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April 16,2021

Low Back Pain – The Cause or the Symptom?


You walk into the gym, ready to smash a really solid leg sesh. You’re only 15minutes in and your back starts to play up. It aches and nags at you. It doesn’t feel right whenever you squat or deadlift and so…

You do one of the following:


You resort to lighter weights, the smith machine and/or leg press which seems to be ok. It doesn’t seem to aggravate it but every time you try to squat or deadlift, the pain is still there.

It doesn’t improve but you can still train and work your legs, right? You’ve just decided deadlifts just aren’t for you.



You take a week off. Rest will help, won’t it? If I overworked it, you think, I just need to give it a break and next week it will be fine.

Either of these sound familiar…?

In both options you are moving less (either through decreased range, load, time spent moving or literally just stopping altogether).


–       It only takes one week for strength to start to decline

–       Pain medication as well as heat/ice packs only temporarily mask the pain

–       Exercise improves low back pain

Life isn’t like a smith machine. When do you EVER move in a predetermined plane of motion with no other external forces? If you need to do gardening, play with kids on the weekend or lift a box from the floor, that’s going to be an issue.

Movement is one of the best things for pain, especially back pain.

If I had a dollar for every time a client tried to tell me they couldn’t train because of their pain, I’d be sitting on a beach in the Bahamas drinking Pina Colada’s watching the sunset every day.

Fortunately, this attitude is changing. Movement is medicine. Trust me – I’m an Exercise Physiologist.

The lower back often gets blamed for many issues BUT it is rarely the actual CAUSE of your pain.

Let me explain…

When the fuel light in your car starts flashing do you…

a)     Pull the dashboard apart and see if the fuel light is broken

b)    Put fuel in the tank

Exactly. The SYMPTOM (aka fuel light) is often not the source of the pain but just the indication that something isn’t right. Focusing on the lower back only relieves the symptoms temporarily yet will not change the CAUSE of that problem. News flash – You need more fuel in your car!

Firstly we need to understand how the body moves and realise that nothing ever moves in isolation. EVER. With the Lumbar spine (and most joints really), we need to be looking both up and down the chain for issues with mobility or stability. Are you stable? Are you mobile?

How should you know what to assess? All great questions and very important ones at that.

Now you understand that your lower back may be the symptom but not the cause, you can start to look elsewhere… So stay tuned for next week’s article on exactly that:

The 3 Things You Must Check When Clients Present with Lower Back Pain.

Lastly, before you go I have a favour to ask…

If you’ve read this far, hopefully it’s because you found the content worthwhile. Maybe you know someone else who would benefit from it too? I would love if you would share this with your friends, colleagues or family and share the knowledge so more people can become educated, rehabilitated and empowered through movement.


Zenia – Managing Director @ Swift Movement Academy

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