Lower Back Pain When Looking Down

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It’s very common to have lower back pain when looking down. This article has elicited more responses from readers than many of my other posts. I’ve added a bit to it in terms of chronic pain secondary to Repetitive Stress Injuries that may help you take a bit of a different approach.

Do people’s lower backs hurt when they tilt their chin forward to look at their toes? Do people have lower back pain when touching their chin to chest? Do they feel a pull and a strain between their shoulder blades? Are you wondering ‘why does my back hurt when I look down?’

Both current and future lower back problems and pain between the shoulder blades is quite common, but massages on tight, sore muscles won’t permanently alleviate this discomfort. It’s logical to expect that problems in the lower back would be caused by tight muscles in this area, but to really get an understanding of what’s going on here, we need to back it up a step and look at more than just the back.

Key Takeaways and Tips for Back Pain:

  • Lower back pain when looking down is caused by muscular concerns in most patients.
  • The lumbar pain is often described as stabbing. It can exist directly over the spine or on one or both sides of the vertebral column.
  • The most common sources of lower back pain from looking downwards are soft tissue problems that have caused the muscles of the region to change in strength and length.

“Luckily, lumbar strain will usually resolve without any particular treatment, as long as it is not a chronic version of RSI.”

Lower Back Pain When Looking Down

Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) results in scar tissue (repair work by the body), which can lead to contracted musculature, reduced range of motion, and chronic pain. These types of pain syndromes may not just “go away”. Some attention to structure and muscle balance can help. Manual therapy, i.e. physical therapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, and structural bodywork can often help with this type of problem. Refer to my article about postural imbalances to get an idea of some things you can do to help with pain from RSI.

Massage for Back Pain

Massage is a great way to both alleviate existing and prevent future lower back pain from happening. Back and spine massage techniques that target specific muscles and connective tissue are called structural massages. 

A structural massage that targets the muscles from the buttocks and up to the neck is effective for relieving lower back pain. Many state-of-the-art massage chairs do exactly this type of structural massage and are a great way to ease back pain. 


15 Replies to “Lower Back Pain When Looking Down”

  1. Hi, I am a very athletic individual. I workout and excercise often. Since the gyms have been closed recently, I have only been doing calisthenics for the past year – push ups and pull ups. (Sometimes I do bicep curls and shoulder presses with the dumbbells I have too). A year ago at the gym when I used to do deadlifts, I had no problem and was deadlifting my max weight. I’ve also read online that pull-ups strengthen the lower back, and I have been performing pull ups for a long time. However recently, I’ve been experiencing on and off lower back pain for the past 3 months. It would inflame up after exercising, not necessarily working out but from cardio exercises, like running. I can remember a month or 2 back after I would shovel the snow, I would feel this lower back pain afterwards. When doing squats I would feel this pain. Then recently, about a week ago, I played about 3 hours of basketball (due to the weather warming up). Then, the next day I couldn’t even walk. My lower back was extremely inflamed. I couldn’t bend down, use the sink, put on socks or anything. This is the worst its been for the past 3 months of on-off pain. This got me very confused as I thought my lower back would be strong after all those deadlifts and pull ups? And I have perfect form when doing those exercises too, so it’s not about the form. Playing basketball and working out is my entire life, but my lower back pain has stopped me from doing those things I love. I went to a physiotherapist but they just said to do stretches. After a couple days, the pain did get better (just like it always was on and off for the past couple months), however I know whenever I perform intense cardio it will return. Any idea of what this could be? I’m very scared and upset as my life is basically ruined because of this. I have a strong core as well.

    1. Hi, Akif
      Thanks for your comment. Stretching is important but you most likely should do strategic hip flexor (iliopsoas) and hamstring stretches. I assume you are already doing quad and glute strengthening exercises, but the two stretches I mentioned should be done in concert with those strengthening exercises. You might also have your back checked out by an orthopod. You may have a disc problem, which is a whole different cup of tea. I hope this helps.
      dr. w.

    2. Hi Akif, did you manage to get this sorted? As I am experiencing the exact same symptoms and situation. I was super fit before lockdown doing lots of weight training and cardio then moved onto calisthenics (gymnastic rings) and my pain sounds identical. As this point just looking for anything that can help. I spend a huge amount of time stretching.

  2. Hi,
    I went for a 10k run (without adequate stretching) at a brisk pace last week. On waking up the next day, I started to experience severe pain in my lower back ( even when I’m looking downwards and bend down. Is it something serious?
    How do I cure it, should I give my lower back an ice treatment or heat? And lastly how long do I rest before starting to run again?

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your discomfort. It could be just a muscular thing after the repetitive stress caused by the run. Ice is the therapy of choice when a new injury surfaces. For your back, use ice for about 20′ per hour. After 72 hours you can move to heat and then ice, followed by heat only after about a week. I visit to your chiropractor might help as well as getting some massage of the muscles after the first 72 hours. I hope this helps.
      dr. w.

  3. I went to the gym in early November to do my routine workout. During a set of squats I felt a stabbing pain in my lower back, and I haven’t been able to go back since. It hurts when I try to lift anything or look down, and I’m very sore at the end of the day. Do you have an idea on what I might have done or how I can fix it? Thank you.

    1. Hi, Cori
      Thanks for reaching out. I’m sorry to hear about your back pain. I would suggest visiting a chiropractor to have you spine evaluated. I used to work on patient’s all the time with symptoms similar to yours. The only major concern would be if you herniated a disc and, if you have a good doctor, that should be ruled out ASAP. If your problem is musculo-skeletal, massage and manipulative therapy should help out a lot. I hope this helps.
      dr. w.

  4. I’m a teenager, and as a kid i used to roll my neck to the point where I could hear my bones grinding. i stopped after a while after it wasn’t a habit anymore, but i find whenever I look down or try to do some yoga poses, it puts a lot of strain on my spine. Is this a serious issue?

    1. I wouldn’t think so, but having your spine evaluated by a doctor or therapist would be helpful and would put your mind at rest about it.
      dr. w.

  5. I unable to stand for a period of time as my back starts hurting and I feel the need to sit down immediately. This started happening after I did planks a few times a couple of years ago! I stopped doing the planks immediately but this back pain is not going. I walk for about 50 minutes 4 to 5 days a week. Earlier I used to walk for 60 to 90 minutes but realised that it made by back pain worse. After reducing my walk my back pain has come down but it is still there. Should I stop walking for sometime? What else can I do? Please help

    1. Hi, Avinash
      Thank you for reaching out. If your low back is hurting you after standing, I would suggest a couple of exercises to stabilize your core a bit. Stretch out your hamstrings and quads, strengthen your abs and your glutes. These exercises will help with your low back pain.
      dr. w.

  6. This is great info. This sounds like what I have. When you say “therapy” who performs these therapy’s? It doesnt sound like a general practitioner would provide these techniques or services.

    1. Hi, Bart
      I would venture to say that structural work would be helpful, i.e. massage therapy, physical therapy, and/or chiropractic manipulative therapy. These disciplines specialize in postural/structural correction. I hope this helps.
      dr. w.

  7. How have the muscles changed in strength and length? And what needs to be done to allow or make them return to their strength and length needed to no longer have such pain?

    1. Hi, Michael
      Thanks for your inquiry. Proper manual therapeutic intervention can not only break up scar tissue but realign the fibers of new scar tissue to optimize the length and strength of those muscles fibers. Physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic therapy, stretching protocols, and exercise therapy are among the list of conservative manual tools at your disposal. I hope this helps!
      dr. w.

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