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Posts Tagged ‘Core strengthening for back pain’

Healthy Your Way to Sexy: Beach Butt Workout with Pilates

Friday, April 20th, 2012 by Karena

Your Beach Butt Workout! Get your summertime legs ready for those short shorts. A quick workout to burn calories and tone the legs. And best of all? Stronger legs give you more endurance to do what you love to do. That’s how you can Healthy Your Way to Sexy! Enjoy!

Is Core Strength a Medical Necessity?

Sunday, October 10th, 2010 by Karena

Core strength has been a buzzword in the fitness world for quite a while but now we

We accept your insurance through our partnership with SCV Therapy Services!

We accept your insurance through our partnership with SCV Therapy Services!

are hearing that same buzz from the medical field.  Clients are being referred to a Pilates program by their medical doctors who know that increased core strength can only mean decreased physical pain. So how do you know if core strengthening is for you?

Will Core Strengthening Help YOU?

  1. Have you experienced muscle spasms?
  2. Have you suffered an injury that has affected your ability to do everyday activities?
  3. Do you find it difficult to maintain excellent posture?
  4. Is it difficult to sit for long periods of time or does doing the same prolonged activity exacerbate your symptoms?

These are just some questions that are strong indicators that core strengthening could help you.  Here’s why:

  1. Muscle spasms happen in the large muscles, turning the small, core muscles off.
  2. Injuries tend to make us rely on our largest muscles because they are the strongest, again, turning the small core muscles off.
  3. If you can maintain excellent posture throughout the day then your core strength is intact.  Excellent posture uses your core muscles all day, every day.
  4. If sitting still hurts, that pain indicates that your spine is collapsing while you sit; pushing bony structure onto nerves or other bony structures instead of being lifted and supported. Pain while pursuing activities indicates that you lack core endurance.

Core strengthening, while beneficial to all, is especially beneficial to anyone who has every suffered an injury. As an interesting side note, core strength is not just about the spine and the stomach muscles.  Every joint has core muscles; all the smallest muscles in charge of the balance and control of the joint are the core muscles. So any injury throughout the body benefits from core strength.  Cool, huh?

At Pilates Teck we are able to accept your health insurance through our partnership with Santa Clarita Valley Therapy Services, a physical therapy clinic that offers the most up-to-date and thorough care in traditional therapy as well as occupational and aquatic therapy. Need to know more? Please call us! 661.260.1609.

Back Hurts When You Sit?

Thursday, September 16th, 2010 by Karena

As far as I can tell that is the best kind of back pain to have.  Lucky you!

In very broad terms, I see two

All our happy hours at our computers can be the worst thing for back pain

Many happy hours sitting at the computer can make for a very sad spine.

types of back pain clients:  The first has increased pain when they are still, especially sitting, and the second group has increased pain when they are moving.  In both scenarios great improvement can be made to pain levels but, generally, the first responds most quickly to therapeutic exercise or pilates exercise.

If you feel pain when you are sitting but feel relief when you get up and walk around the fix is pretty obvious: Move more.   As a rule, even painful joints have pain-free ranges of motion.  Maybe your back hurts when you do ‘X’ but you can still do ‘Y’ and ‘Z’.  That’s very common, so be sure to continue to do ‘Y’ and ‘Z’. The importance of moving, moving, moving is in this short little note. Take a peek if you haven’t seen it already.

I had a frustrated client today. He said: ‘Exercise isn’t going to change the fact that I have a bone spur or how the bone spur pushes on the nerve and hurts like heck.’  I agree on Part I: Your bone spur will not be affected by exercise except that it may not get larger if your alignment is corrected.  I don’t agree with Part II: That exercise won’t change the pain you feel from the bone spur pressing on a nerve.  When did your pain get bad?  Six months or 2 years ago?  And when did you develop that bone spur? Probably long before that.  If we age inactively then the muscles supporting the area around the injury (the bone spur, in this example) become weak and offer less support in a position of great compression (sitting).

