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Low Back Pain

One of the most common client complaints I hear involve low back pain. In the absence of a medical diagnosis for chronic disc problems or traumatic injuries, the source of the pain may be self-inflicted. Too many of us spend the majority of our day sitting in office chairs, cars or airplanes, and the human body just wasn’t meant to do this for hours on end. We live in a world of flexion where structures on the front-body are shorter and stronger and structures on the back-body are longer and weaker. Our bodies like to move and our muscles and joints thrive on physical activity. Unfortunately, most of us are required to spend hours sitting, because of work or school and other sedentary pursuits. There is hope. The following exercises outline a routine you can do to help counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting.

*If you have a diagnosed medical condition, please consult your physician before doing any of these exercises.

Using a strap to stretch the quads. This is a “no cheat” stretch. For more details, please see the blog post labeled “Stretching and foam rolling for quads”.
Lying backwards over a therapy ball. These balls come in metric sizes, and a 65cm ball works nicely. Plant your feet firmly with a wide stance for stability. Allow your back to wrap around the ball. If it’s too much initially, place your hands under the base of your skull to support your neck.
Hip flexor stretch, kneeling. There is a very subtle difference between this image and the next one. This one is simply performed in a kneeling position, back up straight.
This is where the stretch happens. In this kneeling position you want to try to posteriorly rotate the hip (try and drop your tailbone under you) as much as you can. Release and repeat. Remember to switch legs.
This is one of my new favorite devices. The Chirp Wheel serves a few purposes, and the two most important for the back is to apply some compressive forces to the spinal muscles to help release them, and the second is to help curve the back into a more extended position, counteracting the flexed position we tend to live in. This is the starting position to roll up onto the Chirp Wheel. Find the groove that accommodates the spine, position it against your back, pin it down with your thumbs. By opening your feet, you increase stability through this move.
You can support your head once you’ve found your way up onto the Chirp Wheel. Make small rolling movements up and down. The general rule is to roll on areas of tightness, and don’t hang out directly on areas of acute pain. (This also requires knowing the difference between acute pain and discomfort due to tight muscles).
Once you begin to get more comfortable on the Chirp Wheel, you can allow your butt to start dropping to the floor. As you can see from this image, my back is rounding along the circumference of the wheel (moving into extension), but fully supported. There is a second wheel that is part of the set, and if you tire of holding your head up, you can place the second wheel (fits inside the big wheel) under your head for support.
It takes some time to work your way up to this stretch, but as you can see here, everything from the knees to the neck is being stretched. Quads, hip flexors, abdominals, pectorals (all the things that pull us forward). It doesn’t necessarily feel that great while in this position, but there is a noticeable difference afterwards.
Lastly, this is a device that I was recently introduced to by a physio friend. If you have chronically tight hip flexors (and I mean specifically psoas and iliacus (for more information on psoas, see my blog post on the two pain-causing P’s.) This instrument serves as a way to access your own psoas for release, and while it’s most definitely not that fun while you’re using it, it’s the most effective thing I’ve found for self-care, and the results are quite spectacular.

All stretches require time. That doesn’t mean you have to hold them until you find yourself unable to move, but rather learn to settle in, breathe through them and find a length of time between 15 seconds and a minute that works for you, and then repeat it.

As always, reach out to me directly with any questions or concerns. Wishing you a happy back!

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