Fix your low back pain with better body mechanics

Too much sitting is hard on our bodies and can add to the prevalence of low back pain. Twenty-six bones make up the spinal column with three gentle curves from top to bottom. For many with low back pain, the cumulative effects of constant or repeated small stresses over time, like sitting, result in back pain. Too much sitting, combined with faulty posture, can flatten these curves over time. The spine is designed to function best as a weight-bearing structure, with the lumbar curve in a neutral position. Sitting rounded, or slumped in a seat, multiplies damaging pressure on lower back discs and soft tissues. Another concern is that prolonged sitting chronically shortens the hip flexors. Once again, too much sitting, prevalent in our modern age, has other drawbacks and can cause secondary health concerns, such as high blood pressure and increased risk for diseases like diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disorders.

The good news is that low back pain can dissipate. Body composition, strength of the core musculature and faulty movement patterns are all potential cause of low back pain. Most back pain is easy to reverse; the secret is addressing common musculature imbalances. Too much sway or arch in the lower back, too much bending, weak or overstretched muscles, or poor posture are contributing factors that can be corrected to ensure a healthy back.

If you are in pain, but not dealing with diagnosed or undiagnosed medical issues, nerve impingement, or traumatic injury, you fall into the category of mechanical low-back pain.

Faulty Movement Patterns

The easiest way to fix your own pain is to correct faulty body mechanics. We know we shouldn’t bend wrong, but we do. We bend over wrong picking up laundry, petting the dog, making the bed, or looking at a phone. We work over our desks, drive and ride bent forward every day. Look around the gym and it’s a minefield of bent backs. You’ll see people lifting weights bent over, and bend over wrong to place them back on racks.

Integrated Core

The spine is at its strongest, most resilient and most supported position when it is in a state of muscular and skeletal balance, and in a neutral position.

The abdominal brace is an important way to use the core to find neutral position. Bracing, says Dr. Stuart McGill, a leading spine researcher, is a different concept than that of simply holding in your stomach, or “pulling your belly to your spine.” Rather, it’s mild contraction of the abdominal muscles, as though you are preparing for a punch in the mid-section. In his book “Back Mechanic,” he asks his back patients to gradually adjust the amount of contraction to find the optimal stiffness, much like how a dimmer switch gradually adjusts light in a room. Whether you are sitting, walking, or are a high-performance athlete, all movement is orchestrated from this fine-tuned control of the core.

Next time you pick up a package, try to brace your core, hip hinge, and use your gluteus muscles, which help extend the hips to assist in standing up, sparing the lower back from over-use.

Self-Test

Here’s a simple test to see if you have neutral spine alignment, or back sway. Stand barefoot with your back to the wall, with heels, butt and shoulders against the wall. Then try to place one hand, palm down, behind your lower back. If the space is up to and in-line with your second knuckle, you have neutral pelvis. Normally the pelvis is rotated approximately 10 degrees. But if the space is large enough for your whole hand, you have a deviation, an anterior tilt of the pelvis called lumbar lordosis. Tilt the pelvis posteriorly by bringing the front of your waistband up to learn neutral, engaging the core.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Corrective Movement Specialist (TBBM-CES) Visit her at www.conniearonson.com and

Instagram @conniearon

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_9e3c776e-e5b7-11eb-a0ba-5730f013cbf7.html

Stretch to stay on top of your summer game

We all want to enjoy summer to the max, and that means more time outside, doing the activities and sports that warm sunshine offers. But each sport has specific demands on your body. A stretch routine after a ride, golf game or hike can make a difference in staying up to the task, especially as you age. Flexibility can decrease as much as 50 percent in some joint areas. The good news is that this loss of motion can be minimized with a regular stretching and range-of-motion routine.

For decades, coaches have thought that pre-exercise stretching was important for their athletes, and would prevent injury or muscle soreness. However, copious research on the topic of flexibility challenges that old belief. It is thought that due to an alteration in joint connective-tissue compliance, stretching before workouts may lead to greater joint instability.

What the research shows is that stretching will help you achieve positive long-term performance outcomes when done at times other than before performance. A warmup that increases blood flow, like arm circles, or leg swings, to get a mild sweat beforehand, is a better injury prevention component.

Your post-game stretches have to be specific to target the muscles that have been stressed or overused or have a reduced range of motion. Here are some tips to ensure that you end a great day outside energized, happy and loose.

Cycling: Stretch after you get off the bike

The quads and hips are big players in cycling, used powerfully and repetitively, and stretching afterward helps combat tightness. Cycling is different from other sports in that force is primarily produced as the muscles are shortening. In cycling, the pedal stroke doesn’t use the full range of motion of the hip, knee or ankle. Running, on the other hand, bends your knees as you raise your thigh, but straightens and extends your leg to push off the ground.

Cyclists also spend a lot of time bent over in the riding position, which puts the hip flexors in a shortened position. Short, tight hip flexors add to achy hips and backs. Tight hip flexors, particularly the deep-seated psoas, can pull forward and down on the lumbar spine. When that happens, you lose an important lower back curve. No wonder your back can hurt after a long ride. Aim for post-ride hip, low-back and chest stretches. You can view those at vimeo.com/343122017.

