Posted by: eaubeauhorn | March 9, 2008

Alleviating lower back problems

I’m posting this in case my personal solution to lower back problems will help others.

The most memorable time I “threw my back out” was when I was on the tennis court; I leaned over to pick up a tennis ball and my back went “squink!” and I had trouble straightening back up. I hobbled off the court and once again went to the chiropractor.

But at one point later in my back saga, I visited a physical therapist who gave me some exercises to do. I had envisioned getting exercises that I would heavily concentrate on, sweating and grunting, producing strong bulging muscles that would somehow protect me against what kept happening. I found, to my complete surprise and consternation, that what I was given to do was impossible for me at that point in time: I had to control that set of muscles just to either side of my spine between my waist and my tailbone, and I had zero ability to tense them consciously. Like, you can tense your biceps, right? So could I; but I could not consciously tense these muscles. They were doing nothing at all, and that, for me, was why my lower back was so unstable. I’ve always read that to alleviate back problems you should strengthen your stomach muscles; I did that and it did me no good, because those spine-stabilizing muscles weren’t doing anything at all.

After getting the concept of what needed to happen, and after learning the simple exercises given me (with great frustration I might add; it must be at least a shadow of what stroke victims have to do to regain control of muscles that have no signals coming to them any more) I developed my own single simple exercise that keeps my lower back stable.

The concept was to use these muscles to keep the pelvis stable, and have them strong enough to hold the vertebrae in place, so they could not sublux and go “squink!” and cause that all-too-familiar can’t-stand-up scenario. Of course, to have them do their job, they have to be strong. But it was not the sweating, grunting, extreme effort I had expected.

My exercise that works for me: you can even do it in bed at night if that suits your fancy.

Lie down on a flat surface, arms at your side, face up. You can put your head on a pillow if you want, for comfort. Do a series of leg lifts, but only up a few inches, maybe a foot at most, but probably better just six inches off the floor. Keep your knee straight and pull your toes towards you. But here is the important part: hold your pelvis completely still! To do this, you will have to engage those muscles between your waist and your tailbone, that are adjacent to your spine. Always do the same number of lifts on each side, to keep muscle strength even. If you can do more lifts on one side than the other, do the number that you can do with the weaker side, and let it catch up to the stronger side.

I found that after I worked on this until I could do 75 lifts on each side, this particular lower back problem was stabilized. It did also take occasional visits to a chiropractor when it got out of whack, and I still see a chiropractor every year or two, but have found the visits don’t do a whole lot now. Which indicates that I am pretty stable.

I have another post about lumber disk problems, if you care to read the solution I found to those.

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Responses

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