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Back Pain Relief

The following gentle movements should be made on a long foam roller with the goal to improve thoracic mobility and gently stretch the rest of the body.
— Angie Sellers

roll your Back to relax your spine

There are two major benefits of lying on a foam roller long ways. The first is to allow the anterior muscles of the chest and neck to gently stretch. The second benefit involves allowing the thoracic spine, or middle back, to relax into a more neutral position. The following gentle movements should be made on a long foam roller with the goal to improve thoracic mobility and gently stretch the rest of the body. Taking a few minutes to lie on your foam roller daily will have long lasting benefits.

In this video, your base posture begins with your head on the roller at one end and your tail bone resting on the opposite end. Elbows are tucked on the floor near the body and the feet are under the bent knees about hip distance apart.  This is the base posture that you'll return to between each of the movements. Each movement should be done approximately twenty times and paired with your breathing.  Alternate your inhales and exhales with each move. Breathing fully into your rib cage and observing your stomach rise and fall with each breath. Move slow and stop if there is any discomfort.

  • Step One: Scrub the floor exercise. Draw 8” circles on floor using more scapula then elbows palms face up. Relax; take several slow, deep breaths. Wax on making small circles in one direction and wax off making small circles in the other direction. 

  • Step Two: Snow Angels. Make snow angles with your arms only. Slowly and easily keeping elbows close to the ground and only going as high as comfortable. No clicking, popping or discomfort.

  • Step Three: Passing Arms. Raise the arms above your head. With each breath alternate bringing one arm by the ear and the opposite arm by the hip. 

  • Step Four:  Scapula Exercise. Raise arms to ceiling; punch up and back down slowly keeping the back of the head on the roller. Relax; take several slow, deep breaths. Keep elbows straight; maintain an easy, self-paced tempo.

  • Step Five: Raise both arms above your head and alternate pulling each arm past the center of the roller.

  • Step Six: Wiper Exercise. Extend your legs one at a time keeping a soft bend in the knees. Begin to log roll your knees towards each other. Then allow them roll out, allowing ankles to rest open. Don't move the heels.

  • Step Seven:  March in place with your knees drawing up and back down.

When complete the seventh movement. Safely transition from the roller to the floor and relax legs straight and feel how your body feels. Many practitioners feel their back sunken into the floor as if the ground has been dug up from around them.

Smash your glutes for a happy back

Many people think that lower back pain is caused by problems with their lower back but we have found that your gluteus maximus and medius are the two most frequent culprits. 

Here's 3 other reasons to smash your glutes

1. Smashing your glutes after a workout helps spare you from a stiff body the next day.

2. Doing glute stretches will help keep you mobile as you age.

3. Smashing your glutes helps keep you injury free. Nobody wants a pulled glute!

First move: begin with your legs in table top with foam roller under your lower back and above your upper glutes. Slowly move legs side to side while holding the edges of the roller with your hands.

Second move: stack your legs like a figure four with left leg on top and move legs into table top position. Begin rocking legs side to side once more and finish on the left side. You should feel this in your periformis.  Once in this position, unfold your legs and gently bicycle kick for approximately 20 seconds. Repeat with right leg folded on top and bicycle on the right side of the body.

On a side note, having this roller under your lower back is highly therapeutic. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana or the supported bridge pose is considered a considered a healing pose. Here are just a few of the benefits:


- quiets the mind- promotes introspection
- stress relieving
- stimulates abdominal organs- opens heart and lungs
- reduces fatigue
- alleviates headaches

Rolling out the  Lats

Why should runners use the foam roller on their latissimus dorsi? As a matter of fact…why should everyone be rolling out their lats?

Of all the areas that people foam roll, this one is probably forgotten the most. Many people associate foam rollers with your lower body, but the Latissimus Dorsi, or the bat wings, as they’re sometimes called are just as important. Overly tight lats can lead to shoulder pain and dysfunction, back pain as well as a whole slew of other problems since it is such a large muscle and is used often.  

Three ways lats help you move, breathe and run better:

1. This superficial large "fan-like" muscle has a deep connection between your core and glutes which will effect the way you perform and move. 

2. Your lats also help with diaphragmatic breathing because they assist in the cross sectional movement throughout your torso.  

3. There is a “spiral line” of fascia which connects the shoulder to the opposite hip down to the ankle. A tightness or dysfunction at one end will impede performance at the other end.  In other words, if your lats are weak and tight then your run is going to suck.  

Simple solution: foam roll/soft tissue work of your lats. This video teaches a few foam rolling techniques for your lats that will improve your running, help with frozen shoulders and decrease neck pain.

Because lats run up and into the armpits, start lying on your side with the foam roller under your armpit with the bottom arm extended flat on the floor.  Lie with knees comfortably bent and begin to roll side to side using the top arm as a long lever opening your chest and “smashing” your lats into the roller.  Maneuver your body around the roller.  Next,  rest top arm on the roller to hold in place while lifting the bottom arm and down “pinning” your lat.  Finally, use your leg “roll” your lat forward and backward on the roller with bottom arm lifted to allow a smooth movement. Repeat on opposite side.

In the video, we made each move 3-4 times but at home, consider 30-60 seconds depending on comfort level and ability. 

Wrist exercises at your desk

Your wrists can develop stiffness and weakness from either overuse or injury. Stretching your muscles and connective tissues can help alleviate pain, and improve mobility in your joints. This video demonstrates a few stretches and exercises that can be done at your home or office multiple times throughout the day or as needed.  This should not be used by people with serious joint damage or chronic inflammation.

Teaching Points

1. Place your hands on a flat surface. Turn one palm over so that the fingers are directed towards your legs and back of the wrist is resting on the desk. With a loose elbow, gradually apply pressure and hold for between 10 and 30 seconds. This should be a pain free stretch, so avoid stretching too far or holding too long.

2. With the back of the hand on the table, slightly spread the fingers of that hand and use your other hand to pull and wiggle each finger.  

3. After wiggling each finger, slowly open and close that hand as far as you’re able two to three times.

4. Using the free hand, place a tennis ball into the palm of the other hand and squeeze the ball for three to five seconds, and slowly release.

Variations

1. Use a wall to apply pressure rather than the desk.

2. Perform on all fours so that your fingers point to your knees

Do these two to three times on each side, and try to do this stretch every hour. After a few weeks of doing this multiple times a day, you’ll notice improvement in your wrist’s flexibility. Remember that stretching is an important part of any healthy routine and even your wrists can benefit from the increased circulation, movement and mobility.