Golfing: Get loose

Flexibility is imperative to improving your golf swing. Without flexibility, you won’t have the range of motion to unlock any of the power you already have, or are working on. Picture a golfer, at the final moment of follow-through from a fairway shot. That person is, for the most part, opened and stretched in a fluid spiral line of energy. That takes optimal range of motion in joints or groups of joints.

In just one round of golf, you end up swinging a golf club up to 300 times, including practice swings, and at speeds upward of 90 mph. That’s a lot of stress on your muscles, tendons and joints! A pre-game 5- to 10-minute warmup provides essential preparation for your game. Walking around a practice tee, leg swings or arm circles are ways to loosen up for your game. A good warm-up increases blood flow to working tissue as well as velocity of nerve impulses to muscles. It should be relatively easy, inducing a mild sweat. Stretching is recommended after your game. Click on this link for a golf-specific flexibility routine: vimeo.com/343122336.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_6eacb7c8-9377-11e9-9a99-5301d856d0cc.html

Extend your spine~ The Roman Chair for back health

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Our spines need to be subtle and strong

When it comes to musculoskeletal pain, the lower back reigns as king. About 80 to 85 percent of people will experience some sort of low back pain in their life. According to the National Health Statistics Survey in 2012, more than 28 percent of Americans live with lower back pain. Back troubles are the No. 1 reason people under age 45 miss out on activities.

Ironically, most people with low back pain overuse their backs, exacerbating the trouble even more. It’s better to use your legs to bend or squat down, or to use your hips in rotational sports like golf or yoga to spare stresses on your lower back.

Our spines need to be supple and strong, as daily tasks demand that the vertebrae bend, flex, rotate and side bend. The spine does an amazing job of handling loads straight down the back, but over time, poor mechanics repeated hundreds of times in daily life and activities can cause low back pain. Even more problematic is our forward bending posture, especially with aging. It seems we’re all forgetting to stand up and extend our spines. Our preference for slumping, sitting or driving is very hard on our back ligaments, and at worst, it becomes structural, resulting in bad posture or back problems. The end result is that greater compressive forces are placed on the intervertebral discs.

If you go to a gym, there is an overlooked piece of gym equipment to help strengthen your back. Typically used as a place to hang your gym towel, the Roman chair, looking somewhat like a stand, can isolate and strengthen the spine extensor muscles.

Exercises such as squats and deadlifts help strengthen your back, but the larger hip extensor muscles do much of the work. The lumbar extensors, multifidi (the deepest muscles near your spine) and the quadratus lumborum are the important muscles for spine health, as they help provide stability in the area of the spine most prone to injury. Think of your spine as two stacked boxes, called the vertebrae, with lots of padding between them—the discs, where most back problems begin. The natural curves of your spine help the discs cushion compressive forces.

Any exercises you do should keep spine stability in mind, and be done with muscle control rather than momentum. Avoid excessive range-of-motion movements that damage spinal ligaments or discs. End-range extension, or forceful hyperextension, places the posterior elements of the spine at risk of damage, especially with spinal stenosis or sports hernia.

 To use the Roman chair, you lie face-down, with the back of your ankles supported, and your navel in line with the edge of the pad. Round your back over the pad, slowly extend your torso parallel to the floor so that you are horizontal from your heels to head, hold for one second and lower for three seconds.  ( View video IMG_3055 )
Published in the Idaho Mountain Express June 30, 2017

3 Top Hip and Back Stretches- You don’t have to be sore after a workout

These 3 moves will help you recover and realign after a big day on a bike, 1/2 marathon, or strenuous hikeAll target the hips, to help extend the body upwards and undo much of the tightness of not only the hips, as well as the back, shoulders and calf muscles.

Foam rolling, or self-myofascial release can help with athletic recovery

Foam rolling, or self-myofascial release can help with athletic recovery

1.Foam Roll Quads
 
Foam Rolling is a self-myofascial release stretching technique that regenerates and rejuvenates muscles and other soft tissue affected by an overzealous day on a bike, or on the trails.There are 4 quad muscles in the upper leg, and the outer most one, the rectus femoris, when tight, pulls the spine towards the top of the leg, causing hip or back pain, or  hyper-extention of the spine in an effort to stand up straight.Place the roller perpendicular to your thigh and lie over it. Find any sore spot and hold your body weight there for a few seconds until the tissue releases. Roll each leg for one minute. ( If rolling hurts your shoulder, lie on the floor with a tennis ball )
 
A "do-anywhere" great hip, upper back and calf stretch
2. Step Back with Arm Reach
 
This integrated exercise helps realign the entire body by combining a calf and hip flexor stretch, while strengthening the muscles of the upper back and shoulders. Stand with you feet hip-width apart and take a big step back with your right leg. Simultaneously reach the right arm upward.Keep the back leg straight, heel down. Push your hip forward without arching the lower back. Instead, extend from the upper back. Hold for 2-3 seconds. 6-10 reps on both sides.
 
3. Spine Extension The majority of the muscles in the hips originate at the lumbar spine, cross the pelvis, and attach to the top of the femur. This exercise stretches the whole front body,, and spine extensors, undoing much of the forward bending of many activities, plus feels great. Place your hands, fingers pointed down, firmly on your lower back. Inhale, and extend the spine as you lift your chest. Exhale, as you return to neutral posture. Repeat 6-8 times. 
 

Stretch your low back with this standing stretch.

Stretch your low back with this standing stretch.

 
Photos by Hallie MacPherson