Low back pain is one of the main complaints in our office. People come in and say, I’ve done everything and it won’t go away. I know how frustrating this can be because I’ve been there.
Many of you have heard this story, but when I was 35, I was training for a race (I’m a runner) and I had limited time (like most of us) – all of which was going to training. I did what I tell everyone NOT to do – I didn’t keep up with my massages, acupuncture, chiropractic, and cross training regime. I just ran. Most runners think that the run will fix whatever is bothering them. I am no different. I went out for my long run one Sunday morning and limped home after 2 miles not being able to put any weight on my left leg. It was 10 months before I could run again. During that 10 months I was seeing someone every 2 weeks – massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, and I was taking yoga classes. It was awful, not the treatment, but the fact that I didn’t listen to my own advice.
However, that experience helped me understand what so many people deal with everyday – low back pain. It takes up your mind space. It restricts your mobility, your lifestyle, your happiness. And it’s not easy to get rid of.
In fact, if you meet with anyone who tells you they CAN get rid of it, run away. Once low back comes along it becomes something to be managed. Five years later and I still am aware of my low back. That being said, it doesn’t take up my mind space, it doesn’t even bother me. I can treat 9 or 10 people a day without issue, but I do a lot to keep it that way. Here are some of the things I do every day. I don’t do them in any particular order and they take me about 5 minutes.
Massage Tip #1
Forward and backward bends. These don’t need to be extreme, go to the point of comfort. For some, the bends will be deep. You may touch your toes or it could be the chin touches the chest. Both are great. The purpose is for you to connect with the soft tissue, the fine tendons and ligaments in the small of the back and where the low spine meets the sacrum. Feel it. Connect with that tissue and let it soften. Take a deep breath in on the bend, exhale when you come back to center. Go slow. Hold the inhale and the stretch for as long as you can. Do this 2-3 times a day.
Massage Tip #2
Make fists with your hands. With the side of the hand (where the thumb curls around the fingers) punch your low back and your sacrum (butt bone). Punch down the sides of the legs and up the insides of the legs. This is do-in (pronounced doe-een). It literally translates to hit oneself in Japanese. It is a type of self massage that has been proven to increase circulation, lymphatic drainage, and decrease blood pressure. Do this at least once a day.
Massage Tip #3
Put your feet shoulder width apart, hands on your hips or by your sides whichever is more comfortable. Slowly do small hip circles. The knees should bend doing these. Breathe. Focus in on those fine tendons and ligaments in the low back again. Give them space to soften. Go both directions, doing at least 10 each way. Notice if there is a difference in the directions. Then, do big hip circles. The knees tend to be straight during this. Bend the back to the point of comfort. Feel the big muscles being activated. Feel the deep interior part of the hip. Breathe. Let the tissue soften. Do at least 10 of these going both directions.
Massage Tip #4
With your feet shoulder width apart, slowly inhale and raise your arms up through the middle of the body above the head. Hold the breath. Push the hands upward feeling the body separate slightly from the hips. Keep holding the breath and bend to one side. Bring the arms back to the center above the head. Slowly let the arms fall down the sides of the body as you exhale. Repeat this and bend to the other side. Do this 3-5 times on both sides. This is called hold up the heavens in Qigong.
Massage Tip # 5
Don’t stop getting treatment. I need to see someone every 6 weeks or so, but I don’t miss that appointment. At first you may need treatment every 2 weeks for 4-6 treatments. Usually, at that point (at least in our office), we begin to push you out to 3,4, and up to 6 weeks between appointments. Not everyone is the same. As I said in the beginning, I was 10 months in recovery after I threw my back out. However, I was continuing to work, which didn’t allow my back to rest much.
Don’t give up hope and continue with your exercises even after you feel better. I do the above exercises every day, plus other stuff to keep my back strong.
The truth is our body deteriorates as we age and unless we are doing things to keep it flexible and strong, it will deteriorate even faster. Plain and simple. Your body is worth the effort.