Let's face it. Chronic back pain is debilitating. Everyone thinks they can handle it until it leaves them frozen in the prone position, gasping for breath and reluctant to move. All at once, you're useless to the world, fearfully wondering whether you're going to need surgery--the pain is that bad.
You may not have to book an operating room just yet, though. Many painful back spasms are simply muscular strain stemming from overuse, improper use (especially while lifting a heavy object), or sudden motion.
Unless you have serious symptoms like fever or loss of bladder control accompanying the pain, it's worth trying a few simple stretching exercises before rushing to the ER.
Yoga is terrific exercise for the back, and these two poses are especially good for achieving lumbar flexion and extension--relieving compressed discs and helping restore proper vertebral alignment while strengthening your core muscle and the flexors/extensors lining both sides of the spinal column.
Over time, this improves balance and posture, which reduces the downward pressure applied on the lumbar region by the weight of the upper body.
HOW TO DO IT:
- On your hands and knees, begin with your back relatively level to the ground. To move into the Cat Pose, direct your gaze downward as you arch your back upward and tighten your core abdominal muscles. (Picture the arched back of a proverbial angry cat.)
- Exhale as you move into this pose, and hold it for 15-20 seconds. Then, inhale as you lower your spine into a "U" shape and bring your head up to face directly in front of you. This is Cow Pose (picture a cow with its belly hanging low to the ground).
- Hold your breath in this pose for another 15-20 seconds, and then repeat the sequence 6-10 times. The pictures here illustrate each of the two poses.
#2 Sciatic Nerve Stretch
Sciatic pain radiates through the lower back, into the buttocks, and even all the way down to the calf, following the path of the sciatic nerve--the largest and widest single nerve in the body. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can cause the sciatic nerve to tighten, but stretching it can help restore its flexibility and prevent it from flaring up.
HOW TO DO IT:
- Lie on your back. Beginning with one leg or the other (but not both), pull your knee into your chest, grasping your thigh with both hands.
- Hold it for a few seconds, then gently raise your lower leg upward until it points to about 90-100 degrees from the floor. With your leg in this position, flex your ankle by pointing your toes toward the ceiling for a few seconds, then releasing and bringing the sole of your foot parallel with the ceiling.
- Do that ten times or so before gently returning your entire leg to the floor. Repeat for the other leg.
#3 Hip Twist
While you're on your back, you can perform this simple stretch to elongate the muscles of the lower back and buttocks. This relieves pressure against the sciatic nerve and helps improve posture for better carriage of your upper body weight.
HOW TO DO IT:
- While lying on your back, bend both legs until your knees are pointing toward the ceiling. (The soles of your feet should be flat on the ground, with your heels about 4-6 inches from your buttocks.)
- Point your hands away from your body, with the palms flat on the ground. Now, keeping your knees together, gently twist your hips and bring both legs to one side or the other until your knees make contact with the floor, being certain to keep your back flat on the ground as you do so.
- Turn your head to face in the opposite direction that your knees are facing as they rest on the floor. (There's a picture here that illustrates the proper position.)
- Hold for about 15-20 seconds, then gently return to the starting position. Repeat in the other direction. Complete the whole sequence 4-6 times.
A relaxing massage makes a terrific complement to these stretching exercises. Contact us today, and we'll be happy to explain how our state-of-the-art solutions can help you make chronic back pain a thing of the past.