Get exercising. Get stronger. Lose the pain. If you can walk without limping, take short walks that don’t flare up your back muscles and then find a few toning exercises to take care of your weak spine muscles and butt muscles.

Use the navigating tabs to the left to go to find free exercises for back pain: Look up Back Pain Series 1-8.  Also, our DVD for exactly the issue of weak spines can be found under the store tab on this site.  Please let me know if you have any questions!

Stand Up Straight! It’s Better than the Gym

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 by Karena

I had two new clients today. I spent almost the entire hour with each of them working on standing up

Typical Sway Back Posture

Typical Sway Back Posture

straight.   Both of them are post-rehabilitative clients that are coming to me for pain relief so there is no way of moving them forward without getting their alignment pretty close to perfect.

It is impossible to retrain any muscle if it is already too long or too short because of poor posture. For example, using the picture of a typical sway back posture to the right, the pectorals (chest muscles), the gluteals (tushie muscles) and the upper trapezius (back of the neck) are all going to be tight.  And even though they are tight, they won’t be strong.

Also, using the picture can you determine which muscles are going to be over-stretched?  The hip flexors (fronts of the hips), the abdominals, the lower trapezius and rhomboids (mid-back muscles) and the scalenes or the muscles at the front of the neck will all be over-stretched and saggy and weak.

So what is working to keep this woman vertical? This posture, along with other poor postures, pretty much allows one body structure to rest on top of the next without much muscular support. What happens to the muscles if you pull the alignment back where it should be? The short, tight muscles are lengthened and stretched. The over-stretched, weak muscles strengthen. In fact, the two women I worked with today had this sway back posture that we are talking about and after working on the improved alignment for just 5 minutes they both complained of muscles fatigue in their spinal muscles.  Very normal.  Those muscles will strengthen quickly and they won’t feel that muscle fatigue for long.

A quick word about the abs before I have to exit to wrangle a couple of dogs…  In all poor postures, the abdominals are generally saggy and weak.  While we have a nice bony structure towards the back of our torsos, the abdominal muscles are entirely responsible for keeping the fronts of our torsos intact (read: holding your guts in).  Your tummy will be flatter with better posture because you actually made room for your organs by standing up straight.  If you aren’t standing up straight, there is nothing holding your guts in.

The moral of the story?  Stand up straight.  When facing side to the mirror your ear should be in line with your shoulder, which is in line with the hip, which is in line with the ankle. No crazy curves with hips and spine and chin breaking that nice straight alignment.  And then….  Suck in your guts.  Literally.

New Favorite Exercise for Stabilization

Monday, May 10th, 2010 by Karena

Hey, Everyone! Just a quickie today and I don’t even have a pic so we’ll all have to tune into the same Pilates Psychic channel so you can ’see’ what I’m talking about here.  I have been using this exercise for the last three weeks for:

  1. Hip Extensor Strength
  2. Quadricep eccentric contraction
  3. Glut med, min, endurance
  4. Soleus and tibialis anterior endurance
  5. Spine stability
  6. Pelvic stability

Here’s how it goes:

  1. Stand on the side of the reformer facing the footbar with the right leg next to the reformer. The heel of the right foot is about 4″ forward of the shoulder rest (4″ towards the footbar but on the floor).
  2. The left foot goes on the shoulder rest with the toes in extension and the ball and heel of the foot on the actual shoulder pad.
  3. With, of course, perfect alignment, press the left hip into extension.
  4. I give my client a six foot dowel to hold for balance. Watch for hyper-extension of the right knee and accommodations in the low back

Notes: Upon extension, if your client has little hip extension or tight hip flexors the left knee may meet the line of the right knee but may not extend beyond that point.  As the left hip extends be sure that your client is not ‘dumping’ into the low back.

I’ve been giving this exercise to my low back pain clients for increasing pelvic and spine stability. I’ve also used it for a client with a hip replacement to really zero in on the hip extension process without a whole lot of extraneous ’stuff’ going on.  And most recently I’ve used the exercise with a knee pathology.

