What your spine is trying to tell you

After a Spring Break away from the preassures of work, Monday morning can be a particularily painful process. But for many clients returning to the gym, one area of the body which is refreshingly free on pain is the low back.

In as little as a week, the act of simply being on one’s feet can virtually cure acute pain in the low back and hips by breaking the cycle of repeated sitting and bending over. Because the ligaments and joints around the spine easily mold to the habits of our lifestyle, virtually all back pain is the result of the daily position of the spine.

In fact, studies have shown that around 20 minutes of cumulative spinal flexion (bending over), extension (bending backwards) or roation (twisting) can lead to damage and altered alignment of the spine. This means that actions such as frequently turn to stare at the television, leaning forward at the computer or wearing high heels all play on the position of your spine (and subsequent pain)

But one habit most back pain sufferers share in common is the tendancy to move from the lumbar spine rather than the hips. Because the lumbar spine is built for stability, this causes tremendous strain to this area. By contrast, using the hips to flex and extend the trunk and twisting from the thoracic (or middle spine) versus the lumbar spine acts to protect the back against pain.

The key to doing so is learning to move these areas without compensating with the lumbar spine. In both cases, this can be done on all fours with the following drills:

Hip extension: Quadraped hip extension:

The biggest key to ending back pain is learning to move the hip independent of the spine. The idea behind this drill is to learn to move the hip without extending or compensating with the spine. Placing a dowel rod on the back helps to measure whether the spine is moving. Perform three sets of 5 five second holds without bending or extending the spine.

Middle spine rotation: Seated rotation:

The idea with this drill is learning to diassociate middle and lower spine rotation. This is accomplished by twisting the upper trunk while keeping the hips level. Focus on rotating the upper back without moving or flexing the hips or low back. Repeat for two sets of thirty seconds on each side.

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