Physiyoga: physical therapy principles meet mindful movement

How to Build a More Resilient Low Back
July 8, 2022

We’re so glad you asked.

Because lower back health is a product of ALL the components of you.

You might be thinking…okay, that means my lower back pain history, lower back mobility, flexibility, strength, my hip or hamstring mobility and flexibility, my core strength, AND my overall back strength.

Well, you’re on the right (back) track, but that’s only the half of it!

Lower back resilience is also a byproduct of things people don’t think about often enough.

1. Quantity and quality of your sleep

Studies show major connection between insufficient sleep and increased risk of chronic back pain.

2. Your diet and hydration

Internationally-known and well-respected Dr. Mark Hyman has written and talked about the inflammatory nature of the typical American diet which has a degenerative effect on our spinal discs, amongst other health issues. Did you know that for every pound of extra belly fat, it’s almost seven to ten pounds of extra load on each of your spinal discs? Our diets need to be upgraded with the right kinds of muscle building nutrients combined with movement science exercises to build up weak muscles and unload muscles that are overdoing it. Check out this video interview with Dr. Hyman.

3.  Your thoughts

What you think or have heard about your back

Being told:

You have a bad or weak back

You have herniated discs

You have the back of an elderly person

Don’t bend like this or you’ll hurt your back

… isn’t helpful. These are nociceptive (relating to the perception or sensation of pain) phrases that instill the fear of fragility and lock us further into a narrative that is less based in reality and the present moment.

How about… we all have strong vertebrae and sometimes our backs just hurt?

4. Your reactions

Imagine bending over and feeling a low back twinge. You can say:

  1. Crap, there goes my back again. Now I need to sit still for the rest of

the week, call my doc, and take some Advil.

  1. Hmm, I know this feeling. Happened once or twice before. I won’t bend

that way again. Instead, I’ll rest today and try gentle movements

tomorrow.

Which of the two is more likely to lead to chronic or consistent pain? Yep, that’s right. Number 1.

It’s about paying attention to and trusting what your back/your body is telling you so you can

gently move forward instead of locking up in fear.

5. How you move

  • Do you do JUST one thing? Like Crossfit, jogging or yoga? And if so, do you change things up?
    • For example – with Crossfit, do you explore different squat variations (front squats, back squats, sumo squats)? If you do only yoga, do you try alternate ways to do sun salutations? When running, do you only use a treadmill or do you vary the planes of movement? When you bend to pick something up, is it always the same bend? Or does it change?

 

  • Do you move in a variety of way/ have different strategies?
    • The more movement variation you have the more resilience you build. Changing things up creates a new stimulus, which creates more progress over time. Rotating exercises and activities also decreases the risk of injury.

 

  • Do you move stiffly or fluidly?
    • If you’re feeling stiff, do you stretch and move your joints as much as you can, slowly and gently? And then when your joints feel less stiff and painful, do you get up and move? Maybe take a warm bath or shower so the blood can move to the surface of the skin?

 

  • Do you connect mind to body or are you planning dinner?
    • Are you in the “here and now,” aware and mindful of what is happening at this very moment?. Or are you most often distracted by rumination on the past or worries about the future?

 

  • Do you grip your belly? Do you grip your back?
    • While we may be more focused on the aesthetics, bracing ab muscles is NOT a good thing. It doesn’t stabilize the back. In fact, it shuts down the diaphragm.Meanwhile, back gripping (sitting up tall, sticking out chest) forces the joints of your spine together, and limits their ability to move.

 

  • How you breathe (note: this is hugely important)
    • Do you use just the front ribs, side, neck, or belly when you breathe?  Or do you use all of your diaphragm?  Effective diaphragmatic breathing (aka abdominal breathing) encourages full oxygen exchange.This is when you’re beneficially trading incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide.

