We all have our story with how, when, and, what contributed to our back pain issue- so here’s mine – stick with me and you’ll learn some quick tips and be happy you read it (plus I give you some really effective and easy to implement exercises at the end!)
So, it’s true, back pain has seriously cramped my style. Having had all sorts of different back pain issues myself (stemming from different types of stressors and misalignment) I am very close with this issue and know that even the best of us break down when chronically mistreated (which includes having too much fun of course!). The chronic wear and tear on your spine can be just as damaging as a fall or an impact injury.
It’s hard to pinpoint what started it and where or wear, but in my case, my back pain began with yoga (imagine that!). And of course, it wasn’t just any old yoga, but a very athletic style called Ashtanga, 5-6 days a week for nearly 2 hours a day. I was a very strong young athlete when I discovered it in an old church in Maui so I approached learning it like a sport. Although the benefits that I discovered were way beyond any sport, I pushed my way too much, like many of my peers. So fast track 5 years, hips, back, and hamstrings open but ongoing back pain. The answer from my instructors was always, DO MORE YOGA!
I came to find out later that one of my sacroiliac joints was hypermobile and stretching was the worst thing for it! I needed stability, which Pilates provides, along with strength to hold me together instead of being overly flexible. I learned the term, “yoga butt”, which means not having any arse muscles, which translates to no support for your back. The reasons are simple, it’s difficult to have both a firm tush and the kind of flexibility to allow both your legs to fold behind your head to full lotus etc. on a regular basis. To add to the problem, I enjoyed running so with my S.I. joint overly flexible, it allowed one of my hips to tip forward and the other to tip backward! Sounds FREAKIN scary, I know, but you would be surprised how often this happens with athletes, pregnant women, people who sit or stand all day….get it? It can happen to all of us.
In my practice, almost 80% of my clients have experienced back pain at some level and for some, it has been debilitating.
I rarely see the folks hobbling into a Pilates work out with acute pain and if I do, I’ll most likely refer them out or send them home to ice/heat to get the inflammation down and give ideas for phase 1 stretches and releases. First I want to talk a bit about the 3 stages of back pain.
Phase 1 or acute phase: This stage is the first sign, with pain sometimes being aggravated by sitting, standing, walking, bending, coughing, sleeping, arching back, and the list goes on! This phase is famous for being medicated in one form or another from your orthopedic surgeon or physiatrist to get the inflammation down… down… down, so you can just feel a little better and move on to phase 2, recovery stage, and begin to return to normal activities.
The main thing to consider here is this: there is no cookie cutter answer for how you got to this point or how to fix it. I have seen more clients with a variety of explanations and fixes that sometimes contradict each other from different professionals – which is another reason to get more than one opinion and become your own expert to find out what seems to work for you. Ultimately, you will be much better off by being a co-participant in your treatment instead of having the treatment done to you.
This is where I get to chime in about an anti-inflammatory diet and an amazing product that I started taking on the advice of Dr. Andrew Weil. He is a proponent of the anti-inflammatory diet as well. When somebody asked him if there was an herb that they could use instead of ibuprofen, his remark changed me for good. He recommended Tumeric, ginger, and boswellia in a product called Zyflamend by New Chapter. I have used it for many years and find that many of my clients love it as much as I do. A general anti-inflammatory diet, according to Dr. Weil, diet consists of reducing many of the fats that affect the way your body produces certain hormones that increase inflammation. These include eliminating polyunsaturated vegetable oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, all partially hydrogenated oils, and all foods that contain trans-fatty acids. Dr. Weil advises increasing your intake of omega 3s fatty acids, flaxseeds, and walnuts. I have also had great luck with bromelain (pineapple enzymes) found in a product called Wobenzym PS that has had great studies done proving that it helps. (https://chriskresser.com/how-
Phase 2 or recovery stage: This is generally where you can begin returning to normal activities because a majority of your symptoms have subsided. You will probably still feel some of that dull achiness and not want to overdo it. There might be some apprehension and need to rediscover your new limits but generally, with clearance from your physical therapist, you can begin Pilates training. https://www.spine-
The beauty of Pilates is that you can be so supported on the reformer with pillows, laying on an incline, sitting on a box, doing mat-work and corrective exercises on the floor, standing if you can, or working in a side-lying position. It’s a great way to gently increase the load on the spine and focus on core, back, and hip stability before moving into more dynamic movements.
Phase 3 or maintenance stage: Now hopefully you have been moving forward, have been diligent about your exercises, have made adjustments to your lifestyle to not re-injure yourself, and are well on your way to long-term conditioning of your back as well as invested in prevention of a recurrence. Many of the Pilates exercises can be modified to fit each person’s needs and can help continue to build strength so that progression can still happen! It’s important to use your knowledge of diet including proper hydration and anti-inflammatory diets the best you can to help round out your training programs.
NOW! – here are some simple floor exercises to follow that will help you through the different stages. I ‘ve collaborated with Robert Snow, D.P.T. From Gaspar Physical therapy on the top choices for each stage:
Phase 1 Exercises – Use this link and exercise code: AZLDE56
Phase 2 Exercises – Use this link and exercise code: DCPRNER
Phase 3 Exercises – Use this link and exercise code: E2KJN3W
Feel free to comment with questions or feedback on how you do with these plans – I always love to hear from you!
To Your Health!