Friday, June 26, 2009

Balance Between Abdominal and Back Muscles

I confused a client yesterday by saying that her core muscles were stronger than most peoples, but then also telling her that her core was weak. Say what?

She was quite athletic with strong muscles throughout her body. The problem was that her core muscles weren’t as strong as her abdominal muscles. This imbalance was a source of her low back pain.

Core muscles stabilize the skeleton and give leverage to other muscles. Using superficial muscles like the rectus abdominus, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, quadriceps, and gluteus maximus without participation from the core will pull the skeleton out of alignment and create injury to ligaments and spinal discs.

Is Your Ab Workout Hurting Your Back” by Tami Parker-Pope, published in the New York Times June 17, 2009 gives a great explanation and a video with some good exercises.

I agree that the exercises in the video are good for the core, but what is the core? I wrote about that previously in the article entitled “Core Exercise” with an easy exercise called Engage Your Core Through Your Feet to help you find those illusive core muscles: the pelvic floor, transverse abdominus, and multifidi. Finding the correct muscles is after all the first step in using them.

Here is another very simple (that doesn’t mean easy) exercise where you use the core to stabilize your low back, which is its real function, as you lift your legs. It also engages the core hip flexors, the psoas and iliacus muscles, but that's a different article.

Easy Core Exercise
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms at your sides.
2. Tilt your pubic bone up toward your chin and then your tailbone back. Go back and forth a few times and find the middle. Is your sacrum on the floor? If so, you have equal range of hip flexion and extension.
3. Adjust if necessary so that your sacrum is firmly on the floor.
4. Do not let your sacrum or hips move off the floor (this is the key) and lift your left leg so that your knee comes toward your chin, only as far as you can without moving your sacrum.
5. Press the opposite foot into the floor (use what you learned from the Engage Your Feet by Using Your Core exercise) if needed to stabilize.
6. Repeat with the right leg.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Undulations Complement Chiropractic Care

Undulation exercises were recently noted in an article co-written by Kimberly Kohr, DC and yours truly as useful adjunct to chiropractic adjustments. It was published in Dynamic Chiropractic.

Motion through each segment of the spine is good for your spinal discs and nervous system. Undulations are good for the structure and they also increase body awareness and functional movement patterns. “An exercise that first and foremost increases awareness will start a cascade of positive change.”

Three exercises are given as examples: Feel Your Spine, Easy Sway and the even-popular Tailbone Penmanship.

The article coincides with the introduction of new exercise handout sheets for chiropractors to give patients between adjustments. Three sheets are available, for the:
 Sacrum and Low Back,
 Neck and Upper Back, and
 General Spine Health.

Samples handout sheets are available upon request.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Get a Grip on Tension

Tension doesn’t only come from big, stressful situations like a pile of unpaid bills, pending deadlines, or an argument with your spouse. Tension can creep in through your hands when you least expect it and covertly lodge itself right between your shoulder blades.

How can you get a grip on your stress and stop tension in its tracks? The secret is to loosen your grip.

Is your hand on the computer mouse? Notice how much pressure you are using and its effect into your shoulder and neck. Relax your fingers, palm and wrist. Use a feather touch to move the mouse. Every time you loosen your grip, you turn tension into comfort and take pressure off your carpal tunnel.

A common stressful environment is the car. Release tension there by loosing your grip on the steering wheel. Turn the wheel with relaxed palms and flexible fingers. The fluid motion will translate up your arms and relieve the tightness in your shoulders.

Anything you put your hands on—-a pen, the telephone, your toothbrush-—can increase your tension or release it. Turn your iron grip into a liquid caress and feel some of your stress melt away.