Personal training for lower back pain
Research suggests that the majority (over 80%) of adults in the UK experience back pain.
Personal Training for Lower Back Pain: Our Plan is Part of Your Normal Life
Research suggests that the majority (over 80%) of adults in the UK experience back pain at some point in their lives. According to the NHS, lower back pain is the largest single cause of disability in the UK. What often starts as a small, easy-to-ignore niggle can, if left unaddressed, become an incredibly debilitating problem. The Office of National Statistics state a colossal 31 million work days were lost in the UK in 2016 due to musculoskeletal problems, of which the most common is back pain.
With your personal trainer lower back pain can become a thing of the past.
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What is lower back pain?
The lower back, also referred to as the lumbar spine, is the area of the back that starts below the ribcage. Lower back pain symptoms can vary from a dull ache, to shooting or stabbing sensations.
There are four broad categories of lower back pain: musculoskeletal, inflammatory, malignancy or infectious. The majority of lower back pain however does not have one single clear cause or fit clearly into just one of these categories, but is often a combination of different issues.
It can present as a mild “niggle” or can be unbearable and require pain relief medication. Sometimes lower back pain is constant, other times it only rears its head when you do a particular movement or try to lift something. If your back pain comes on suddenly, for example after a back injury, it is considered acute, however if it then lasts for more than 3 months we call this chronic pain.
What is the cause of lower back pain?
The spine is made up of joints, muscles and nerves, which, when placed under stress, can become inflamed. Pain then occurs, as a prelude to injury. If not addressed, this continued stress may then lead to chronic dysfunction, ‘wear & tear’ and long term pain patterns.
“Lower back pain” is a broad term covering a wide range of back problems, from benign to malicious, mild to severe, short term to chronic. With their understanding of our body’s pain mechanism and injury mechanisms, your personal trainer will help you to understand the likely cause for your backache and put together a training program that is tailored to address your specific pain and pain triggers.
Our trainers have helped clients to become pain free by addressing lower back issues relating to sciatica, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, poor posture, disc tears, strains and sprains, muscle spasms, spondylosis, scoliosis, degenerative joint disease, muscle imbalances and more. One problem that we deal with frequently is slipped or herniated discs. This is caused when the gel-like disks that cushion the spine’s vertebrae rupture or bulge due to wear and tear or injury, putting pressure on the spinal nerve roots.
In your consultation, your personal trainer will talk to you about your lifestyle and your job, which is a major risk factor for lower back pain. It seems obvious that if it involves lifting, pulling, or doing anything that twists the spine, it may contribute to back pain. However, less obvious is that sitting at a desk all day comes with risks of its own! The majority of our lower back pain clients actually have more of a problem due to their sedentary lifestyle. Sitting all down all day is not great for your lower back health. This is especially true if your chair is uncomfortable or you tend to slouch. We often find that clients complaining of lower back pain have developed imbalances across key muscle groups that contribute to overall back health and posture. Some muscle groups become overworked and tight and need stretching (for example hip flexors, pectorals, upper traps, lower back muscles including erector spinae) while others have become inhibited and weak and therefore need strengthening (for example glute muscles, abdominals, mid back muscles).
Professional low back pain rehabilitation
If low back pain has troubled you for a long time and prevented you from doing any exercise, your personal trainer will put together a strengthening and rehabilitation program to help you get back to your daily activities pain free. Our fitness experts can guide you through stretches, strength exercises, and low-impact cardio that will help you be fitter without straining your back.
The first thing your trainer will do is evaluate your posture, movement patterns and range of motion and talk to you about pain triggers. This will help them to identify the potential cause of pain. It is likely that there is not one single cause, but rather a combination of pain triggers.
From here, your personal trainer will put together a treatment plan programming exercises to strengthen your weakest areas and create more range of motion in your tightest areas. In each and every session they will focus on ensuring you have good form and posture throughout all key movement patterns. Your training program will include milestones for short, medium and long term recovery. Having training goals to work towards is key to stay motivated and keep making progress to your goal of being pain free.
Customised personal training
Unfortunately, too many trainers in the fitness industry program movements without first assessing their clients properly to check whether or not these are optimal. Failing to assess a clients movement, posture and current pain means that if there are already existing imbalances between muscle groups or some back pain, these could actually be made worse by training improperly. Some of our clients have come to us with muscle strain and back problems caused by workouts that have not been tailored to their body.
We believe that for a training program to be pain free, effective, safe and enjoyable it must be completely personalised. Our personal trainers have a wealth of experience dealing with people at all fitness levels and with a range of different back issues. They will always prioritise making sure that you have a solid foundation, teaching you good form in key movement patterns before they give you more challenging movements with higher loads.
For many people this will mean learning the basics first – taking some time to appreciate the connection between mind and muscles and learning how to engage their core properly (our trainers often use Pilates style exercises, like bird dog variations, with our clients for this)
Our customised personal training plans are available both in-person, at one of our London studios, or remotely. So if you would rather work out at home, your trainer can schedule in Zoom or Skype sessions with you and tailor your exercise to the space and equipment you have at home.
The benefits of training for lower back pain
Whatever the cause, strengthening the lower back and supporting muscles is absolutely essential, not only for pain management, but also to work towards a pain free life and prevent your back pain from recurring in the future.
