As the snow begins to fly in Canada I typically see an increase in patients experiencing back pain due to shoveling the buckets of snow or slipping on the ice. My recommendations will never change! I always suggest to invest in a minimum of 4-6 weeks of conditioning to prepare your body (and mind!) for the specific winter demands of living in the North.
This week I wanted to share with you one of my little known methods to help relieve back pain that is so simple yet highly effective! Let's dig into the anatomy and science behind this stretch.
Common Symptoms - Low back pain (a.k.a. lumbago) - Sciatica
- Muscle stiffness and soreness - Difficultly sleeping - Hip pain - Motor weakness
- Pain upon coughing, sneezing and/or whilst bearing down during bowel movement - Shooting pain into the hips, legs and/or feet - Numbness and tingling to the hips, legs and/or feet
Anatomy of the Spinal Discs
We have 23 vertebral discs that are contained within the spinal column. Some are different sizes to others, but their essence and function remains the same. They are a fluid-filled sac designed to aid in movement, support and protection of the spinal bones. Embedded within these bones is your spinal cord which provides the network of nerves between the brain and the many parts of the body. This is your central nervous system.
This image to the right is illustrating a rather worse case scenario of bulging and herniated discs together with a build up of osteophytes. The most common section of the back that this happens within, are the discs between lumbar vertebrae number 4 and number 5 (typically labelled L4-L5) and lumbar vertebrae number 5 and the sacrum (typically labelled L5-S1). This primarily arises due to excessive use and loading of these structures coupled with bad posture, poor flexibility, lack of core stability, and insufficient hydration.
You're Thirsty for Pain Relief
In a previous blog post I shared the concept of the fluid content and movement of your spinal disc being similar to a measuring level. As the image depicts, when the bubble is centered it helps you understand that 'sweet spot' of being horizontal and balanced. If you can imagine 23 of these between the bones of your spine, in an ideal world, you'd be aiming to have these all centered and aligned for the vast majority of your 24-hours. The spinal discs are unique in that they are designed to withstand the forces of flexion, extension, lateral flexion, rotation and compression BUT as I describe in my new book - The 15-Step Playbook for Pain Relief - it's the dose that makes the poison.
To keep it really simple - if you spend most of your day in a seated position and are not engaging your postural awareness you are creating more postural debt which will lead to imbalanced 'levels' in your spinal discs and create premature wear and tear on its supporting structures.
We all understand the power of water upon rock formations. Persistent water erosion
over decades creates structural changes to the rock. It's the same idea with persistent, imbalanced 'levels' in our spinal discs. Generally, these types of degenerative diseases of the spine having taken years and years to culminate through bad habits of posture, diet and improper movement.
I'm currently working on my second book The Playbook for Back Pain Relief in which I'll be plunging deeper into my secrets on how to align these discs for optimal health, happiness and vitality!
Ever since I read the book You're Not Sick, You're Thirsty By Dr. Batmanghelidj, I have consistently hydrated my body over the past 20-years. That book was a game-changer for me.
In essence, when you are not drinking sufficient water here is what happens to your spine: 1. Your overall physical height reduces as the discs shrink in size. 2. The walls of the disc tissue experience more pressure and force as the fluid content is reduced.
3. The way your spine attenuates forces changes and instead places greater demand upon the ligaments, tendons and nerve tissue in and around the spine.
4. The intermittent vacuum that takes place during movement to pump water out of the disc and draw fresh water in, becomes depleted.
5. 75% of the weight of your upper body is dissipated through the water content of the spinal discs. Once again, with dehydration, this places an extra stress upon the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. The moral of that short story is drink more water!
Restoring Balance in 5-Steps
Move - increase your body temperature and blood flow to all your muscles.
Massage - using a partner, lacrosse ball or foam roller to agitate the muscles.
Mobilize - move the joints in their full range of motion.
STRETCH- focus on lengthening the short-tight muscles.
Corrective Exercise - focus on strengthening the long-weak muscles.
This week I'm teaching you how to put your feet up - literally! Call it medically prescribed if your partner is complaining about you putting your feet up. Beyond hydration, this is the most natural method to decompress, unload and revitalize your spinal discs - all 23 of them. My prescription is to perform this for 1-to-10 minutes for every 1-hour of sitting. The more pain you have, the more serious you need to be about it (and will likely be motivated!). Intensity is the shortcut to results. In this case, the intensity comes from the amount of repetitions you perform throughout your day.
You may also enjoy reading these related blog posts: How to Quickly Eliminate Back Pain Without Being Held Hostage By A Herniated Disc The Digestive Health Personal Checklist Every Back Pain Sufferer Needs On Their Side
Yours In Muscle Health,
Jason Barlow, RMT
P.S. Download my FREE eBook The 15-Step Playbook for Pain Relief!
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