Stop Stretching Your Back!

by Colin Aina


Yes that's right, I just said that!!

It may be apparent to some of you that I have many current clients and athletes that I coach and train with back issues. Some have chronic pain due to injuries and some that have had spinal surgery.  By now, you've all heard our rants about how sitting all day is degrading all of our spines here in America. Sadly, this is true and will continue to progress as the western standard for "success" is the attainment of a cozy office job in which crunching numbers is involved. 

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me address my aforementioned retort. I've come across many people that feel that being able to touch their toes is a "great" way to stretch the back and get a stretch in the hamstrings. WRONG!! And shame on the person that ever told you to do so.  For many, the problem in the first place is the fact that their back is too loose to begin with. Simply put, the lower lumbar region and its spinal erectors are only meant to stabilize and aid in a small amount of rotation, 5-15 degrees depending on the individual ;). When we over rotate we weaken these muscles and instability and pain occurs.

I found this out the hard way. In 2006 I started having chronic lumbar pain as well as a numbing tingle. This mostly occurred about 30 minutes into me driving. I also would have extreme pain if I slept on my stomach and most mornings I had to walk around hunched over for a few minutes.....yeah, pretty bad for someone under 30. Luckily, I could still train and run my track workouts under a minute amount of pain. It boggled me as to why this was happening to me. Then it hit me like a Mack truck! I was attending a seminar and the presenter mentioned something that I already knew...we are not supposed to have extreme amounts of rotation in our backs. I then thought of a few stretches in particular that I've been doing for years as part of my warmup for track practice...this was the culprit! I immediately stopped doing this one stretch, trying to get a massive amount of stretch at the hips and trying to get my leg much higher than is needed. 

There have been a few people here that have had a long drawn out warmup prior to taking classes or a training session that have been instructed to do so by either an orthopedic physician or therapist. I've approached them and asked what the situation was and was told the typical scenario.."I was told to do...". They have followed directions and have still not felt much better. I mentioned stopping a few of the movements that I found to be questionable and, as a result, their pain was drastically reduced.

I've been able to manage my pain to this day with certain training modalities that I implement into my training program. I've since been able to help my clients and athletes as well due to my experience with this all too common culprit. More detailed recommendations coming soon. See me with any questions.