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  • Mitchell Rothbardt

What Is Really Causing Your Back Pain?

Back pain is one of the most common, and also misunderstood, problems people have. Here’s what we know. It hurts. It can cause us to literally question every move we make for fear of the pain. Here’s the most important thing to remember, though. Most back pain isn’t necessarily a serious problem. I know it hurts a lot but that’s not always the best indicator of how bad something really is.

Think of it this way, have you ever stubbed your toe? Just knocked it against a chair when you were half asleep one night and walking to the bathroom? You know it feels like your life is about to end but that doesn’t mean that it will. A lot of back pain is like that.

Here’s another thing we know about back pain. Many times it’s not really our back that’s the main source of the problem. It’s actually our hips and shoulders. Let me explain.

The actual purpose of our low back and our core area in general is stability. What this means is that, for the most part, it shouldn’t really move. It should actually tighten so that our arms and legs can move and do what they need to do. As a matter of fact every time our arms and legs move even a little bit, our core fires up. We might not always feel it but it happens.

What IS supposed to move are our hips and shoulders. They’re designed for movement. Unfortunately, because so many of us spend our days sitting in front of computer screens, our hips and shoulders don’t move very well. That means our low back has to move to make up the difference and that is often what causes pain.

In our gym we place a special emphasis on posture and hip movement for just these reasons. We feel that no matter what your goals are you’re not going to hit them if you have pain, bad movement patterns or bad posture.

One of the first exercises we have everyone do to establish proper hip movement we call the Stick RDL. You can do it at home with a broomstick. Put the stick against your back with three points of contact: your butt, your upper back and the back of your head.

Now push your hips back maintaining all three points of contact. As soon as you lose one point straighten back up. You can watch a quick video below on how it should work.


This is the kind of exercise that seems like it should be simple yet at first it can be frustratingly difficult. Just keep in mind that you are NOT bending over. You are pushing your hips back. Think about putting your butt on the wall behind you.

You should feel a little stretch in your hamstrings and nothing at all in your low back as you do this. If you do feel something in your back it’s because your back is moving, not your hips. If you need help understanding this, let me know. Watch the video to see how this works.

Overall, it’s very important to understand what’s really going on when you have back pain because it’s not what many people assume. Please let me know if you have any questions and have a great day!


Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Lean Eating Coach, FMS

2861 Grove Way in Castro Valley

510-754-7113

I Help People Discover Their Strength!

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