Our bodies are full of surprises. Sometimes that pain in our lower back has nothing to do with our lower back. Instead, a problem somewhere else, such as shoulder misalignment…uneven hips…or a tilted pelvis is really the culprit. When you correct these other imbalances, the back pain eases. That’s the thinking behind the Egoscue Method, a nonmedical technique that incorporates stretches and exercises that realign the body and restore proper muscle and joint function. The technique is based on the concept that pain occurs when biomechanical imbalances place abnormal stress on muscles and ligaments. When Egoscue practitioners work one-on-one with patients, they look very carefully at the individual’s anatomy to determine why the imbalances—and the resulting pain—occur.
Brian Bradley, vice president of education and therapy protocol at Egoscue, Inc., says that the three exercises below are most often recommended to help ease low-back pain. You may be surprised to find that you experience some pain relief the very first time you do these exercises. Most people experience less pain in a few weeks (the amount of time varies by individual). You can incorporate all three of these exercises into your regular fitness regimen—and you can do them indefinitely to keep your body aligned. You won’t believe how easy they are…
FOR THE UPPER BACK AND SHOULDERS:
STANDING ARM CIRCLES
This exercise engages the shoulder muscles, which, in turn, helps to stabilize and strengthen the muscles of the mid-spine, resulting in less low-back pain.
Stand up straight, feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms so they are extended out to your sides at shoulder level. Palms up, place the fingers into the pad of each hand, thumbs pointed behind you. Squeeze the shoulder blades together. Keeping the shoulder blades squeezed and your arms raised at your sides, rotate both of your arms backward in a circle of about a six-inch circumference. Goal: One set of 40 circles. Then, palms down, thumbs pointed forward, rotate both arms forward in a six-inch circle. Goal: One set of 40 circles.
FOR THE MID-SPINE:
STATIC BACK KNEE PILLOW SQUEEZE
This exercise promotes pelvic stability by supporting the shoulders and spine as you engage the pelvic muscles and extend the mid-spine.
Lie on your back with your legs up over the seat of a chair. Place a pillow between your knees, and hold it with your inner thighs. Extend your arms out to the sides at a 45° angle, palms up. Gently squeeze the pillow with your knees and hold for a count of one second, keeping the upper body and abdomen relaxed. Release the squeeze (although your legs continue to hold the pillow in place). With this movement, the inner thigh and primary hip flexor do the work that they are supposed to do, allowing the back muscles to let go of tension. Goal: Three sets of 20 squeezes.
FOR THE PELVIS:
This exercise promotes proper function of the hips and stabilizes the pelvis. Be sure to wear nonskid shoes when performing this exercise.
Stand with your back against a wall with your feet and knees hip-width apart. Walk your feet away from the wall about one-and-a-half feet while sliding your body down to a “seated position”—work toward achieving a 110° angle at the knee, with the hips slightly higher than the knees and the ankles slightly ahead of the knees. Press the lower back flat against the wall. Allow the arms to hang down at your sides or rest your hands gently on your lap. It’s important to keep your weight in your heels. This enables you to engage the quadriceps and hip muscles—and relieves stress in the back. Goal: Hold the “seated” position for one to two minutes.