Release Low Back Pain

By On June 24, 2013 · 1 Comment

“Instant Tylenol!” I thought as I stood up after completing my first Pilates DVD. I walked around, twisted, bent over—all pain free! It worked faster than real anti-inflammatories and without taxing my liver. After years of mild back pain and months of acute, intense back pain, I had found relief. And, yes, it was instantaneous.

low back painWhile every person and every body is unique and will therefore travel a unique path at its own pace to a pain-free back, I have learned a few key facts beginning with my own experience mentioned above and continuing with the experiences of many of my formerly suffering clients: first, back pain seems to be nearly epidemic in its reach and, second, there is a solution.

While respecting every individual body, generally speaking back pain is a result of imbalances in the body: the deep core muscles, front and back, are weak while the superficial, larger muscles of the body are tight (note: not necessarily strong, but tight). So our approach is two-fold: strengthen the deeper core muscles and release the tight larger muscles. Let’s get started.

First, let’s find our deep core muscles. Lying down on your back on a solid surface, wrap your hands around your waist with your thumbs pointing back and your fingers pointing forward. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale imagine a corset or a weightlifter’s belt tightening around your waist. Draw your waistline in from your hands in all directions: front, back, and both sides. Continue to do this with long breaths, focusing on a drawing up and in of your abdominals versus a bearing down. Visually, your stomach should draw in, not push out.

You are engaging your transverse abdominals, the deepest abdominals that wrap around the spine like a brace, providing support and creating length. All healthy movement begins with this engagement.
Practice it at your desk, in your car, while walking, etc. Challenge yourself by lifting one leg at a time with every exhale. Once you can do so without moving your upper body or spine, try lifting both legs. Be sure to only work in a pain-free range.

Next, we must release our tight muscles. Tight hamstrings, outer leg muscles, and glutes can contribute to low back pain. Lying down on your back, hook a theraband or a rolled up towel around the bottom of your foot while holding the ends with your hands. Using the towel or band, raise your leg up toward the ceiling while keeping it straight. Don’t lift up your bum but try to keep your back straight and torso long. As you reach your heel and your tailbone away from each other, feel a stretch behind your leg. Remember: no bending the knee!

To stretch the outside of the thigh, gently take the leg across your midline. You may gently bend the knee with this stretch. Be sure to not let your bum lift from the floor. To stretch the glutes, sit upright in a chair and cross your legs by placing one ankle on top of the opposite knee, making a sort of figure 4 with your legs. Stick your booty out behind you as you slowly lean forward. You should feel a stretch in the glute of the leg that is crossed. Be sure to repeat these stretches for both sides, holding each stretch for no less than 5 deep breaths.

Our spines need to move and stretch, too! Kneeling on all fours on the floor, round your back like an angry cat as you exhale. Reach your spine to the sky as you tuck your chin and look toward your pelvis. Then reverse the movement by inhaling as you stick out your bum and arch your back, lift your head, and stretch your breastbone away from your tailbone. Repeat these movements a few times. Then, sitting in a chair or cross-legged on the floor, reach your left arm to the sky and then lean to the right, creating space between each rib and between your rib cage and your pelvis. Repeat on the other side. Lastly, stand up tall and rotate your upper body from side to side, letting your arms swing like a grass skirt. Free your spine by moving it in all directions.

Of course, these stretches and movements are but the tip of the metaphorical iceberg for your back. Though I started with a DVD, I was hungry for more and eventually ventured into a Pilates studio, finding greater improvement and strength under the watchful eye of an experienced Pilates instructor. When you are ready, come into Pilates Studio City for your Initial Private session! We’ll help you find your core, length, strength, and relief!

One Response

  • Melissa July 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm · Reply

    Great article Jenny! All great tips, and I will use them with my clients now too.

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