 

  •  Does your pelvic floor move?
    • Your diaphragm should move downward into your upper abdomen when you breathe. This increased pressure in the abdomen results in the pelvic floor also lowering down and getting a small stretch. When you exhale, the pressure in your abdomen decreases as your diaphragm rises into your lower ribcage, and the pelvic floor rises back.With every diaphragm breath, the ribs move, the thoracic spine moves, the viscera moves, the bowel moves, the psoas muscle moves. All of this is related to the health and mobility of the lower back.

 

  •  How your thoracic spine moves
    • If the thoracic spine is tight or immobile, the lower lumbar spine will compensate and take on the load for the lack of movement, often leading to low back pain and fatigue. A stiff thoracic spine can also adversely affect the function of your diaphragm and core.
    • The thoracic spine should be the main source of trunk rotation, due to the shape of the bones. The lumbar spine does not allow for as much rotation.
    • When we want to twist and the thoracic spine doesn’t cooperate, we then recruit more of the lumbar spine and it becomes a stressful event.

 

  • How your pelvis moves
    • Can your pelvis move in tilts and hikes and rotation? Find out by checking this (video)
    • Again, if you can’t move your pelvis your spine picks up the slack, taking on more load and more mobility than it should – a recipe for pain.
    • Ideally, we share the load of movement across the whole body, including pelvis and thoracic spine. Sharing the load helps with coordinated effort of muscles, bones, and the nervous system to maintain healthy balance, posture, and alignment.

 

We want you(r) back in motion, so let’s do a few checks to assess the parts that contribute to low back resilience (the thoracic spine, pelvis, breath, etc).

Thoracic spine check:

Stand… with butt, lower back, and head flat up against a wall. If you can do that, bring your chin toward your chest and flex your spine into a c (cat) shape, and feel each vertebrae touch the wall as you flex all the way down and roll back up.

Need Help? Check out this Quick Thoracic Spine Mobility Check! 

If you’re unable to do that, it’s time to check out some of our classes that will help with mobility:

Foundations of Thoracic Mobility 

 

Thoracic Mobility and Rotation with Emily Giovine

Pelvic check:

Posterior pelvic tilt. Stand with your hands on your hips. Imagine your pelvis as a bucket of water. Without leaning back, try to pour the water in your imaginary bucket out behind you. To do this, you’ll need to tilt the pelvis back, as though tucking your tail.

Anterior pelvic tilt. Stand with hands on your hips, and now try to pour the water in your imaginary bucket out in front of you without leaning forward. This should cause an arch in your low back, and it’ll look like you’re sticking your butt out.

Need help? Check out this Quick Pelvic Tilt Check Tutorial!

Ideally, your pelvis should be resting in neutral so that if it were a bucket of water, none would be spilling out.

If you can’t do either or both tilts, then check out this foundation class to help you find more mindful mobility and control.

Breath check:

Lay down and place hands on sides of lower ribs. Breathe in smoothly through the nose and out through the mouth with slightly parted lips. Are both hands moving outward slightly on the in breath, and together on the out breath? Or Is your chest dominating your breathing? Or your belly? Ideally, it should be all 3 working in unison. If not, we can work on this together. Check out XXX class to help retrain your diaphragmatic breathing.

 

Insufficient or poorly coordinated movement of any of the above can compromise the mobility and stability of the spine and potentially cause low back problems.

 

Threes Physiyoga Method is all about science-backed sustainable movement that explores and learns. That builds and strengthens. That works… and grows.

Start your path to low back pain recovery and resilience today with us, using our Low Back Rescue and Resilience 12 Class Progressive Program.  This simple & gentle 12 part program will provide you with practices to do when you are in an active pain cycle: classes that help you downregulate your nervous system and muscle tone, that teach you how to move in less pain and introduce gentle movement. The classes then progress for when you are recovering to gently begin to build resilience by adding  low back, core and glute strength and back and hip mobility.

 

So become a member. Join us!

We’ve got your back – literally and figuratively!

 

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