Get Creative for Back Pain Prevention

Many of you now realize the poor effects that sitting at a desk has on your body.  It’s a good thing that there are many options now available.  Unfortunately, some of them (like a stand-up desk or treadmill desk) are quite expensive…not to mention dangerous for folks like me shouldn’t multitask to that degree.

I have posted previously on how the psoas muscle is shortened while seated and how it is important to stand up whenever possible in order to prevent it from locking short and creating back pain.  Here is an easy option for those of you spending too much time in front of a screen.

Kneeling is an option to open the hip joint and still work at your computer.  Now I’m sure I am not the only person who has taken over the dining room table as their home office but you can do this at most desks as well.  I use a box to raise my laptop when I use the BOSU to kneel on, but you may also kneel on a folded blanket or towel to pad your knees.

This is VERY different for your body so it is best to start this in short bouts, around 15-20 minutes at a time.  Eventually, your body will get used to the change and you can use it as long as your knees can tolerate it.  I am also a big fan of using a fit ball as a chair to incorporate some pelvic motion throughout your day.

Feel free to share your creative options for getting your computer work done!

What is a Desk Jockey?

A Desk Jockey is anyone in a job requiring working at a desk.  desk posture2

There is hope for anyone with chronic pain from being a Desk Jockey, finding professionals in the field of chronic pain relief and physical therapy is possible.

For those of you who would like to take a more proactive approach, please check out Balance Biomechanics and talk to your Human Resources Manager in order to bring in professionals to teach the whole office about their bodies and preventing chronic pain!

Here is another great article written by someone who suffers back pain himself.

http://www.floota.com/desk_jockey.html

Breeding Hunchbacks with Mobile Technology

What are we doing to our posture?

In this day and age of such wonderful hand-held technology we are de-volving our upright postures.

In a past post I have described why Sitting is the New Smoking and how sitting for long periods greatly affects body function and chronic pain. This postural problem is now reinventing itself with our youth and their use of smart phones, ipads, and other hand-held devices.  Next time you are in a crowd of people, let alone teens & kids, take a look around at those using their smart phones.  Are their heads on their shoulders?  I doubt it, I’ve been guilty myself.

It is known that the weight of the human adult head is apporximately 12 pounds and it isn’t much less for kids.  The postural kicker is that the strain on the neck and upper back muscles exponentially increases with each inch the head moves forward off the shoulders where is was designed to be.  (See Figure A).  With this forward head posture it begins to lengthen and “lock long” the muscles on the back of the neck and upper back and the muscles on the front of the neck and shoulders as well as the chest.

This posture is not new to any student out there sitting in classrooms and studying for most hours of the day, however with the addition of hand-held phones and tablets there is no longer a break for the body to work on bringing the spine back upright.  Eventually, symptoms that begin with a stiff neck end up evolving into a variety of complex problems like numbness in the arms and hands, migraine

Figure A.

headaches, and even breathing problems.

The best solution for this is to avoid a head forward posture as much as possible.  However, other solutions include:

Laying flat on the floor without a pillow to change the pull of gravity on the spine

Cable Rows in the gym to strengthen the upper back muscles that are over-stretched

Stretching and/or massage therapy on the chest and front of the neck to help unlock and lengthen those muscles

Do your best to be preventive and be more aware of your posture.  Are you slouching right now?  Hunching over a smart phone?

STRAIGHTEN UP!

Learn Proper Warm Up from your Dog

Have youever seen a dog jump right up from a nap without stretching? With the exception of the doorbell or a not-so-sneaky bunny or squirrel all 3 of my dogs go through their stretches after being lazy for any period of time.
What can we as two-legged, sit-in-front-of-the-computer-too-much humans learn from this?  That if you have been stationary for a length of time it goes a long way towards proper posture and movement to stretch a bit before transitioning to walking, bending or exercising.
Stretching promotes circulation which begins to warm up the muscles.  Active stretching, where you are flexing some muscles as you stretch others (as demonstrated so perfectly in these dog photos), is best before activity or exercise.  Active stretching not only increases circulation but it unifomrly fires the motor neurons that control your muscles and is similar to starting up an airplane where so many switches need to be flipped.
A simple standing stretch reaching to the ceiling helps counter act stagnant desk posture just as a lunge stretch with your foot on your car’s bumper helps to counter act tight hips after a long drive.  When awaking in the morning before I even leave the bed I do a long full body stretch along with a few ankle rolls and then sit up to reach up and stretch my sides and chest.
Take a few moments to enjoy how good this feels and know that you are doing good for your body!

The Proper Care and Feeding of your Psoas Muscle

Low back pain is one of the main body complaints from people of all ages, occupations, and sport disciplines. An unfamiliar muscle called the Psoas (pronounced soh-as) often contributes to back pain when it is tight, shortened, or unbalanced.

     There is good news! You can avoid it… you can even fix it.

Where, and What is My Psoas?

