Got A Catch In Your Back?
Have you ever bent over to pick something up and felt a catch as you're bending? Or have your bent down to pick something up and felt like you couldn't stand back up? These are examples of a catch in your back.
Watch the video to learn what causes a painful catch in your back plus how to relieve it so that you can bend and lift without back pain.
What Causes A Painful Catch In Your Back?
Usually one of two circumstances causes a painful catch in your lower back:
- You get a catch in your back as you're bending down to pick something up
- You've already bent down to pick something up, and you feel like you get stuck and can't get back up.
Both of those cases, may be a sign of hypermobility or excessive mobility in a segment in your lower back.
How Do You Relieve A Catch In Your Back?
"Okay so, I've got some excessive mobility in may back. What do I do about it?"
If you have some hypermobility in your lower back, you can use the tips in the following sections to help. I'll cover:
- How to bend without a catch in your lower back
- How to lift without a catch in your lower back
- How to improve the stability in your spine to prevent your back from catching in the future
How To Relieve A Catch In Your Back When Bending
Let's say you have the first type of catch where you bend down, and you feel like you get stuck and can't bend any further.
It's usually when you're about half-way bent when you're likely to get a catch in your back.
This is particularly common if you already have some back pain or if you've had back pain in the past.
Usually, if you get past half-way bent, you're able to go the rest of the way down.
It's just in that mid-range where you kind of get the catch. If you have two vertebrae or one spinal segment is a little bit hypermobile (moves too much), one vertebra starts to shear forward on the one below it.
Your back muscles have to tighten up to pull it backward, and that can cause some back pain or a catch in your spine as you're bending.
Now, if you get past half-way, gravity is now kind of pulling down in a line with where your spine is, and so you no longer get that catch.
So how do you get through that mid-range without getting a catch in your back?
Well, the easiest way to do that is to allow your back muscles to relax as you bend down.
Note: Straight does NOT mean vertical!
A lot of people have been told that it's not good to bend and that you should always keep your spine upright.
However, that's not true!
Your spine was made to bend.
Think about people who pick rice in rice paddies for a living. They're bent over all day long and yet they have largely much less pain in their back than we do here in the United States.
You just need to learn how to ben properly.
Now, if you bend with your back arched, your back muscles have to work really hard to hold you in that extended position.
But if you think about pushing your hips backward and allowing your back muscles to relax, you likely won't get a catch in your back. The force of gravity is going to pull you down, so you don't have to work really hard to do that.
If you're fighting gravity and trying to hold yourself up, that's when you're likely to get back pain when bending.
Standing Back Up From Bending
Once you've pushed your hips backward to bend down, coming back up is just the opposite.
Tighten your abdominal muscle sand squeeze your glutes, or your butt muscles to push your hips back forward.
Your back muscles don't have to work very hard when doing this, so you're unlikely to get a catch in your back.
How To Lift Without A Catch In Your Back
Let's say you're trying to pick something up. First, you want to get as close to it as possible.
Bend forward using the tips listed above.
Then when you go to lift, push your hips back underneath of you, allowing your back to stay fairly relaxed so that you're NOT using your spinal extensor muscles.
Instead, use your glutes and your abdominal muscles to help lift.
If you avoid straightening up in the mid-range where your spinal muscles have to be really active, you'll likely be able to prevent your back from catching when you lifting.
Exercises To Prevent A Catch In Your Back
As I mentioned earlier, a catch in your back is a sign of some hypermobility.
That catching on the way down has been described in research literature as an "instability catch", and then when you climb back up your thighs, that's referred to as Gowers sign.
Both of those are predictive features of people with spinal hypermobility or slight instability of their spine. They're also factors that are predictive of success with spinal stability exercises.
What exercises can relieve a catch in your back?
Largely, core strengthening is what helps improve the stability in your back.
And by core, strengthening, I mean your abdominal muscles and glutes.
For example, doing light deadlifts using the technique that I described above is the MOST functional way to help you lift without getting a catch in your back. When doing deadlifts, practice squeezing your glutes, squeezing your abs, can help you to develop strength in your core.
Additionally, doing some abdominal exercises can help.
Now, I don't mean your "six-pack" abdominal muscles. Those are more superficial muscles that move your spine.
The abdominal muscles that help stabilize your spina re the deeper abdominal muscles such as the transverse abdominis and the oblique abdominals.
How Do You Strengthen Your Deep Abdominals?
I've got a different blog post about the 7 Best Core Strengthening Exercises For Lower Back Pain, so I'll refer you to that post if you want to learn exercises to strengthen your core.
The Untold Secret About Exercise For Back Pain
Here's the thing about exercise for back pain though...
The secret that most physical therapists don't talk about.
It's NOT the exercises that fix your back pain.
It's the thought processes and the behavioral changes that the exercises facilitate that fix your back pain.
To truly strengthen a muscle, it takes at least 8 weeks.
However, you can change thought processes and behaviors rather quickly.
That means there's often a QUICKER WAY to fix back pain than doing exercises.
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