Banded Glute Bridges & 3-Way Planks: The Smart DIY Fix For Back Spasms
Not all musculoskeletal problems are the same!
There’s a common assumption that all joint and muscle pain is caused by the same root problems, and therefore should all be able to be treated similarly. Since using a lacrosse ball on the bottom of the feet helps with plantar fasciitis, and using a peanut ball helps with hamstring tightness, they must work for alleviating low back pain and preventing back spasms as well, right?
Not quite, and here’s why.
While many musculoskeletal problems are caused by a lack of mobility, the majority of low back problems are a result of instability throughout the lumbar spine and the stabilizing musculature surrounding it. Adding more mobility to an already hyper-mobile and unstable area with a foam roller or lacrosse ball is a recipe for disaster.
The spinal column is surrounded by small, deep muscles called the multifidus and rotatores. These muscles play a dual role: they both create muscle tension as well as act as proprioceptors that sense changes in relative joint stability and strain. When they detect abnormal movement, these muscles react by quickly tightening as a protective mechanism for your spine – and you end up with the back spasms so many people are familiar with.
The way the vertebrae in your lumbar spine are designed actually makes these muscles much easier to trigger in your lower back than in your upper back. That’s why when people try to self-treat their low back discomfort with mobility work they often make the problem worse in the process, creating a vicious cycle of pain and dysfunction.
The Fix: Correct Joint Motion & Strengthen Muscles
So if your lower back pain tends to get worse rather than better when you try to DIY it, you’re most likely dealing with a lack of stability rather than a lack of mobility. You can foam roll until the cows come home, but that won’t fix the problem.
There’s a reason you hold tension in your lower back, and it’s probably because these muscles are picking up the slack for other structures that aren’t supporting what they’re supposed to. Until you address that root cause, you’re just putting a band-aid over the problem.
Correcting a low back instability problem is a two-part process: 1.) returning proper motion to joints and 2.) correcting muscle imbalances. If you’re only addressing joint positioning and function (chiropractic adjustments), but ignoring the muscles that control and support that joint, you’ll never get long-term correction and be dependent on getting adjusted forever.
One of the most effective ways to improve spinal stability and re-activate the muscles that should be doing the work is with plank progressions and hip bridges.
Disclaimer: Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional to get a medical diagnosis and advice on a treatment plan for your particular condition before beginning any self-treatment described here.
3-Way Plank Progressions
This 3-way plank series includes the RKC plank and right/left side planks, which helps improve stability through the glutes and the four layers of the abs, iliopsoas, lateral hip group, and quadratus lumborum.
Here’s how to do the 3-way plank progression:
- Get into a modified plank resting on your forearms and knees. Hands should be together on the floor beneath your chin.
- Spread your feet spread apart and raise your knees off the ground – you should form a straight horizontal line from your shoulders to your hips to your feet. This is the RKC plank.
- Slowly turn your toes, knees, and hips to one side and stack one foot on top of another in a side plank on your elbow.
- Slowly lower back to your RKC plank and then repeat to the other side.
- Hold each position for 10-20 seconds at a time, and perform sets of 10 repetitions.
Squeeze your glutes to prevent lower back pain during this series. If you experience knee pain with the side position, modify it by flexing your knees and keeping your knees and lower legs on the ground.
Banded Glute Bridges
The banded glute or hip bridge uses the same technique and movements as the classic bridge exercise. The critical difference is that the banded glute bridge is performed using a resistance band loop around your thighs to target both the gluteus maximus as well as the gluteus medius and minimus.
Here’s how to do the banded glute bridge:
- Select a resistance band loop with an appropriate strength for your level of fitness.
- Lie down on the floor, with you back straight against the ground and your knees at right angles.
- Place the resistance band around both thighs, so it rests just above your knees.
- Keep your arms at your side, press your knees out against the bands, and raise your hips towards the ceiling.
- Squeeze your muscles tight, hold for 5-10 seconds, and release.
- Repeat the exercise for sets of 10 repetitions.
The Bottom Line
Strengthening your core can be hugely beneficial for helping reduce low back pain and spasms, but if you’re only doing muscle rehab without actually correcting the joint dysfunction and positioning, you’ll be stuck with low-level chronic inflammation forever because joints still aren’t working correctly.
Have a friend or family member that’s struggling with back pain and spasms? Even if they’re already being treated by their primary care physician, share this newsletter and tell them it’s time to make an appointment. In a recent study published in SPINE, over 73% of people who saw a chiropractor in addition to their medical doctor found significant or complete relief from back pain, compared with 17% in the standard-medical-care-only group.
It’s a fact: what we do at Ascent Chiropractic can help you address the cause of the problem, not just mask the symptoms.
Looking for a Brookfield chiropractor? We’d love to help you get started with chiropractic care. Make an appointment at Ascent Chiropractic in Brookfield by calling 262-345-4166 or schedule an appointment with our online scheduling app.