Where is all this back pain coming from?
The genesis of back pain is as copious as the pain itself, but today we will focus on just one aspect — activity. Or shall I say, lack of activity?
So many of us spend each day sitting at desks, then we hop into our cars for an extended commute home so we can plop down on the couch for the evening before we roll into bed.
Our lack of muscle fitness leads to muscle weakness. And our weakened core musculature puts us at risk of chronic pain due to silly injuries… like bending down to pick up something we drop, or reaching over to buckle our seat belts.
Without regular and appropriate activity, the muscles designed to keep our vertebrae, discs, and spinal columns moving safely can no longer support simple, daily activities like spinal flexion, extension, and rotation.
The network of muscles that support the pelvis, sacrum, and spinal column are critical to reducing pain and avoiding injury. You hear a lot about the importance of a strong core.[sc:yoga-free-dvd ]
But maintaining a strong core requires more than just focusing on your abs — it involves all of the muscles that surround the spine, cross over the hips, support the pelvis and attach onto the ribs.
The good news is that keeping all the muscles of the abdominals, back, hips, and pelvis strong and mobile is entirely within your control. It simply requires regular attention — employing movements designed to get these muscles working in unison — and forming a neutral “corset” that:
- Reduces the load on your spine and discs.
- Reduces disc deterioration, strains, and sprains.
- Provides oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to feed your living tissues.
- Increases muscular endurance and blood flow to the spine.
- Reduces pain and risk of injury.
Here is a simple three-exercise sequence designed to strengthen your lower back and the supporting muscles that also tend to weaken when we sit too much or are inactive for too long. * Please use discretion if you experience back pain due to an injury.
Simple Back-Strengthening Exercises:
- Bridge Hold with Block between knees: 30 seconds
- Begin lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor below your sitting bones. Make sure your feet are parallel. Set hands by your hips with palms down.
- Hold a yoga block or small physio-ball between your legs, just above the knees and squeeze into it to activate your inner thighs and pelvic floor.
- Press into your heels and lift hips into a bridge.
- Draw tailbone down toward knees to lengthen lower back while maintaining the squeeze on the yoga block or physio-ball.
- Engage hamstrings and glutes. Breathe deeply as you hold the bridge for the designated amount of time.
- Standing (or Kneeling) Bird Dog: 60 seconds
- Begin standing with feet hip-width apart, weight shifted into heels with knees slightly bent. Activate all the muscles in your legs, hips, glutes, and core.
- Remain lifted through the chest as you extend right arm overhead and left leg behind you. Pause at the end of your extension, then return to start position.
- Repeat the Standing Bird Dog on the opposite side. Maintain balance as you transition from side to side and move with precision.
- Alternate sides for the designated amount of time.
- Prisoner Squat: 30 seconds
- Begin with feet hip-width or wider, toes pointing forward (or angled out slightly). Shift weight into heels and lift up through your core.
- Bring hands behind head with elbows open. Draw shoulder blades together and down to engage back muscles.
- Push hips back and sit into a squat only as low as you can keep your chest lifted and elbows open.
- Drive up to standing by pressing through your heels and engaging your hamstrings, glutes, and quads.
- Repeat for the designated amount of time.
This simple sequence activates all of the muscles involved in the hips and pelvic girdle and calls upon the trunk muscles as well. It’s a quick and effective, yet simple way to improve your muscular fitness in an area many of us need it. Click here to get started.
Weekend warriors beware: Regular, appropriate exercise is the best way to reduce and avoid back pain, along with shedding excess weight that can cause a strain on spinal discs between vertebrae. Cramming in exercise after an extended bout of inactivity sets you up for injury!
Here is a simple 4-week progression you can use to implement this series safely:
Week 1: Perform 1 set of these exercises daily for the designated amount of time.
Weeks 2 & 3: If ready, lengthen each interval by 5-10 seconds performing 1 set of the series every other day.
Week 4: Incorporate these exercises into your normal exercise routine 2-3 times per week, performing 2 sets at a challenging, yet safe, interval — typically 60 seconds or less.
In just two minutes a day you can begin to strengthen the vital muscles that support your hips, pelvis, and spine so you can enjoy life and engage in the activities you love!
In Love & Gratitude,