Moving on from the First Steps with Lower Back Pain (Avoiding Irritation and using Positions of Relief), it is important to get the spine and body as a whole primed for daily activities with a Low Back Care Routine.
This is especially true in the morning, where it has been established that greater fluid content exists in the intervertebral discs compared with later in the day. This increased stiffness makes movement of the spine more difficult, and raises the risk of injury as well.
To combat this early morning stiffness, using routine movements to get the spine moving are quite effective at preventing irritation if selected appropriately.
The CAT-CAMEL (or cat-cow — you choose) mobility exercise is probably the most effective activity for getting the spine and low back moving quickly and safely. This is step 2a), and offers a way to ease into movement in a safe, modifiable, and controlled manner.
The focus here stays on smooth motion between positions with the lower back flattened and arched, NOT in the total movement achieved. We are trying to establish freedom of movement by moving the spine through its range of motion to decrease the overall stiffness, not achieve new degrees of freedom first thing in the morning (as you might with other stretches, for example).
After completing a few repetitions, the overall stiffness of the spine will be reduced. Next, move on to 2b) — PARTIAL SQUATS. This provides more of a global movement that integrates the core, spine, and hips working together. Linking more body segments into a movement will help to activate muscle groups in a proper movement sequence — a key to making sure the rest of your daily activities are as pain-free and functional as possible.
Again, as this is part of a low back care routine to get things moving, the focus should be placed on controlled, smooth movement rather than overall depth of the squat. Even small movements in a good movement pattern help improve your movement during daily activities later in the day.
Sciatic Nerve Flossing
Finally, many cases of low back pain have some degree of discomfort into the thigh, leg, or foot as well. This type of discomfort can be due to some type of nerve irritation — and for many people with low back pain, the sciatic nerve in particular.
There are many reasons the sciatic nerve can become involved in back pain — some muscular, some spinal, some arthritic related. Fortunately, sciatic nerve “flossing” is an activity that can often relieve functional difficulties caused by this irritation.
2c) SCIATIC NERVE FLOSSING is based on the idea that you can move a nerve a few millimetres in each direction (up and down a nerve course) by making specific physical movements — much like a piece of dental floss moving back and forth between two teeth. In situations where the nerve has become stuck, pinched, compressed, or otherwise unable to subtly move as it should, this technique helps restore its normal conditions.
The research behind nerve flossing is still evolving, and since each patient’s condition is unique the outcomes vary somewhat from person to person. Having said that, in general flossing techniques are very good at helping improve functional abilities throughout the day so that you can complete more with less pain.
Please remember that movements are dynamic, and what works for many will not work for all — so if you assume any of these positions and experience MORE discomfort, remember the principle of 1a) (AVOID IRRITATION) and move on to something else. This is especially true for the flossing activity above.
Now that we have established a low back care routine and should have your spine mobile and ready for the day, the next post will suggest some resiliency exercises to add to a routine that gets you ready for daily demands.