Saturday, March 05, 2011

Resolving Nagging Back Problems

This post is an effort to collect my thoughts and formulate a plan to resolve (positively) my ongoing lower back problems.  If you have some ideas for me, you can chime in. Email me (bbat50@gmail with the dot com) or just comment and if you want it to stay private, say so and I won't approve it.

Over the last few years, I've had a recurring pattern of my lower back getting very sore and sometimes going into a full spasm.  Over time, I'l learned to recognize that frequently, my lower back feels "off."  I learned about 15 months ago that a chiropractor can usually adjust or straighten my alignment. Specifically, my sacrum or tailbone tends to shift to one side and get stuck.  It leads to all sorts of problems ranging from pulled calf muscles if I try to jog to a propensity to back spasms. Apparently, the lowest disc in my back in herniated which somehow means that the bone sits on bone which makes this sticking in the wrong position more likely.  I've visited a chiropractor weekly over the last year, sometimes several times a week.  A few times, I got to the point where I would go every other week.

I also had one back spasm on a trip that was bad enough to land me in the emergency room where I was treated with Flexor (drug to relax muscles), percocet (pain killer), and ice.  The problem gets triggered by lots of walking (10 minutes is enough), too much sitting (air travel tends to bring it on), and sometimes, just my regular life.

I've heard a number of times: from two chiropractors, several massage therapists, a physical trainer, and a range of other people, that the best solution is core strengthening and increased flexibility in my hips. With my martial arts training, there already is a lot of attention to core strengthening so I don't really see much upside in that area.  However, in terms of my hips, I am conspicuously stiff and I'm often the least flexible of the students in our class when we do hip stretches.  So that's going to be my focus for awhile.

Here's my plan.
1. Try to make it to a yoga class weekly and learn the exercises to do on my own.
2. Stretch. Flat on back with knees bent, rotate lower back to where it's flat on the ground. Hold 20-30 seconds. Release. This can also be done standing with the back against the wall or in space.
3. Stretch. Flat on back. Pull one knee up towards chest. Hold the top tip of the knee, not under it.  Release it a few inches, then pull it horizontally across the body.  Repeat with the other leg.
4. Sitting upright in a chair, cross one leg over the other. Pull the knee of the upper leg up and across the body towards the opposite shoulder. Repeat the other way. This can conveniently be done in an office during the day without freaking anybody out.
5.  Also sitting upright in a chair (or on the floor), grab a foot and pull it up and in towards the head.
6.   I try to get in the jacuzzi in the early morning, warm up for 5 minutes, and then do some of these stretches in the jacuzzi. I think this helps in that otherwise, I'm other stretching cold which doesn't feel very productive or I'm spending all sorts of time (10+ minutes) trying to get warmed up enough to stretch.
In all of the stretches, I'm a little stiff on the left side. I'm extremely stiff on the right side. But I'll do the streteches evenly on both sides.

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