Strengthen Your Core to Fix Lower Back Pain

For fifteen years or more I suffered from lower back pain. The pain was like a chess opponent. I tried this, the problem evolved. I tried that, the problem evolved again. I’m almost seventy years old. One might be tempted to just concede to aging and move on, but I haven’t. I’m lucky to have a great family practice doc and a great physical therapist, and I didn’t give up.

Here are the final four moves in the chess game, ending with checkmate by JailBreak! First, suddenly I couldn’t carry an overnight backpack for more than two miles without pain in my left hip. My doc referred me to my physical therapist, who diagnosed it as ‘tight hips’ and prescribed four stretches which are described below. The stretches helped, for a while.

Then, whenever I went jogging I suffered from tight legs, and a sore back on the following day. The doc decided to raise the ante by referring me to someone new, who made a diagnosis (weak hamstrings) which led me down some other unproductive paths; but every step along the way gets you closer to the goal. Just keep working. The stretching helped, but was overwhelmed by other problems.

My final move in the game was to go to the web looking for ideas. I found the following YouTube video: 5 Of The Best Core Exercises You Should Do Everyday.

The result is I’m able to jog comfortably, and I’m able to do heavy labor that I could not a year ago, all without suffering from pain and stiffness on days following big efforts. The key seems to be the combination of the four stretches, plus a set of five core-strengthening exercises. Details follow.

The Stretches
Four stretches, sixty seconds each.

  • Single knee to chest stretch Lay flat on your back, pull one knee up to your chest and hold it for sixty seconds. Then repeat with the other knee.
  • Figure 4 stretch Lay flat on your back, lift one knee up, pull the other ankle across the top of the knee, pull the knee back toward your chest and hold it for sixty seconds. Then repeat with the other knee.
  • Hip flexor stretch Kneel down into a lunge position, one knee down and the other foot on the ground in front of you, knee bent at 90 degrees. Push your hips forward, but don’t lean backwards into your spine. (You should feel a stretch in the front of the hip and down the thigh.) Hold for sixty seconds, then switch sides and repeat.
  • Seated toe touch Sit with your upper body upright and your legs straight out in front of you. Lean forward from the waist and grab your toes. Hold for 60 seconds.

The Core-Strengthening Exercises
See the YouTube video here. I’m still doing the ‘easy’ version of each exercise.
The two plank exercises are tough. Pre-covid I’d go to the gym a couple times per week, and on each visit I’d do 10-second side planks, left and right, and a 30-second prone plank. The presenter in the video is asking for 60 seconds, so now I’m up to 55 seconds on the prone plank, and 40 seconds each on the side planks. The other three exercises seem crazy easy, but the impact of the five exercises together when I do them daily, combined with the stretches, is dramatic.

The bottom line
Works for me, and it’s not hard! My back feels almost as good today as ever. Let me just add that I’m not licensed or trained in medicine or physical therapy, and my intent is only to describe my personal experience and good fortune! Best wishes.

What I Believe

Rights as defined in the constitution are NOT things you can buy. Our Bill of Rights protects behaviors and beliefs: speech, worship, bearing arms, etc. The Bill of Rights LIMITS GOVERNMENT POWER over our actions. Extending ‘rights’ to cover access to goods and services trivializes the meaning and value of rights. Right to medical care? Right to housing? Right to food? No.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution propose that we are created equal, that we have equal opportunity, and we are equal before the law. Nowhere is there a guarantee to equal wealth or equal happiness. How much wealth and happiness you acquire is up to you, and best of luck.

The only way the government can provide equal wealth and happiness is to trample on all of our rights. A famous man once said: “If you are free, you are not equal. If you are equal, you are not free.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Personally, I prefer that airline pilots and doctors are promoted on merit, rather than racial or gender preference. We need valid hierarchies of competence. We need the BEST plumbers, contractors, and engineers. If your father is dying of brain cancer, do you want the most competent neurosurgeon, or one selected to meet a quota?

We want to know who’s the best so that we can reward them, and so that they continue being the best. We reward the competent not as a recognition of their intrinsic being, but so that we can continue to receive the value of their skills.

Free Speech
Where are Lenny Bruce and Mario Savio when we need them? Free speech should be protected. Unpopular free speech especially deserves protection, because it NEEDS protecting.

Progressives do not believe in free speech. Ask the editors of the Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times, and the editor of the editorial page at the Wall Street Journal. Ask Drew Brees. I believe in free speech. I’d love to hear a Progressive explain and defend his position on free speech.

No one has the right to reserve particular words for their use only.

If diversity of race and gender are promoted, why not diversity of ideology as well?

Free markets are necessary to create wealth. Capitalism allocates resources more efficiently than other systems. The private sector is a better source of job creation than government. Wall Street and the banks play a positive role in our society. Similarly, the best remedy for poverty is capitalism and free markets.

The only thing special about black people is their relationship with the Democratic Party: black voters are a key part of the Democratic coalition. Black people are NOT the largest minority in the US, Latinos are the largest minority. Black people are NOT the minority that has suffered the most, Native Americans have suffered more. Black people ARE dependable supporters of Democratic candidates, which makes them valued and important to the left.

If reparations are owed to anyone, they’re owed to Native Americans. Regarding the proposal that we pay reparations to descendants of African slaves, a fair accounting would show the reparations are owed by them, not to them. If any reparations are owed as a result of slavery, perhaps they might be paid by descendants of black slaves to descendants of US Civil War veterans (364,000 dead and 281,000 wounded). In the same vein, we also sacrificed a President to the cause of abolition.

Does truth exist?
Yes, it does. Denying that truth exists is pathologically cynical. The English philosopher Roger Scruton wrote, “A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely relative,’ is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.

First, reality exists. Start with a sunny day in the country, flies and mosquitoes buzzing all around you. Try to swat a fly. Usually, the fly easily evades your swing – a simple example of multiple species interacting in real time. Fly vision may be dramatically different than human vision, fly consciousness may be so different we can’t even imagine it; but multiple species share the same reality, interacting within it. That’s reality.
Second, if reality exists, then facts exist. Your first swing at the fly was a bit low and left, and a fraction too slow. Occasionally you’ll connect and a fly will die. That’s a fact.
Third, if facts exist, then truth exists. It is true that you killed a fly, and it is true that another fly escaped. You may struggle to descry facts and truth in the sensory rubble of modern life, but don’t give up and say truth doesn’t exist.

Frenchmen and post-modernists might think truth does not exist, but they spend too much time in their salons and coffee shops. Get outside and look around. Reality exists, facts exist, truth exists. It does!

Government and Big Business
Government is a dangerous institution. There is a lot more to fear from government than from corporations. There is a lot more to fear from politicians than from CEOs and members of corporate boards.

Thomas Paine is quoted thus: “There are two distinct classes of men in the nation, those who pay taxes, and those who receive and live upon the taxes.” Those are certainly strong words. I won’t go quite that far, but if there is a threat to your liberties and your property, it’s rarely from corporations.