Updated: Aug 22, 2019
In my last post, we covered common causes of lower back pain, but ones which may have surprised you (read more here). Now that you’ve worked on some bigger picture items and your back is feeling better, let’s get into some exercises and stretches you can do to ease your body's crankiness.
The exercises and stretches we're going to use, include self-massage techniques, Ki-Hara resistance stretching and strengthening exercises.
Self-massage techniques are good for calming the nervous system down, increasing vagal tone and relaxing the muscles. When self-massaging, inducing a pain response isn't the goal. You want to go to the point of tenderness, but not out-right pain. If you reproduce pain, it sends a signal to the brain that it's normal. We don't want pain to be the norm. We're trying to get the opposite! Go to the entrance of the pain cave, but do not enter. (To learn more about this, The Role Model by Jill Miller is a great book to read).
While self-massaging, a few tips to get the most out of it:
1. Hold on a spot until you feel the tenderness subside.
2. Hold on a spot and move a body part, for example foot circles, bend the leg, etc.
3. Move in multiple directions, like rolling, rocking or twisting.
Ki-Hara resistance stretching
In my opinion, the type of stretching that is most effective and lasting is called Ki-Hara resistance stretching. This technique is an active stretching technique which uses force to change tissue. Ki-Hara uses eccentric contractions while lengthening the muscle to produce change. This, in essence, is strength training. We know strength training is something that is effective and lasting, so with eccentrics as a foundation, Ki-Hara resistance stretching can provide more benefits than classic stretching techniques. (For more in-depth studies, reference Yoga Biomechanics: Stretching Redefined by Jules Mitchell).
Some tips for Ki-Hara resistance stretching:
1. Start in the stretched position.
2. Apply force (usually by pushing into something or using your hand) to activate or "turn on" the muscle being stretched.
3. While lengthening or stretching the muscle, it's very important to maintain tension the entire range of motion.
This one traditional exercise is probably the most functional exercise you can do. It's weight bearing and strengthens the side of the hip (an often weak muscle). This muscle should be activated during every step you take. If it's weak, other muscles may do the work which often end up being lower back muscles). This exercise mimics w