How To Heal Your Low Back After A Muscle Strain (Mad Monday)

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
July 01, 2013

Have you ever woken up in the morning with your low back throbbing with pain?

Workouts are essential for helping us get stronger and keeping us healthy but they can also cause muscle strain in critical areas such as our low back. How do we heal this area after the damage has been done?

In today’s post I will share with you my method for rehabbing the low back after an injury.

How Does The Low Back Get Injured In The First Place?

The lower back is one of those areas that few people strengthen directly. It is usually strengthened as a stabilizer muscle and not much attention is brought to it. When we focus most of our time on isolation movements (meaning one muscle group) instead of compound movements (meaning more than one muscle group) certain areas can become weak.

The reason I like body weight exercises so much is because most of the exercises are compound. Its almost impossible to NOT strengthen, at least to a certain degree, your low back, abdominals and other stabilizer muscle groups.

So How Does My Low Back Get Injured?

The simplest answer is that the muscles in the low back have been overexerted. The muscles weren’t used to the exercise and ended up getting strained.

The damage is done and the pain you feel is the result. Its not the muscle soreness that we know and love but often a sharp, stabbing pain that prevents us from bending, twisting and lifting.

Todd’s Method For Healing A Low Back Injury

*Caveat – This method is used only for minor strains and pulled muscles. Its not meant as advice if you have done any type of serious damage to your low back.

Step 1: Apply Ice Immediately

The first thing you will want to do immediately is implement cold therapy. Grab an ice pack and put it on your low back. This will help reduce inflammation.

This step should be done as soon as you notice pain in your low back and 2-3 more times throughout a 24 hour period. Each ice session should last for 15 minutes. Be careful with the ice pack being directly on your skin because it could cause damage to your skin.

Step 2: Do Knee Circles 3X per day for 1m each direction

Below you will find a video where I teach you about knee circles. It is the BEST stretch that you can do for your low back. I have used it countless times to help rehab my low back after straining it and it has worked miracles.

Step 3: Do This 4 Minute Low Back Mad Monday Routine

The newest research in rehabbing a strain or a sprain shows that using a muscle is critical for helping it heal. The days of Rest Ice Compression and Elevation are out. Movement is now king of rehab.

The workout I created below should be done once a day along with the other steps until your low back feels better.

What’s the Routine?

Arm Haulers – 30 seconds

Cat Stretch – 30 seconds

Repeat the above 3 more times total.

So the total workout will take 4 minutes long. You’ll alternate arm haulers and cat stretch for 30 seconds each one until the 4 minutes are up.

Low back injuries can be painful and frustrating. Its difficult to practice your handstands or Tiger Bends when your low back is out of commission.

Take the time to rehab your low back with the steps I outlined above. Notice that I did not include anything about rest. The body is made to move and although the general public will tell you to “give you low back time to rest and heal” I don’t believe in this concept.

The body NEEDS movement especially after an injury like this. The weight bearing activity that you do throughout your day along with the other steps will help the body heal your low back faster.

Injury is not death. Immobility is. Movement is the greatest method for healing.

-Todd

P.S. Share your thoughts on the best method to heal your back after an injury. I read and respond to every comment.

Show/Hide Comments (12 comments)
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12 Comments
  1. Pankaj

    Hi Todd, do you recommend anything for people like me who are prone to straining their lower back because we try to bump up the weight of our deadlifts too fast?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Pankaj,

      My best suggestion is to not bump up the weight so fast. Your body is telling you something by becoming strained. There is a quote I like that Ryan from GBM says, “Sometimes doing baby steps is your fastest short cut.”

      Reply
      • Aaqib

        That is such a good quote, Todd 🙂

        Reply
        • Todd Kuslikis

          Thanks Aaqib!! Yes, it definitely is!

          Reply
  2. Aaqib

    Hiya Todd :-D,
    Love your site, you as a person. and your family. I come here regularly.

    Have you considered bridges? They’re brilliant! I often hold them for about a minute, and my primary low-back strength builder is the stand to stand bridge. Since starting bridges, I have had no back problems. My spinal erectors have turned steel-like, but flexible. When I do those stand to stand bridges, I get called “Spiderman”. You should definitely try them. Refer to Convict Conditioning.
    Looking forward to more interactions ahead. Best wishes on your journey.

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Thanks Aaqib! I appreciate the kind comments.

      Yes, bridges are great. Never heard of the stand-to-stand bridges but will definitely have to check them out. Maybe I’ll include them in one of my next Mad Monday workouts. Sounds like a great exercise! 🙂

      Reply
  3. David

    Hi Todd,
    Great post! And very well explained: brief and to the point. Widely applicable as well, since the vast majority of us spend too much time sitting. Thanks.
    David

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Thanks David! Yes, I have a desk job but recently had my HR guy switch my desk to a stand up one. I am finding that I am moving regularly even at work. Definitely helps!

      Reply
  4. Usha

    Hey Todd
    I follow our posts regularly and find them refreshingly different.
    I injured my back cople of weeks back and was struggling to find the right excercises to relieve the pain without inhibiting my workouts.

    I tried the exercises you recommended and already feel the tension in the lower back lessening.

    Thank you
    Usha

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Usha! That’s great! So glad that the arm haulers and cat stretch was helpful. Remember that regular use of these techniques will help even more.

      Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      Reply
  5. mike

    Hi Todd,
    Your ideas are excellent for healing back pain. The knee circling and arm haulers were totally new for me. I used to seat on the floor and put my heels on a seat, legs 90-90 degrees for relaxing and do some cat stretch only. What do you advice Todd for strengthening the lower back preempting or reducing injuries?
    Thanks,
    Mike

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks! I like your heels on seat idea. That sounds like a very relaxing stretch.

      The arm haulers are great for strengthening as well as stretching. Another one that is helpful is to lay on the ground and press your low back into the ground. It is more of a unique exercise but helps a lot with low back pain.

      Reply
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