Release sudden back pain with this quick and easy two-minute mobility fix.
Sudden, severe back pain is most often times caused by an acute muscle spasm, stemming from either overuse or a chronic pain disorder called Myofascial Syndrome. (1)
Myofascial Syndrome manifests from repetitive motions used in jobs or hobbies, or by stress-related muscle tension. The affected muscles compress sensitive points known as trigger points, which are small areas of a muscle spasm, about the size of a pea, that are tender to touch and may cause local or referred pain.
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One of the quickest and easiest ways to treat a muscle spasm or myofascial syndrome is through SMR – Self Myofascial Release. SMR can release muscle spasms from a deep trigger point. Forget having to wait hours or even days to see a massage therapist, you find quick relief with just the use of a tennis ball.
SMR helps to relax contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles. Tennis balls are a great tool for SMR because they are small, lightweight, and have the perfect amount of firmness to dig deep into the fascia without causing too much soreness.
Rules to Remember When Practicing SMR:
- Always listen to your body. Releasing a muscle spasm can be painful and you will most likely feel some soreness afterward – both from the spasm itself and the SMR. When releasing a trigger point or muscle spasm, the pain should be a satisfying type of pain, like when you get a deep tissue massage. If it ever feels like too much, stop.
- When you find the point of tension, hold the ball in place and keep the pressure gentle but sustained. Again, the sensation should be satisfying, not sharp. Hold the pressure on the ball until you feel the muscle release.
- Gently stretch the back muscles after releasing the spasm.
- Drink lots of water to help your body flush out toxins.
Use this 2-Minute Mobility Fix whenever you feel a back spasm occur. All you need are two tennis balls! Go through the routine in order, focusing on each muscle and taking your time to release any trigger points.
Note: If you think that your sudden back pain could be a slipped or herniated disk or any other type of serious injury, contact your doctor immediately.
The 2-Minute Mobility Fix for Back Pain
SI joint | 20 sec
The Sacroiliac (SI) Joint is part of the pelvis and is a movable joint. It can become tight in women due to hormones from pregnancy or from improper gait, uncomfortable shoes, heavy lifting, or labor-intensive jobs. Dysfunction in the SI joint can lead directly to muscular tightness in and around the lower back. (2)
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground.
- Lift your hips up and place two tennis balls beneath your pelvis, about 2-4 inches apart.
- Lower down onto the tennis balls and rest for 20 seconds, remembering to breathe.
Thoracolumbar Area | 20 sec
This fascia covers the entire lower back area, and it is used for coordinated movement and stability. Poor posture, overuse, and repetitive stress from sitting, improper gait, and repetitive movements can cause tightness and trigger points in this area.
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Lift your hips up and place the balls on either side of your spine in your lower back.
- Re-adjust so that you feel the tennis balls pressing into the muscles of your lower back.
- Relax and breathe for 20 seconds, allowing the fascia to release.
Rhomboids and Mid-trapezius | 20 sec
The rhomboids are found underneath the trapezius, between the spine and scapula in the mid-back region. Trigger points in these muscles can become activated from prolonged sitting, poor posture, or even holding the arms up over the head for a prolonged period.
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
- Place the tennis balls behind you and lower your back onto the balls, adjusting them so that one rests right inside of your right shoulder blade and the other rests right inside of your left shoulder blade.
- Hold for 20 seconds.
Latissimus Dorsi | 20 sec per side
Also known as “the lats”, this large pair of muscles stretch to the sides, behind the arms, and down to the mid-back. If you have pain in your mid-back or shoulder blade area, chances are that it stems from this muscle. Trigger points here are often activated by prolonged sitting or repetitive activities like strength training and gymnastics.
- Place one tennis ball on the floor beside you.
- Lower yourself down so that you are lying sideways on it, with the ball resting below the armpit, over the ribs.
- Take small movements to find a tight spot and, then hold for 20 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Upper Trapezius | 20 sec
The trapezius is a large, diamond-shaped muscle that starts at the top of the neck and runs down to the mid-back. Trigger points here are often activated from prolonged sitting, poor posture, uneven gait, and heavy or uneven lifting.
- Lie on the floor and place the tennis balls underneath your upper back.
- Each tennis ball should rest inside the top part of your shoulder blades, under the muscles between your shoulder and your neck.
- Hold for 20 seconds.
**Note: If one muscle feels particularly tight, you can go back and repeat the SMR steps for that particular muscle, holding it for another 20-30 seconds until you feel the muscle release.
(Your Next Workout: 9 Exercises for Lower Back Pain Relief)