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Sore Back relief suggestions

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
For the past 20 years it seems like every time I try to exercise or stretch my abdominal muscles it makes my back hurt. The specific back pain is on the left side of my spine near my waist. It also causes my left leg to hurt a few inches below my hip socket along the outside and front of the thigh muscle. Neither pain is sharp.

I exercise some several days a week and I’m in relatively good condition, 59 years old, 6’1” 170 lb. At least twice I’ve gone to a General Practitioner (MD) with my sore back and was diagnosed with some type of urinary tract or prostate infection. Both times I took the antibiotics and got better but I never was convinced it was an infection. Additional light exercise and light stretching hasn't helped in the past.

My most recent episode involved doing three sets of 10 simple leg lifts yesterday. Almost immediately I felt a tingling in the upper thigh of my left leg and I knew what was going to happen. Later yesterday the back became sore and it’s still sore today. It’s never quite bad enough to keep me from doing what I want to do but sometimes it makes me wish I hadn’t.

Previously I’ve been advised that I need to strengthen my back and abdomen to avoid this problem. I’ve tried stretching, curls, superman, leg lifts and the upside down bicycle but it seems that anything I do to try and increase my range of motion or build my “core muscles “causes the back and leg pain.

I’m relatively supple so I do not need to stretch to gain range of motion but we've all read that it’s good for us to stretch and so from time to time I try to do a few stretches AFTER exercising. I do not push it. I’m talking about the simple stuff we’ve all done since grammar school. Even that can cause the same strained feeling in my back and tingling in my left leg.

Anyone with a similar issue or anyone want to offer a suggestion how I can increase my abdominal strength and overall flexibility without causing the back to hurt?
post #2 of 21
Maybe you should get yourself to a sports medicine doctor and get an MRI of your back to see if you have a compressed disk or something like that. If there is some kind of physical damage and the doctor tells you surgery is unnecessary insist on going to physical therapy. If you are having muscle spasms, a physical therapist can help calm you’re back down and then you can start doing core exercises. It also may help if your PT can adjust your spine, if for instance your vertebrae sometimes rotate to one side. This has worked pretty well for me but we are all different, at least see a good sports medicine guy and get an MRI and diagnosis.
post #3 of 21
Also do a search here and especially over on TGR, there are lots of threads on back problems.
post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 
OK I revisited some of the previous posts about back trouble. Nearly all of them recommend the exercises that seem to cause me the most problem. I understand that an MRI could answer some questions but remember my problem seems to be caused by the same activities that most "experts" suggest should be the cure. That's what I find so confusing. I thought one of our resident exercise gurus might have encountered this with a client before.
post #5 of 21
The exercises were not helping my back either and making it worse, the PT had me stop all core exercises then just treated my back to calm down my muscle spasms. Once he treated my back, then he got me going on the execises and I have done pretty well since, although I had to go back in for a few adjustments. First step is still to get a proper diagnosis via MRI.
post #6 of 21
Yes, go to a specialist, a neurologist. I am not a doctor but I have had back issues and the pain you are describing sound like sciatic pain. Good luck! I had surgery 3 years ago and I have been pain-free since.
post #7 of 21
Some of my back issues are hip related or actually leg related.My left leg is about 1/4 shorter and though it sound trivial it causes alot of problems.It has caused an IT band/tendonitius problem on left leg/knee and a hip problem on right..Hip causes back issues.I went to PT for the IT band 3 yrs ago and ignored the 1/4 inch riser pad and now hip is been a pain in ass for about 3 months.I am back in OT since may and feel a lot better.I am At about 60 percent...Really screwed it up on leg press at gym went over after i heard a grunter on machine and doubled it "to max" and did 10 reps no problem,but rolled hip out of alignment and am real sorry i did it..
post #8 of 21
I don't see a mention of any radiation, so I'm going to assume that there isn't any. That's usually the first thing people mention if they have it, and you don't mention it at all, so am I safe in assuming that you don't have those symptoms? Yes? Ok.

The pain you're feeling may be "Referred" pain and not "Radiating", meaning that the origin or source of the pain is elsewhere. It sounds like you may have a case of iliopsoas dysfunction, which is often coupled with tensor fascialata dysfunction (especially when you say that leg lifts increase the pain). This can be a big problem, and it's a somewhat difficult one to fix becasue it's a muscle group that is very difficult to reach for manual massage and trigger point therapy, it's almost impossible to stretch conventionally unless you're triple jointed, and if you can get to it, it hurts like hell. TFL stuff hurts like crazy too.

How is your leg length and pelvis rotation? Hamstring tightness? If the hams are tight, you need to stretch those out immediately. Next, you'll need to work on the iliopsoas group, or better yet, have someone experienced in therapy to the area do it for you. It's very difficult to do on yourself because it's tough to get the proper leverage, and remember I mentioned that hurts like hell thing?........well, we generally don't like to inflict too much pain on ourselves. Do you have an ex-wife? Maybe you can get her to do it for you.

