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Mindful Movement: A Cure for Back Pain

Opening a new business during a pandemic has required me to sit for longer periods of time than my body was used to. If I have to sit for more than 1-2 hours at a time, my back is screaming and it does not like it! ‘What are you doing, lady?’ it bellows.

What is required to be able to sit for long periods of time? Well, a lot of things are dependent on the chair you choose to sit on, are you feet flat on the floor? Are your hips at a proper angle? What angle are your knees at? How long are you sitting for? What sort of condition were you in prior to sitting? Your body requires a certain amount of mobility to sit and it also requires a bit of stability and strength, and besides that it requires a brain to remind you to get up and move, because sitting for prolonged periods of time is simply just not good for you!

I have to say, being an athlete most of my youth, I was not always the most limber player. Stretching is not something that I enjoyed or that came easy.

I enjoy yoga now, and find it so helpful and therapeutic because my tight body craves what yoga provides….the ability to lengthen my muscles. Prolonged periods of sitting can tighten your muscles. What can help? Yoga. To sit in a chair with good upright posture for any prolonged period of time takes good core control. What provides that? Pilates. To sit for long periods of time without absolutely going nuts listening to your co-workers and associates, requires mental focus and patience, and the ability to be flexible… do you train for that? Well, we don’t provide that kind of therapy…. Ha ha!

Your ability to sit and focus requires having a body that will allow you to do just that. If you have a body that is screaming, my back hurts or my hip aches….how will that affect your ability to sit and focus and be productive?

Implementing a consistent practice into your routine where you are strengthening your muscles and stretching them to enable your body to sit for long periods of time without distraction should be your goal.

A regular yoga and Pilates practice will exercise your muscles and your mind to make positive changes in your ability to move more freely, sit more freely and think more freely. Don’t believe me? Try it? I dare you.

Too tight for yoga? Ha! I laugh when people say that. I am not the most flexible yogini. But one of the main reasons I practice yoga is to maintain the mobility I have….and hey! If I can gain some new mobility, and while I am at it, have some fun, then why not! Practicing yoga consistently bends the body and the mind in ways you can not in any other form of exercise. A consistent Pilates practice will strengthen your core and improve your ability to sit, walk, run, climb, and move more freely, confidently and without injury.

Many people can benefit from yoga. If you have trouble touching your toes….yoga can help you get there….and you might learn a thing or two on your way down!

Many people might benefit from Pilates. Try picking up your busy toddler 10 times a day without a strong core. Try lifting your heavy suitcase in and out of your car 5 times. How about the combination of both flexibility and strength….sounds pretty amazing, right?

Oftentimes, it doesn’t even take something strenuous to ‘throw’ your back out. It could be stepping down off of a curb. But leading up to that fatal step, were days or weeks of poor alignment. You may not have noticed it, but it was there and it was building. What caused it? Prolonged sitting, not enough movement, muscle imbalances, poor posture...and the list goes on. Stepping off the curb was the straw….. that, yes! You guessed it! Broke the camel’s back.

Are you starting to understand my point? Move it or lose it….yes I’m sure you have heard that before. You need to move your body through its full potential on a regular basis or you will lose your mobility. Let me repeat that…..You need to mindfully move your body through its full potential on a regular basis or you will lose your mobility.

So, how do you do that? Mindful movement. Mindful movement is moving the body in a mindful way: paying close attention to where the body is in space, where it is going, how it is moving, what muscles are working to get it there, how those muscles feel doing it, and what is the end result. And after all that….how do you feel? And do you want to do it again?

Mindful movement is what we specialize in. Pilates and yoga are two forms of mindful movement. Be smart about how your body is moving. Be smart about what exercises you choose and learn why you are choosing them. Let us help you along the way.

Let’s take one common example: low back pain caused by tight muscles. Let’s look specifically at the quadratus lumborum muscle. The quadratus lumborum forms the posterior abdominal wall and originates on the iliac crest (top of your pelvis) and iliolumbar ligament and attaches to the 12th rib and lumbar vertebrae 1-4. (see photo A) This muscle is responsible for trunk extension when the two sides contract together. Otherwise ipsilaterally they laterally flex or side bend the spine. Because of their attachment to the 12th rib they aid in inspiration by stabilizing the 12th rib.

Now you know what this muscle does. It stabilizes and moves the spine. What happens if this muscle shuts down because it gets too tight. Could be back pain? Could be hip pain. Could be leg pain. Take your pick. The point is it’s tight. It might be from too much sitting. It might be because it’s weak. It might be because your alignment is off, or there is an imbalance there.

Whatever the reason is, lengthening it, strengthening it, and moving it can all be accomplished with a mindful movement practice. A combination of yoga and Pilates can help lengthen the QL with exercises like Mermaid (Photo B) or a restorative yoga pose over a bolster (Photo C) could be just what the body craves. Strengthening the QL with exercises like side plank (Photo D) or Trikonasana (Photo E), can help improve the way you feel and move by strengthening and lengthening the right muscles.

Not sure how to get started? Ask us? Our job as trained physical therapists is to guide you in choosing the best exercises to help you achieve your goals and feel the best you can feel.

We offer private Pilates and yoga sessions. We also offer small group classes. If you are experiencing pain or tightness , physical therapy might be the best place for you to start.

To schedule an appointment today, use the calendly link below. We offer free 15 minute consultations via Zoom or phone call.

To book a class you can schedule using the Mindbody App.

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