Lower back pain is crippling.

If you’ve ever had it – you know that much.

My first bout of lower back pain came my junior year of college.

One cold, drunken night at a house party in Boston, my buddy and I got into a stupid fight. The residents decided the party was over, and everyone but the two of us left.

My buddy was searching for his wallet. The bros who lived their wanted us out immediately. The confrontation escalated and we entered into a 2 vs 8 fight, if you can even call it that. After a few minutes I ended up on the floor with three dudes piled on top of me.

The next day? A black eye. And worse – severe lower back pain. I’d been tackled directly on top of an object on the floor. And my back FUCKING hurt. I was supposed to help my buddy with a moving job that morning. I ended up moving sheets of paper while he lifted entire sofas on his back…

Incident two of lower back pain came while deadlifting two years ago. It was right after squatting (I learned my lesson there). And I was a bit hungover (lesson #2… or is it 3 now). Anyway, to make a long story short – one herniated disk, two weeks in bed, and three months of no lifting.

There are a lot of ways to injure your back, but the treatment is largely the same

Maybe you don’t have any traumatic experiences that ruined your back. Maybe you just have poor posture and a weak core, and your back pain developed over time.

Either way, it can be crippling. Even basic movements like standing up or lying down feel extremely uncomfortable, not to mention working out or lifting something heavy.

The thing is that treating general lower back pain comes down to the same 4 basic steps:

1. Stretch your hips

When the muscles around your hips are tight, your body often compensates with increased movement, particularly flexion, in the lumbar spine. When you have back pain, this will hurt and prevent any healing.

To address this issue you must stretch your hips and increase the flexibility of several key muscles in the hips. Do these 3 stretches once or twice a day, holding each one for 30 seconds.

Hip flexor stretch

Hamstring stretch

Piriformis stretch

For a complete hip-focused stretching routine to be used before workouts, check out this article.

2. Strengthen your core

Our core is made up of – for the most part – our abs, butt, and lower back. When any of these areas are weak, the others must pick up the slack. Unfortunately a lot of people have weak abs and butts, often leading to tension in the lower back.

Here are 3 basic exercises to strengthen your abs and butt. Use them every other day.


  • Keep your body in a straight line
  • Consciously focus on bracing your stomach and feeling the tension there
  • Work up to being able to hold this for 60 seconds
  • Then progress by placing a weight on your back (start with 25 lb.)

Side plank

  • Keep your hips high so that your body is in a straight line
  • Tighten the stomach and focus on feeling the tension there (mainly on the bottom half)
  • Work up to being able to hold for 45 seconds on each side

Glute bridge

  • Push your hips high
  • Focus on feeling the tension in your butt
  • Work up to being able to hold this for 60 seconds
  • Then progress by placing a weighted barbell on your hip crease

3. Foam roll

Foam rolling serves to improve your lower back pain through the same basic way as stretching – it relieves tension in the hip muscles that surround the lower back, therefore offering relief to the lower back itself.

Perform these 3 basic foam rolling exercises every day. Roll each muscle for 30 seconds, pausing on any tender spots that are painful.

IT Band






4. Improve your posture

The final step to relieving lower back pain takes a conscious effort throughout the day. Poor posture puts strain on your neck, shoulders, and back (upper and lower). Here’s what basic good posture comes down to:

  • Hold the crown of your head high
  • Pull your shoulders back and prevent them from rolling forward
  • Avoid slouching (usually a combination of the above two points)

Here are a couple of useful stretches to perform to aid you in correcting poor posture. Hold them each for 30 seconds, once per day.

Chest stretch

chest stretch

Neck stretch

neck stretch

  • Roll your head forward and to one side
  • Keep your arm on the opposite side down and relaxed
  • Use your hand on the same side to gently pull your head down
  • You should feel the stretch starting up behind your ear and going down through your neck

5. Avoid anything that hurts

If there are any movements that you perform on a daily basis – exercises or routine tasks – that cause pain, then you should avoid these to allow your body to heal itself while you focus on stretching and strengthening using the above techniques.

If you lift weights, you should probably avoid barbell squats and deadlifts. For alternative lower body strength training exercises, check out this article.

Do these 5 basic things and your lower back pain should improve

These are not a magic cure for all cases of lower back pain, but the average person should see drastic improvement within a week or two.

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