- Strength training the muscles that support the spine can help to remove pressure from the discs and facet joints that make up the spine, in turn reducing pain
- Working on mobility can help to alleviate stiffness, enhance movement patterns and prevent muscle strain and back pain
- Improve your posture and learn how to make adjustments to the way you work and exercise in order to prevent back pain (e.g. the best way to set up your home working desk to prevent back pain)
- Exercise can help to improve circulation, which can alleviate symptoms for a specific type of chronic pain
- Releasing endorphins, which can naturally relieve pain
- People with chronic pain often report massive anxiety around exercise. This type of anxiety often causes a person to stiffen up and can actually make back pain worse. In the case of heightened pain sensitivity, your trainer will be able to recommend coping mechanisms (every person is different, so it may take time to find the approach that works best for you). Our approach to personal training means that you get unrivalled support from fitness experts throughout your journey. Our trainers attention is focused on one person – you – not divided between a group class. They will go at your pace and
As trainers our ultimate goal is to help you regain pain free movement, for life.
Is yoga good for back pain management?
We love yoga and believe that it has a lot of benefits to your health, both physical and mental. There are many yoga poses which, done with good form, are great for our spine health and posture because they stretch and strengthen different back muscles.
However, it is super important to understand which muscles actually need stretching before you jump into yoga classes. People often feel pain or tightness in their muscles and have a knee-jerk reaction of, “I need to stretch more and get more flexible!”. But it’s important to understand that back pain is a complicated issue. There will be some muscles that are tight and overworked (we often see clients with tight hip flexors), so need targeted stretching, whilst other muscles are already overstretched and weak, so they need strengthening exercises instead of more stretching! If you have low back pain, your personal trainer will assess the causes, figure out which muscles are tight and weak, and tailor a program for your individual body.
My back problems have been bothering me for years. Is back pain really something you can fix with training?
Absolutely! It may seem counterintuitive, but weight training is actually one of the best ways to reduce back pain. Developing your back muscles to ensure your spine is supported and focusing on exercises that strengthen your core muscles, to provide your body with a strong foundation, can make a world of difference when it comes to the management and prevention of low back pain.
We’re not promising a quick fix – if your low back pain has been caused by years of sub-optimal movement and poor posture, then the journey to pain free movement won’t happen overnight. But we’re confident that working with our personal trainers, you will see a significant improvement.
Shouldn't I be resting if I have lower back pain?
If you’ve suffered an injury to your back and you’re experiencing new, severe, acute pain then – absolutely, rest (and seek professional medical advice!). However, if your low back pain is a niggling issue you’ve had for months or years, then exercise guided by a professional may prove absolutely transformative when it comes to pain management.
I've been told my posture isn't great. Could this be causing my lower back pain?
Yes. Unfortunately many of us spend far too much of our day in a posture that is hunched over. This is especially true of office workers – how often have you been busy typing away before realising that you’ve hunched your body into a weird position and that you’re feeling super stiff?! Repeating this day in day out is a recipe for muscle strains and imbalances and ultimately chronic back pain.
I've had a back injury / herniated disc and now I'm really anxious about exercise. Can you help?
We completely understand that coming back to exercise can be pretty nerve-wracking, especially if some movements still cause significant low back discomfort. Rest assured that your trainer will never ask you to do exercises or movements that they do not know to be completely safe for your back. Our trainers have all worked with people with chronic back pain and their priority is to ease you into movement gradually. We often start with very simple motor control exercises to restore coordinated and efficient use of the muscles that help to control and support the spine.
I read that lifting weights can cause low back pain. Is this true?
No. In the majority of cases, back pain during or after lifting weights is caused by poor posture or poor lifting technique. This is why it is incredibly important to work with an expert personal trainer who can be there by your side to ensure you have good form.
The key part of any training plan is progressive overload – i.e. gradually making your training sessions harder. However, people are often way too eager to challenge themselves with exercises they’re not ready for. This is a really common cause of low back pain. One key part of our trainers job is to help you to progress exercises at a pace that is sustainable and safe, to protect your back and prevent pain.
Many lower back strains actually occur at home, during every day activities, like carrying heavy shopping at an awkward angle or lifting a child up in the air and inadvertently twisting the spine. Strengthening your body by lifting weights with good form is the best way to ensure that your body and lumbar spine is prepared to cope with these every day activities.
At my last health check up I was told I'm slightly overweight. Can this contribute to lower back pain?
Being overweight or obese, or putting on a large amount of weight in a short space of time, is unfortunately a risk factor for low back pain, as well as pain in other joints of the body. People often find that achieving a healthy BMI helps to ease their low back pain symptoms significantly.
Your personal trainer can talk to you about weight loss strategies and support you with tailored exercise and nutrition plans to help you achieve healthy weight loss, if that is your goal.
However, losing weight may not be enough in itself to “cure” your back problems, as there is often more than one cause. You may for example also need to focus on improving your overall fitness levels, addressing imbalances between muscle groups, improving your posture, etc.
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I had a couple of sessions at Fitness Lab in its previous guise as a rowing/HITT venue and I loved it then. I love it even more now! The quality of the training is superb and facilities are clean and tidy with everything you need post-workout. I have experienced gyms where form has taken a back seat when training but not at Fitness Lab. There is a real focus on doing things properly, and I can see the benefits of working towards well structured goals and a distinct plan. The trainers are lovely and friendly, there's always a warm welcome from them and anyone else there. Emily is an awesome PT, she knows her stuff. She's encouraging but doesn't let me off the hook easily, and that has pushed me to do more outside of the studio. I don't live or work any where near the studio but I'm happy to travel because this little place is a gem. I can't imagine going anywhere else whilst I live in London.
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Why Choose Fitness Lab
Most Personal Trainers in London work on a freelance basis, meaning that they struggle to find an environment where their career progression and education are truly valued. This is a huge problem facing the personal training industry. We founded Fitness Lab with the understanding that to truly help people, we need to attract the best trainers and provide them with the tools and environment to provide the highest quality coaching possible. We prioritise education to ensure that our clients always get the best from their trainer and get results.