Sooooo much back pain lately. What’s going on? I know the holidays have a lot to do with what I’m seeing. I have spoken to friends and clients who had sore backs after:
• Being on their feet for hours preparing a huge meal.
• Lifting heavy groceries (a turkey) in and out of the car.
• Putting up Christmas lights and decorations.
• Sleeping on an unfamiliar bed.
• Traveling by car or plane.
These are all activities that we don’t do often in our daily lives. The concept of resiliency in our bodies means we can handle the unusual or unexpected life demands life tosses at us now and then.
When our daily activities don’t build a resilient body, we must incorporate exercise that supports resiliency. Let’s discuss why most of our daily lives don’t build resiliency. We are a culture of sitting in our work and our leisure activities. All this supported sitting creates weak back muscles and stiff hips. Constantly reaching forward at primarily the level of our core results in stiff shoulders. How does this result in back pain?
First let’s briefly discuss exercise. The most popular methods of exercise from bls.gov are walking, weightlifting, running and other cardio equipment. While these methods are very good for you in many ways, most do not create strength through our full potential range of motion. Most don’t create stability where we need it and mobility where we need it. If our bodies are not stable where we need it and mobile where we need it, these exercises can actually contribute to back problems rather than fix them.
Our spines need stability. The spine has joints that move but they don’t move much. It is important to maintain some mobility in the spine, but its primary need is stability. Our shoulders and hips are built for mobility. Here is the problem. When our shoulders and hips lack range of motion, and our backs are weak, the back gets recruited to help with movement that should be happening in the hips and shoulders with reaching, bending and even with walking. When this happens too much, our backs pay the price.
What can you do?
- Many healthcare practitioners are recommending yoga to their patients with back issues. Yoga builds mobility in the hips and shoulders as well as stability in the core (back) muscles. There is also a plethora of research supporting yoga for back pain. If you’re intimidated by yoga, I created a class to help you understand how to get started with a yoga practice that is right for you and your specific health issues.
- Building more squatting, reaching and unsupported sitting into your daily activities is an option for building more strength and mobility but not how we normally think about building a resilient body. I just happen to have a new online class that will guide you through the process.
- Work with a therapist who is skilled at posture and movement and can help you identify how you are using your body. Improving your posture and body alignment is extremely important in building a resilient back. For now, start noticing when you are doing daily activities such as opening a car door or reaching down to pet your dog, how much are you using your back? Can you find more ways to keep your back stable and rely more on your hips and shoulders?
- Add the bird dog exercise to your daily routine. This is a simple exercise that can be adapted to most fitness levels. If your core is weak, you can start at the wall. When you are ready you can advance to a countertop, then a chair, a stool and eventually the floor. The bird dog exercise builds core muscles to help create stability for the back and also builds mobility in the hips and shoulders through extension movements.
Download the instructions for the bird dog exercise.
Of course, I must also mention fascia. We must move often throughout the day. Our fascia needs movement to be stretchy and healthy. If we don’t move and our posture is poor, the fascia will stiffen in the shape of poor posture. Stiffened fascia will make positive change in our bodies more difficult. Learning to stretch and mobilize your fascia can propel positive change in your body. Work with a trained myofascial therapists or of course, I have a great online class you can take! I also have a live workshop that over 400 people have taken with amazing feedback. Check out upcoming dates here.
Build stability in your core and mobility in your hips and shoulders!
It’s your move!