will see the same benefits to performance uniformly. Or as sayings go “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” (N.B. I suppose you could replace meat with lunges or deadlifts or other exercises which some people love while other people resent).
Postural issue issues don’t necessarily refer up the body from faulty hip position the upper back and shoulders play a major role in posture which I will discuss in the next post.