The Psoas is one of the largest and thickest muscles in the body. It attaches to the vertebrae of your lower back, and the head of your femur (thigh bone). There is a Psoas Major and Psoas Minor that blend into the Iliacus muscle, all of which are generally referred to as the Psoas.

The Psoas is primarily responsible for hip and thigh flexion and has a lot of influence over your lumbar posture and the way your pelvis is positioned.

Psoas

The Psoas is shortened when you are seated and will become tight & contracted when seated for a prolonged period of time. For those of you who have desk jobs or are students, your day consists mainly of sitting. Eventually, the Psoas will start to think this is its normal position and length.

Incorrect posture during sitting, standing, and walking will cause the Psoas to develop an imbalance that will leave it tighter and harder to release and/or lengthen.

Why Does It Cause Back Pain?
A tight Psoas is a killer for your back for various reasons.

• If it is tight and in a contracted state, your Psoas will want to bring your lower back forward, moving you into an anterior tilt or lordotic posture.

• The tension exerted by the Psoas when in a contracted state may compress the joints and discs of the lumbar vertebrae. This pressure may cause degeneration and increase susceptibility to injury.

• An imbalanced Psoas, where it is shortened on one side, will pull the spine and/or pelvis out of alignment, leading to many painful problems, including scoliosis.

• A tight Psoas may inhibit your Gluteal muscles from firing and activating normally due to Reciprocal Inhibition as the Psoas and portions of the Gluteal muscles function as opposing muscles.

• Imbalances often lead to overcompensation of other muscles of the body, leaving them tight and overworked.

Proper Care of your Psoas.

There are several ways to stop your Psoas from thinking that shorter is natural. These are easy to implement, especially if you don’t suffer from back pain yet.

Postural Corrections. If we stay in a certain position all day, our tissues will want to move into that resting position, in this case, your Psoas. Surf the web in a standing position, or read a book laying on your stomach.

Stand up when exercising. When seated all day at work your Psoas is shortened. Make an effort to do the opposite in the gym. Instead of the bike, get on the treadmill. Instead of the rowing machine, get on the step mill.

Vary your sleeping habits. When you are on your stomach, your back goes into lordosis. If you always sleep on one side, it creates an imbalance. Change it up when you can.

Move More. Not staying in a seated position all day will go a long way to stopping you from developing a shortened & tight Psoas. Get up more frequently, stretch more often, change positions… just keep moving!

Stretch!
Begin with a gentle activation of
the Psoas with Triangle Pose
Warrior 1 is an active stretch for the Psoas and
opposing muscles strengthen to stabalize the pelvis
Kneeling Quadriceps Stretch is an intense
stretch and should NOT be forced.  Ease into it!
Release!

The safest and most effective way to release and lengthen your Psoas is through a qualified massage therapist (hmmm, I wonder where to find one…*wink*).

Once you experience bodywork and release of your psoas muscle it’s possible to self palpate it.  Ask your therapist to guide you through it while they supervise.  This is a great defense against all the hours of sitting because not many people can afford to see their massage therapist on a daily basis.

Strengthen!

Activating your gluteals and abdominals will help inhibit and relax your Psoas. Here is a video that shows a few exercises to begin with:

Living pain-free helps to encourage a more active lifestyle.  Take care of your body and keep it running smooth.

Common Yoga Form Mistakes – Are You Doing it Right?

For those of you who have gotten on the ‘yoga wagon’ and felt the amazing results of regular practice, here is a post to make sure you are getting all you can out of your practice. 
We all can’t have our own personal yoga instructor, but I had my favorite instructor, Claire Petretti, help me explain some common form mistakes.
WARRIOR 2 Pose -Virabhadrasana II
 
This is a very challenging pose, thus the name Warrior, but you want to make sure you check your form.
  • wide leg stance and front knee tracking straight forward to prevent front knee strain
  • Hips AND shoulders open square to the side (parallel to mirror here)
  • tall torso posture with an extended spine
Some common mistakes:
  • rear foot pointed backward
  • front knee & thigh shifting into mid line (away from mirror)
  • shoulders rotated inward
  • torso leaning forward
 TRIANGLE Pose – Trikonasana
This is a great pose for lengthening the psoas muscle which will help prevent back pain.
Claire and I are showing this angle to give you a visualization when you perform triangle pose in a class.  The idea is to line up your body as if it were parallel to a wall.
  • stack the hips & shoulders
  • wide comfortable stance (not as wide as Warrior poses)
  • arms in a T position
  • USE A BLOCK if you find yourself slouching your torso 

Some common mistakes:
  • torso leaning forward
  • hips facing downward
  • front foot turning inward
  • trying to go too far with lower hand (again USE A BLOCK)
So next time you are flowing through, or deepening into your yoga practice, keep these tips in mind.  You will find that by progressing at your own pace with proper form you will build a better foundation for which to extend and balance into new and more challenging poses.
Any other poses you need tips on?  Please share!