I want to reinforce two points: 1) back pain is extremely common & 2) most current medical approaches are failing to address our back pain cost effectively or for long term relief. Have you been having conversations about how often back pain is viewed as a catastrophe? Have you pondered how frequently you’ve pursued power (strength) and mobility (flexibility) before stability and control?
Once we’ve built stability, mobility, and power, we must also include endurance, because most muscle activities rely on repetition over raw power. All of us need to handle long hours of sitting, standing, & moving; we do not all need to squat 300 lbs. Laundry, dishes, and yardwork demand consistent recruitment numbering in the hundreds of repetitions, not just 2 sets of 10. How would it sound to train your body for low back endurance instead of raw power?
Are you ready to prepare your low back to endure the forces of a day? Here’s 3 steps:
Begin on all fours on a comfortable pad or carpet. Make sure your hands are directly below your shoulders and knees below your hips. Arch your back upward & drop your chin to your chest like a “scared cat”. Accentuate your hip flexion and low back arch. Then drop your back low & lift your chin to look forward, keeping your shoulders & hips in the same place. This should feel like a “desert camel”. After 5-8 gentle cycles, you should feel a greater awareness of the end ranges of your motion. Finish in the middle of two extremes, or what we’ll term “neutral position”.
From the ‘neutral position’ you’ve attained in Step 1, we are going to reach each limb out from the body while keeping the hips, shoulders, and torso COMPLETELY still. Begin by reaching out one arm forward and return the hand to the original spot. Did you move? Did you shift? Your goal is NO movement. Try the next arm. Try one leg by sliding the knee back and reaching the foot out behind you. This was more difficult that the arm, yes? Try the other leg. You will likely find one side to be more challenging that the other, just as you have one hand or foot is stronger than the other. Continue practicing this for 1 minute/day until you can do it without shifting a bit. Then try one arm and the opposite leg, like a “birddog pointing”.
From a prone position (laying on your stomach), lift your arms, legs, and chin off the ground like you’re “Superman flying”. Hold until you shake or feel too tired. If you start with 10 seconds, maybe you try for 15 sec next week. Do these 3 exercises every day for a total of about 2 minutes.
If you feel pain with any of these, stop and step back to an easier step until comfortable. If you cannot do the basic cat-camel without pain, we are glad to evaluate your body to learn what tissues are especially irritated and why your brain is upset with the motion. Conservative care is the best place to find a partner to walk with you through a painful season.
Is it really this simple? Yes, usually! Most back pain is not a broken, torn or “bad back” as usually assumed. “Only 1 in 8 back pain cases has a definite pathology.” (Von Korff & Moore 2001) As Dr. Gordon Waddell, head of Orthopedic Surgery in Scotland put so well: “We often cannot find the cause or even the exact source of the back pain. Most back pain is simply a mechanical disturbance of the musculoskeletal structures or function of the back.” As we prepare the back to adapt to challenges, we avoid the most common reasons for discomfort. Now get out there and prepare your back–it will take less time than brushing your teeth!