From low back pain to no back pain….

It amazes me how many people suffer from low back pain when they simply do not have to. By using a combination of gentle therapeutic exercise, core strengthening, postural awareness and movement exploration you can transition from low back pain to no back pain. It’s actually easier than you may think.

First, let’s address sitting. Most of us sit for long periods at a time, and I have never met a chair that is comfortable and provides proper support for anyone, let alone everyone. And don’t even get me started on airplane seats. You can’t change the chair, but you can make a few easy adjustments to support yourself and reduce unnecessary strain on your back by following these easy steps:

1). Make sure your spine is properly supported by using a small towel roll behind your lumbar spine.
2). Make sure your feet are always flat on the floor. I know, sometimes we like to tuck our feet under our chair, but it’s not good for your back.
3). Most of all, get up and move as often as possible.

Next, it’s important to pay attention to how you stand, especially if you have to stand for prolonged periods of time. Notice if your knees are locked and stiff, and how your back feels. Now relax and slightly bend your knees, and notice how your back feels. Key points:

1). Keep your knees relaxed and slightly bent when standing. This reduces excess stress on your lumbar spine.
2). Whenever possible, place one foot on a small step to decrease the pressure on your back. You can use a small step stool, a phone book or a small trash can on it’s side. Switch your feet often.
3). With your knees relaxed, slowly sway and shift your weight side to side. This helps decrease stress and strain on your low back, distributes your weight more evenly, and it feels good. As an added bonus it makes people wonder what you’re up to.

Now, find your core muscles. No, I don’t mean by doing sit ups. Sit ups and crunches are often done incorrectly, resulting in stress and strain on your neck and spine with ab-solutely no benefit to your abdominals. Try this easy exercise to activate your abdominals, specifically your transverse abdominus, the muscle responsible for stabilizing your low back.

1). Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Bring your attention to your lower abs. Breathe in, and as you breathe out gently but firmly pull your lower abdominals in toward your spine. Yes, it really is that easy, but I highly recommend that you get some professional help with that one.

Finally, really pay attention to how you move. Slow yourself down and notice how you move in and out of the car; up and down stairs; picking up objects; unloading groceries, etc. You may find that you are actually aggravating you back with certain movement patterns. Changing these movement patterns can cause a huge relief for your back.

The most important point is that you are not at the mercy of low back pain. Rather, you have the power to help yourself and heal your own back. Even if you have been given a strange and scary name for the cause of your low back pain (a diagnosis), you can still go from low back pain to no back pain. And now you know that it’s actually much easier than you previously thought.

Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP

Sisters, cereal and B-B-BATS…..

    When I was a little girl, my mother used to take us grocery shopping with her. I had two older sisters, and my Mom was smart enough not to take all of us with her at the same time. She had us on a rotating schedule, which meant that each child had her turn to accompany her to the A&P while the other two stayed home.

    The child of the week had the honor of selecting the cereal and a bag of candy for the week. We didn’t often get candy, but my mother would always have a small bag on hand tucked up in the highest kitchen cabinet that we couldn’t possibly reach even if the three of us collaborated all of our efforts.

    The cereal of the week was no problem. The sister on deck would usually select a variety pack, so everyone was happy, more or less. But the candy was a different story. Every three weeks, when it was my turn, I would come home from the store with my favorite candy on the face of the earth….B B BATS! And, every three weeks, my sisters would pull the bag of B B BATS out of the grocery bag and groan out loud. I guess they didn’t like them as much as I did. Since they always came home with something different, I didn’t see what the problem was.

    My two older sisters tried every trick in the book to get me to bring home something, anything , but B B BATS. They reasoned with me. They teased me. They bribed me. Finally, they threatened me. One day, when I was waiting to leave for the A&P with my mother, my siblings cornered me. The older one kept a lookout for parental units while the eldest grabbed me by the shirt and said, “If you come home with B B BATS again, I’m gonna kick your butt!” I told you they didn’t like them.

    Just a few minutes later I was in the candy aisle at the A&P with my mother encouraging me to take my time selecting a candy. She pointed out the Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Pops, Hershey kisses, gum drops, licorice whips and more. Hunh, maybe she was in on the conspiracy as well. I never thought of that before. I took my time looking at all of those tempting treats. As I considered my options, I remembered my sister’s threat and the crazed look in her pretty green eyes. It was scary. I made my choice.

    When we got home, my sisters were waiting to help unload the bags, another family ritual. But, they seemed even more enthusiastic as they waited to see what their threat had delivered in the way of a sugar high. As for myself, I waited with eager anticipation to see their reaction when the discovered their treat for the week. One sister pulled out the bag of candy, and the two of the stared at it in disbelief as I gave them a great big grin. There it was….a nice big bag of B B BATS!

    There are several life lessons in  this fun little story. First of all, sometimes threats just don’t work, even with a younger sibling who is much smaller than you. Second, never underestimate the incomparable stubbornness of that same sibling. It’s important to remember that some of us have (as my father used to say) “more guts then brains.” Keep in mind that occasionally it’s okay to take a chance and disregard the consequences, but I’d be careful with that one. Finally, and most importantly, sometimes a girl just has to have her B B BATS! 

Be healthy!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP