5 Tips to Improve Low Back Pain When Bending Forward

5 tips to help low back pain when bending forward

With our sitting culture in America, the soft tissues of our low back progressively tighten over time, which can lead to low back pain when bending forward. Muscles get tighter and tighter unless we stretch. Let’s explore some tips to improve low back pain. But first…

Why am I getting low back pain when bending forward?

Commonly we will experience low back pain when bending forward due to tightness in the tissues around our lumbar spine. Many Americans day to day lives does not require their bodies to move in a variety of positions. If we limit the movements we go through on a regular basis then the body will adapt by tightening tissues and ultimately limiting our mobility. 

The body responds to the stresses or forces that we apply to it. For example, consistent resistance training, when appropriately applied, leads to muscle hypertrophy or increased muscle size. Just as these positive things occur in the body, the converse is also true if we don’t express normal mobility through our joints. The tissues of the body remodel based on the stresses we apply to them.

One of the most important stresses for muscle tissue is stretching. If any of us have been around a dog or a cat for any length of time the importance of regular stretching is clearly demonstrated.

Our beloved pets understand this as every single time they wake up from a nap, what do they do? Stretch! Two common yoga poses, upward-facing dog and downward-facing dog, were actually inspired by the stretches we commonly see from dogs. Our pets are tapped into the innate wisdom of regular stretching. How did we miss this? Maybe it has something to do with the constant flow of media and other distractions in our busy lives…

These tips are by no way a substitue for completing a full body movement screen to determine the root cause of your problem.

We offer movement screens and Physical Therapy in Destin Florida. Not in the area? We also offer Virtual Physical Therapy or Telehealth to address your movement needs.

5 Tips to Improve Low back pain when bending forward.

Here are a few tips to quickly improve your low back pain when bending forward. 

1. Start Stretching.

Here is a simple stretch which in just a few minutes will improve your low back pain when bending forward. First, stand in a doorway with feet slightly back out of the doorway. Bend your knees until the bottom of the doorway can be easily grabbed on either side. Lean back slightly and begin to straighten both legs until a gentle stretch is felt across the low back. Keep steady pressure through the feet while attempting to lean back further and raise the hips higher to sink progressively deeper into the stretch. 

Once the adequate stretch is achieved in that plane of motion its time to address the other motions. The human body is capable of movement in three planes of motion: 

  • Front to back (Sagittal plane)
  • Side to side (frontal plane)
  • Rotate left/right (transverse plane)

If we can move in three planes of motion why don’t we stretch in all three planes of motion?

 To improve low back pain when bending forward it is important to address the movement limitation in all three planes of motion. Therefore the next phase of the stretch is to take both hands to one side of the doorway. For example, let’s say to the right. With both hands grabbing the doorway low and knees significantly bent, begin to press through the right leg which facilitates a stretch on the left side of the spine. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply as the hips will continue to be driven backward and upward. Repeat with hands to the left stretching on the right side of the spine. 

The last plane of motion to be addressed is the frontal plane or side to side. For this stretch and all the others, the foot positioning is the same the difference is in the hand positioning. To stretch the left side both hands will be placed on the right side of the doorframe. This time the right hand will be low and the left hand will be high and over the head creating a right side bend of the spine which stretches the tissues on the left. This one is my personal favorite as it targets a difficult to reach the muscle, the quadratus lumborum. Repeat on the other side with left hand low and right-hand high. 

Once the stretch is complete, which should take roughly 2-3 minutes, not only will you be able to bend forward easier and further but your low back pain when bending forward should also be improved. 

Please see the accompanying video for further instructions on how to properly perform this stretch.

2. Avoid Chairs.

Many third world countries do NOT have nearly the prevalence of low back pain that we do in America. One of the biggest drivers of that is oddly enough, chairs. 

The chair makes sitting down much more comfortable so we can do it for an extended period of time without the need to change positions. The lack of positional variability contributes to low back tightness. 

Another contributing factor is the lack of hip flexion when we sit in chairs. Hip flexion is the movement at the hip when the knee is brought towards the nose. From a biomechanical perspective when we squat all the way down, similar to how a baby squats down where your butt nearly reaches the floor, there is a full expression of hip flexion. 

This full hip flexion does some very important mobility work to our low backs. The deep squat facilitates lumbar flexion or the forward bending of the low spine. By regularly getting into this deep squat position the joints and soft tissues of the low back are better able to bend forward. 

3. If you have to sit, don’t do it for long.

Some of us have no choice and we have to sit for extended amounts of time during the day. Whether this is due to a long commute or a desk job in which you can’t utilize a standing desk, avoid long periods of sitting. As described above sitting can have detrimental effects on the tissues of the low back (and many other places in the body!). 

Consider setting a timer for every 30 minutes to stand up and move your body in a variety of positions. This will help to keep the tissues moving. Mobile tissues lead to a happy healthy back.

4. Stay Hydrated.

One of the systemic reasons for tissue tightness has to with dryness. As we age our bodies get drier over time. When the tissues of the body begin to dry out they get stiff and therefore not flexible. Keeping tissues hydrated is not as simple as drinking plenty of fluids. That is no doubt important but, there are a few other things we can consider to keep our bodies hydrated.

Make sure to eat plenty of healthy fats. Fats and oils help to nourish and hydrate the tissues of the body. If you have dry skin, do we just put water in it? No way! We put cream or oil on it. That keeps the moisture in and helps to hydrate the tissues. 

Watch dietary triggers. When we eat things that our bodies don’t agree with, for me that’s dairy products, often those food choices lead to loose stools. When our stool is loose the body is not reabsorbing adequate moisture. The purpose of the colon is to extract fluid from the stool which gets reabsorbed into the body. If our stool is on the express exit lane due to a dietary trigger, then there is no time for the body to properly extract the requisite moisture. This leads to dehydration over time. 

5. Contact a local movement professional.

If you have tried these tips and still have low back pain when bending forward, consider getting some professional help. The body is an amazing healing machine. The tissues of the body heal. We just need to provide the environment for the body to heal. A skilled movement professional, such as a physical therapist, can help create the environment for the body’s tissues to heal. 

Please understand that this free information is in no way a substitute for a skilled movement screen and targeted intervention for your specific movement problem. 

Please do not hesitate to reach out if we can be of any assistance.

We offer Physical Therapy in Destin Florida. Not in the area? We also offer Telehealth or Virtual Physical Therapy online for your movement needs.

What should I do next to improve low back pain when bending forward?

Get started on the tips. If we want to change, we have to take action. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it gives you multiple action items to immediately improve your low back pain when bending forward. 

Wrapping it up 

Rid yourself of that nagging low back pain. You don’t have to live a life in pain. There is always a natural solution. Stretch a little, move a little more and get your body feeling better than it has in years. 

Until next time, stay flexible and be well.

Robert Linson, PT, AFS, FMR, TPS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *