August 11, 2011

Andrea's back pain remedy

Andrea wrote this email to a fellow runner who is currently struggling with some back pain / tightness. She's battled a similar issue since the spring, and I thought the advice she gave was definitely worth posting on the blog. I've been really impressed with how diligent she has been with her stretching, exercises, and therapy over the past months. She has some PDF files that show a lot of the exercises, so if you are interested in seeing that, just let us know.

Here's what she wrote...

I started having back pain and general tightness back in March. It gradually got worse from April-June, to the point where I couldn’t sit down for more than 30 minutes at a time and had trouble sleeping. Not a shooting pain, but just a constant tightness and pain (sometimes worse than others). After a complete blow-up one morning involving a full muscle spasm and a cortisone shot, I decided to go to PT.

Since then I’ve been very diligent about stretching and exercises that were recommended to loosen that general area. I still have no idea about the cause - that area is so complicated, but the PT is similar for many types of problems there. I would say that I’m at 90% now, which makes me very happy!

The most important things for me –

1) Replace my chair at work with an exercise ball. I know it looks silly, but honestly it’s totally worth it if it affects running in a positive way. Also, I never sit in a regular chair for more than 15 minutes – the position encourages the hip muscles to shorten and back to get tight. At night, I usually lay on the ground while watching TV or reading so as to not put any more pressure on my back.

2) Stretching. I stretch for 15 minutes three times a day, morning, noon, and night. The active hamstring stretch, lumbar rotation, and hip flexor stretches are my top 3.

3) Core exercises. I do core at least once a day, maybe a little of something each time I stretch and then a designated 5-10 minutes. Planks, side planks, bicycle, leg lifts, etc. Just make sure when your doing exercises on your back that the lower back is pressed against the floor and not arched.

4) Positive attitude!. Mind-body connection!

So there’s my two cents. It was worth it for me to write this if it even helps a little bit, because it was a totally frustrating experience for me! It took at least 3 weeks to feel any improvement (maybe even felt worse for a short time). I wish I could tell you a diagnosis and what exactly to do to fix the tightness, but my guess is that any diagnosis will just be speculation (unless it is a very serious issue, like a disk problem). Massages are definitely beneficial, especially if you can get a friend to help every day.

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