So How Can I Help My Back?

Well, if most back pain is caused by bending forward and pushing your discs back causing gel to get in the crack of your disc, you can relieve back pain by bending backward and pushing your discs forward. One of the best stretches to help you do this is a yoga position called Cobra (In Physical Therapy, we call it the Press-Up Stretch). Cobra is done by lying flat on your stomach, keeping your hips down, and extending your elbows and lifting your head and chest up and off the floor.

A good way to visualize what Cobra does would be to compare the process to healing a cut on one of your knuckles. Every time you bend your finger forward you open the cut; just like every time you bend your back forward you open the crack even more. However, if you keep bending backwards and you avoid bending forward too often, your disc’s crack will start to heal just like a cut on your knuckle would.

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Tips and Tricks for Doing Cobra

  • If you feel pain when you reach the top of the position, don’t worry! As long as you come back to the ground and lay flat the pain will be relieved.
  • Because you bend forward so much each day, you have to do Cobra ten times every hour before you see results
  • Avoid bending forward like it’s the plague! Keep your lower back arched and push up.

Why Does My Back Hurt?

There are all too many ways to hurt your back, and one of the most common ways you can hurt your back is by cracking open one of your intervertebral discs. Your back is made of a bunch of flat surfaces stacked on top of one another. In order to get movement between the layers, you have these discs of gel which are encased inside a harder, outer shell.

When you bend backward, your discs move forward, and when you bend forward they move backward. However, because your body is built so that everything is in front of you, you tend to bend forward substantially more than you bend backward (300 times more). Even sitting counts as bending forward! When you bend forward too much, you push your discs backward more than they should be pushed, and they become at risk of cracking and letting out their gel. When the gel releases it fills up the crack and causes pain; which means that your disc is officially broken and your back will start to hurt.

A Few More Notes About Back Pain

  • The best line of defense against all back pain is to bend backwards.
    • If bending forward were actually a cure, there would be no point in posting this blog, now would there be?
  • Bad Idea – “I’ll bet a hamstring stretch will help my back pain!”
    • Stretching your hamstring with a bad back will cause the disc’s crack to open further.
  • Bad Idea – “I’ll bet the knees-to-chest stretch will help my back pain!”
    • Pulling your knees into your chest may feel good on your back, but it’s actually very bad when you have a cracked disc.
    • When you pull your knees to your chest with a bad back, you’ll cause your cracked disc to spasm and it will be worse off after the stretch.

The Ugly Stretch

The name for this stretch was coined by On Point Physical Therapist Susan Masturzo, thanks to a personal experience with the stretch that she can only describe as… well, UGLY. This stretch is great for runners, dancers, and anyone who uses their legs (so it’s good for everyone, really). It helps resolve pain in the feet, ankles, knees, and hips. The Ugly Stretch targets the calf, which is usually the ‘bully’ of all lower extremity muscles, and tends to cause most everyday leg pain.

  • Find a sturdy structure (walls, posts, trees, etc.)
  • Kneel on one knee and put the heel of your injured leg on the base of the structure.
  • Keeping your heel on the base of the structure, stand up and straighten both legs, keeping them apart. You should feel a substantial pull in the calf and possibly the hamstring.
  • Hold this position for 20-40 seconds.
  • Switch to the other leg, and repeat.
  • Do this to each leg a minimum of two times.

I Want the Hips of a Dancer

“I Want the Hips of a Dancer” is an exercise program created by On Point Physical Therapist Susan Masturzo. It is designed for anyone who wants to strengthen the muscles in your hips, whether you are an athlete or not. All you need for this program is a resistance band and a door.

  • Put the knot of the resistance band in your door, or around a sturdy piece of furniture.
  • Put the loop around your foot.
    • First Exercise: (Your back should be to the door, your feet facing away from the door) Standing with your feet parallel (toes pointing forward), keeping your knee straight, lift your leg up to the front 10 times.
    • Second Exercise: Turn your feet out (in a V shape), and lift your leg, bending your knee and dragging your toes up your shin, then extend your knee and point your leg out to the front 10 times.
    • Third Exercise: (Turn your body 90 degrees so shoulder is next to the door) Standing with your feet parallel, keep your knee straight and lift your leg to the side 10 times.
    • Fourth Exercise: Turn your feet out (in a V shape), and lift your leg, bending your knee and dragging your toes up your shin, then extend your knee and point your leg out to the side 10 times.
    • Fifth Exercise: (Turn your body 90 degrees so you are facing the door) Standing with your feet parallel, keep your knee straight and lift your leg backwards 10 times.
    • Sixth Exercise: Turn your feet out (in a V shape), and lift your leg, bending your knee and dragging your toes up your shin, then extend your knee and kick your leg out backwards 10 times.