Monday, August 24, 2015

Does your back hurt?

I know mine did. Most of my life, all the way back to college years. Reflexology application kept things at bay but it was still there, that nagging, and sometimes more than nagging, pain in my lower back. 
Then I started looking into prolonged sitting. (The pursuit became such a passion it turned into a book, Un-sit Your Life.) And that’s where I discovered sitting too much is linked to back pain. (Hmmm, I thought, so it was those hours of sitting through class that was the beginning of my back problem.)
It seems we are literally bent out of shape by chair living. Muscles used to walk and stand are mis-used or under-used by long time chair sitting. The result is back pain.
Excessive sitting shortens your hip flexors, pulling your hips forward. That hyperextends your back and weakens your core. “Tight hips are the main cause of back pain,” says Mike (Reinold, a Boston based physical therapist and performance specialist). ” as noted by author Michael Easter.*
I discovered there are solutions. Taking breaks in sitting is one. Getting up and taking 2 minute breaks every 20 minutes took care of my neck pain. 
Then I started doing exercises aimed at the hip flexors, basically lunge exercises. My back was helped and my posture’s better too.
If you’d like to try the exercises, I describe them below. If you have knee problems, I suggest you start with hip flexor stretches before attempting lunges. 
Lunge stretch
Kneel on the floor. Extend your right leg forward with knee bent at a 90˚ angle. Hold the lunge for 3 minutes. Change legs and hold for 3 minutes. 
If this is difficult for you, position yourself between an ottoman and chair so you are supported as you move into position. Begin by holding the stretch for one minute and build up.
Pendulum lunge 
Stand holding a chair with your right hand. Step forward with your right foot moving into a lunge position with knee bent at a 90˚ angle. Stand upright. Step back with right foot and extend it so left leg is a a 90˚ angle. Repeat. Build number of repetitions. (I do 8.) Repeat with left leg.
Mobility lunge
This lunge instantly helped my back. It was a challenge to do for reasons of balance and leg strength. Becoming accomplished at the lunge stretch described above helped. The pendulum lunge helped as well. At the beginning I positioned myself by a chair to steady myself if needed. 
… Assume a lunge position with your right leg forward and both knees bent 90 degrees. Place your hands on your right thigh and push down to activate your core. Then place your hands behind your hips. Flex your glutes as you push your hips forward and down, feeling the stretch in your left hip. Hold for 5 seconds, and return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Do 5 reps, switch legs and repeat.”*
Easter, Michael, “4 Mobility Exercises To Build Your Strength And Power, Build an athlete's body with these four power moves,” July/August 2014, pp.100-103

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