Anyway, put pressure just medial to your iliac crest (hip bone, I guess you would call it). Just go lateral from you navel until you reach that bone. Once you find that, put deep pressure on that and try to cup into the stomach. Follow that down in to the groin and check for abnormal tenderness. If it's tender there, you'll know you've got some iliopsoas stuff going on. Get back to me if you want and we can go from there.
post #9 of 21
a couple of stretching links for you
The first is the 'sampson stretch' which will help your hip flexors.
The second covers everthing
post #10 of 21

Back Pain

I read your post and thought I may be able to help you. I was interested in the statement you made about being treated with antibiotics for prostate and kidney problems. If the antibiotics helped you, this is likely again the cause. Prostate problems often radiate to the groin or testicle. Kidney problems can create back pain on th effected side. Kidney problems can also radiate into the groin, the ureter from the kidney runs through here. I have seen the most reputed spine gurus misdiagnose kidney and prostate problems as spine and sacrum related.
post #11 of 21
Originally Posted by steveturner View Post

Anyone with a similar issue or anyone want to offer a suggestion how I can increase my abdominal strength and overall flexibility without causing the back to hurt?
I have a similar situation. Had an MRI and xrays done and nothing. Had kidney tests done, nada.

Scheduled for a cortizone shot on Monday.

I'll let you know:
post #12 of 21

Kidney and Prostate ruled out

If the kidney and prostate problems can be effectively ruled out, I recommend seing a good manual therapist. These problems are diificult to diagnose without putting your hands on someone and checking their alignment and movement. If you insist on self treatment, please avoid these self help forums. The forums tend to give you the "best fit for everyone" or "one size fits all" approach. I believe that many of them are detrimental to people, causing confusion, and a continual flip flop of treatment approaches. The best self help advise I can recommend is a book called "Treat Your Own Back" by Robin McKenzie. The book is available on I have used the McKensie approach many times, it usually works very quickly with decreased or abolished symptoms within one treatment.
post #13 of 21
Originally Posted by Paul Jones View Post
I have a similar situation. Had an MRI and xrays done and nothing. Had kidney tests done, nada.

Scheduled for a cortizone shot on Monday.

I'll let you know:
Got the shot on Friday. I feel great, it worked for me.

They used live x-ray to get the needle to the exact spot. Hurt a little at first but I'm cured now.
post #14 of 21
Still feeling great from the shot. With no pain to slow me down I hit the gym hard and took a tennis lesson (first in 25 yrs). I should have taken things a little slower. The muscles in my lower back and abs are not as in shape as they need to be, relative to the rest of me. Just because the pain is gone does not mean strength is restored.

Hopefully the reduced pain will allow me to train those areas that have been off limits. The key as I see it going forward is to "do no harm" while working a program aimed at rehabilitation of the core muscles in the abs area.

Steve, the symptoms that you described were the same as mine. This treatment has eliminated all of the pain in that general area. Not suggesting a treatment but instead, sharing what worked for me - so far.
post #15 of 21
Originally Posted by Paul Jones View Post
The muscles in my lower back and abs are not as in shape as they need to be, relative to the rest of me. Just because the pain is gone does not mean strength is restored.
I had a personal trainer for a few months after I had surgery 4 years ago. She said, "your back is only as strong as your abs. Get that core engaged!"

She totally kicked my butt!
post #16 of 21
MYTH :cut the fat in your diet
Edited by loboskis - 11/17/09 at 10:38am
post #17 of 21
Of course this post is incomplete with defining crunch and sit up.

How about doing a crunch followed by a sit up?
How about on an inclined board, holding a weight behind your head?
What about reverse crunches (lifting hips instead of other end)?
How about
post #18 of 21
I have written two recent blog posts about low-back pain.  I wrote them after attending a seminar with Dr. Stuart McGill, who is the author of Low Back Disorders and Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, and is very possibly the top authority on low back problems on the planet.

Here's the very condensed version of the posts:

- increasing ROM in your back is a myth.  It is unlikely to make you better but will make you more prone to further injury
- both crunches and situps are bad for your back.  
- if your back problem is a spondylolysthesis instead of a disc issue (or in addition to), then extensions, like the superman, will make it worse.  
- think core, not abs.  You do want a strong rectus abdominus ("6-pack muscle"), but that's not enough: you need to also have strong and functioning trasversus abdominus (like a girdle around your core), obliques (sides) and erector spinae (back stabilizers).  
- low-back pain is made worse when the hips and/or thoracic spine don't move properly.  

You can read the full articles (not too long - less than 1000 words each) on my blog:


PS - feel free to drop me a PM if you have specific qs.
post #19 of 21
I just realized that post may have come off as brash, which was not my intention.  Really it's just that this is a topic that fascinates me, so I am eager about it.  

I realize that this stuff is contrary to what is commonly believed by a lot of people - including a lot of health professionals. But it is based on Dr. McGill's lab research (he is a spinal biomechanist) and clinical experience (he is not a clinician but many years ago the top back specialists started asking for his advice on difficult cases.  It is also what many of the top physiotherapists and strength coaches preach, and have had great success with.  

I know that particularly the 'no crunches' stuff sounds crazy, but give it a read. And for anyone who's continued to have back pain despite doing crunces and superman's (is that the plural of superman?), try doing other core work instead and see if it helps.  Worst that can happen is that you will be in the same situation you are in now.

post #20 of 21
sounds like psoas syndrome to me- need to get them balanced out- one is probably tighter than the other and resulting in some pelvic and lumbar rotation and thus nerve stress resulting in pain. Its a very common condition  I see in my office everyday. See a Chiropractic sports physician. they are uniquely qualified to help you quickly resolve this type of condition.
post #21 of 21
Strong abs and lower back muscles won't help much if you have a muscular hip imbalance.
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