Balanced Body Soft Tissue & Spine | Ankeny, Iowa Chiropractor Balanced Body Soft Tissue & Spine | Ankeny, Iowa Chiropractor

At Home Assessments: The Low Back

Low back pain is so common in the US that studies have found it will affect upwards of 80% of people in their lifetime and it most frequently impacts those from 30-65 years of age¹, the time in your life that it’s hard to slow down. Low back pain can be very tricky for the sufferer to understand as there are so many views on its root cause and most effective treatment option. It typically starts with the seemingly ‘harmless’ preliminary stages of muscles aches, stiffness and intermittent symptoms that will likely be discounted by many providers or feel ‘normal’ if you exchange stories with colleagues or friends.

Unfortunately, not taking action at this stage will lead you to the all too common scenario that presents in my office. You bend over to pick up something unremarkable or ‘twist wrong’ and BAM! sharp, stabbing pain in the low back followed by the inability to find symptom relief, bend over to put your socks on for days or accomplish daily tasks you take for granted for up to a 10 day period, although it probably feels much longer. When this acute stage ends, you’ll probably still find that you wake up each morning with a stiff low back that you chalk up to age (false), find that you’re just not as flexible as you used to be (true, but not due to a lack of stretching) and notice more pain after sitting that you deem must be that crappy chairs fault (probably only a half-truth)

If any of the above scenarios seems familiar, you likely have an underlying disc problem. ‘Tight muscles’ alone will not create the above symptoms which is why the majority of ‘solutions’ keep you in this cyclical phase of continuously irritating your low back. Far too many people are left looking for answers to why their back always hurts, hopefully this weeks at home assessment can help you find the answer! You rely far too much on your spine and keeping your low back healthy should be a priority. So before you continue with your weekly adjustment or spend 20 minutes per day foam rolling, let’s make sure your back can move properly.  The tests below should be pain-free and easy with full mobility.  If your current provider or massage therapist isn’t measuring and restoring healthy mobility with these tests, it’s unlikely they’re fixing your back pain.

The Tests




Standing Toe Touch  While this may seem simple, most people with low back conditions are unable to bend at the waist and touch the toes to the floor without pain or tension in the low back or back of the knees and calves.  The test should be effortless and without pain. Standing upright bend forward and try to touch the floor in front of your toes.  If you can touch the floor you pass, if your can’t – that’s your first fail.








Hamstring Mobility Lie on your back with feet straight out in front (corpse pose).  One leg at a time, lift your leg towards the ceiling until you can no longer stretch or the opposing leg starts to lift off the ground. Have a friend snap a picture of you or use the self timer on your phone to see where your leg is relative to the ground. To pass this test you must have a solid 90 degree angle (leg appears perpendicular to the ground) on both sides,  if you lack 90 degrees on either or both sides that’s a fail.











Cat Pose/Pencil Test For the finale, you will need a partner and a pencil. With hands and knees on the floor arch your low back as much as possible by trying to bring your hips towards your chest. Have your partner place a pencil on your lower back with the bottom of the pencil at the low back ‘dimples’.  What does it look like? If it looks like the picture (only touching for 1.25″ and wedges on both sides of the pencil) then you’ve passed. If the pencil rests for more than 1.25″, is completely flat or you there’s space under the pencil then you have failed.








If you have failed any of these tests, you are already treading on thin ice (pun intended today). Limited mobility in the low back directly increases stress on the lumbar spine joints.  Adhesion, the most common and most misdiagnosed cause of lower back pain, acts like glue in muscle and ligaments making them weaker and less flexible. Due to the nature of overuse (excessive and prolonged sitting, standing & exercising) in our lifestyles, adhesion buildup creates limited mobility. Fixing adhesion in the low back and restoring healthy mobility can only be done by a soft tissue expert trained in the Integrative Diagnosis™ system.

Integrative Diagnosis™ is the most advanced diagnosis and treatment system for solving musculoskeletal problems. If you are stuck in a low back treatment rut and want a long term solution please call our office at (515) 963-1641 for a complete and accurate diagnosis. Balanced Body Soft Tissue & Spine is the only certified Integrative Diagnosis™ provider in central Iowa for treating chronic muscle, nerve, and joint problems.


  1. Hoy, D. (2010). The Epidemiology of Low Back Pain [Abstract]. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol,24(6), 769-781. Retrieved February 20, 2018, from