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Causes and Prevention of Low Back Pain

The occurrence of low back pain (LBP) has reached epidemic proportions. There are more complaints regarding LBP than any other medical condition. Teaching proper lifting techniques, strengthening and stretching the appropriate muscles and knowing how this area is injured can reduce the incidence of LBP.

While some LBP is genetic, most can be prevented. Lack of flexibility in certain muscle groups is a leading cause of LBP. Specifically, you should stretch the muscles in the back and front of the thigh, the gluteal muscles and the groin area.

Besides stretching tight areas, strengthening supporting structures of the torso can also prevent LBP. Weak abs and lower back muscles often contribute to LBP. Also, a muscle imbalance between these two areas (the strength ratio should be about 1 to 1) will increase strain on the lower back.

Strengthening the torso muscles can be done by simple flexion and extension motions such as crunches and back extensions . Avoid hyperflexion as this can increase intradiscal pressure. Be sure to add some controlled twisting motions to work the obliques which are necessary to provide optimal back support.

Increasing strength in the muscles supporting the torso reduces the force applied to the spinal column. Conversely, if you have weak supporting muscles the spinal column will be forced to carry a greater load.

Good form must be used when training trunk stability as poor form can lead to pain or injury. Performing repetitions in the medium range of 12-20 usually allows for good form. You can add extra sets as you get stronger and even use some resistance. Your core or trunk musculature should be trained the same way you train other body parts. Five to ten minutes every other day is sufficient.

While simple flexion and extension exercises are helpful in preventing injuries some movements actually cause problems. A few contraindicated exercises are:

* Excessive forward flexion.

* Hyperextension of the trunk.

* Poorly controlled or uncoordinated movements.

* Too many high impact activities.

* Excessive twisting of the upper body.

Nearly 80% of Americans report having at least one episode of low back injury. Many cases can be prevented by stretching and strengthening the right muscle groups. Check for any muscle imbalances and make sure your core muscles provide proper trunk support. Avoid those exercises which irritate the low back area and you'll find you have an effective program for developing a strong lower back and pain free movement.

About the Author: Dr. Lanny Schaffer is an Exercise Physiologist and the President of The International Fitness Academy. For more cutting edge fitness and safe exercise tips go to

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