If you have a variation on this that you love, let me know! I’m always looking for new things.  K

Back Pain: No Sit-Ups Required

Thursday, August 13th, 2009 by Karena

Are you doing sit-ups and crunches to help support your aching back? Stop. In the name of all that you have already put your spine through, please, stop. I teach therapeutic exercise in a physical therapy clinic and I hear myself repeating the same thing over and over again. Stop doing sit-ups, stop doing crunches, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop….. (In my own head, what I am hearing is the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher: WAHN, WAHN, WHAN, WHAN, WAHN, WAHN… )

It’s a mistake to think that what we need is increased strength in our abdomen. Did you know that people with a history of disabling back pain, whether they are currently in pain or not, have a better ability to hold a sit-up type position than their pain-free counterparts? (It’s true. I’m not making this up.) The tests were done by Stuart McGill. He’s a doctor of kinesiology at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He has done too many tests to count on how our muscles are firing, or not firing as the case may be, and has produced a wonderful body of work in ‘Low Back Disorders’ that explains why some exercises work and others don’t. The book is a little dense: it’s not meant for the lay person but if you are determined you can get through it.

Picture 4In any case, one of the more remarkable studies he did was to test muscular endurance on thoseTherapeutic Exericse with and without a history of back pain. When holding a sit-up type position, those with a history of back pain were stronger. The exact position is this: Seated with the knees up and the soles of the feet down, the person being tested is asked to lean back against a wedge.

The angle is about 35 degrees off of perpendicular. Next the wedge is removed and the timer starts. On average, the person with a history of disabling back pain was able to hold this flexed position for almost 20 seconds longer than someone with no history of back pain.

Now the position does rely on the stabilization of not only the abdominal musles but also relies heavily on the hip flexors. But so does a crunch and a sit-up. The best exercise for the abdomen (whether you have back pain or not) is to not engage the hip flexors. An example of that type of exercise is below in Part 6 of 8 on back pain.

After several more tests were completed this position is the only one where those with a history of disabling back pain tested stronger. They were weaker in spine extension and right and left side-bending (the obliques). So THAT is where the time should be spent if you are trying to prevent back pain: your spine extension muscles and your obliques. You can strengthen the obliques with the exercise that will be in the next installment of the back pain series and the spine muscles with the final installment.

In the meantime, you can get yourself going with the exercises below. All of these exercises and more are compiled in my DVD: Pilates for Healthy Bodies. You can purchase the DVD on this website. Good luck! –Karena

Pilates for Back Pain – Part 6 of 8

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 by Karena

Pilates for Back Pain: Part 6 of 8

Moving onward and upward to something a little more challenging. This Pilates exercise challenges the flexors of the spine. It challenges them to NOT flex. Instead, the challenge is to stabilize. To hold the spine in a cushion of safety by not allowing errant twisting, tweaking and torsion. A weak spine tends to be a wiggly spine. This exercise will create strength to prevent too much wiggling (some wiggling is good after all).

Before we get started, here’s an interesting fact. When tested, those with a history of back pain have more endurance in their ability to hold a flexed position of the spine than those who have never had back pain. (A flexed position of the spine in this case is holding a sit-up position when you are halfway up in the process of performing a sit-up.)

Isn’t that amazing that someone with back pain had a better ability to hold this position than someone without back pain? And all these years we’ve been told if we have back pain we need to strengthen the stomach muscles. Appears to be false. It appears that those with back pain have too much strength/endurance there. And do you know where the back pain patients were weak? In their spines.

::Okay, is it just me or does these seem like common sense?::

A weak spine does need stabilization help from the oblique muscles and the spine flexors. But those muscles need to learn to stabilize. So that the upper and lower bodies can move without increasing the wiggle-factorof the spine.

The exercise above is an alternate to sit-ups. You will strengthen your abs by bracing them, not be flexing the spine. Flexing the spine is not only an area that doesn’t need strengthening if you have back pain but it also an enormous amount of pressure on a sore spine. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions about this series of exercises for pain relief.