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Ever come home after a long day to realize your back is really bugging you? Massages help, but they don’t come cheap, and have the potential to be a short-term fix. So let’s talk about what causes back pain, and how to get rid of it for good.
As a Pilates instructor, many clients have come to me hoping to reshape their bodies and achieve that widely sought-after long, lean look. Often, they realize the unexpected benefit of this type of activity is complete elimination of their previously chronic pain.
Now, you don’t have to attend private Pilates sessions three times per week to fix your back pain. The key is truly understanding the reasons your back hurts, and taking action to make it stop. Anyone can live with ease and comfort. You just have to learn these top five ways to nurture your aching back.
1. Strengthen your transverse abdominal muscles.
Those are the deep ab muscles; the ones underneath the “six-pack muscles.” Sit-ups, crunches, and planks can be great exercises, but they aren’t the place to begin if strengthening the transverse abs is your goal. Try out some Pilates mat exercises. Each time you perform them, consciously work to deepen your abs in and up. This is like the feeling of zipping up really tight pants. Imagine your navel traveling back toward your spine, and then also making its way up into the center of your rib cage. You don’t have to be “exercising” to work your transverse abs. You can practice this zipping feeling anywhere.
2. Stretch your hip flexors.
We all know we sit way too much, and it isn’t good for us. You may not realize how tight your hips are from sitting, or how that can put stress on your back by forcing your lower spine into an over pronounced arch. Stand at least once every hour and stretch your hips by pulling your heel toward your bottom, and holding it there. While you’re there, try to squeeze your thighs together, and also remember to zip up your core.
3. Focus on your gait.
Believe it or not, walking with your toes turned out like a ballet dancer (or a duck), can throw off alignment, forcing your pelvic bones to squeeze in and compress your lower spine. Stand up, look down at your feet, and adjust them so that your toes point straight ahead. Now focus on taking care to place each foot down in that perfectly straight position with every step. You will be amazed with the openness you’ll begin to feel in your lower back.
4. Stand up straight!
Your mom may have been onto something after all. Not only does standing tall make you immediately look and feel more confident, attractive and powerful, it also helps take unnecessary stress off your back.
5. Use your strength.
You work hard to build strength at the gym. Make it a point to use that strength outside the gym, too. It’s easy to let your muscles just hang from your bones when you’re not actively using them (poor posture). I want you to imagine that your muscles are the structure from which your skeleton hangs, not the other way around. I know, it’s confusing, but close your eyes and meditate on this for a moment. Let me underscore this point: your muscles should hold up your bones. Use your abs, back, and shoulder muscles to stand or sit up tall. Your back will thank you when it remains 100% pain free after a long day.