The one-minute trick that will cure your back pain for good - Juice Daily
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The one-minute trick that will cure your back pain for good

I have suffered from back pain on and off for many years, decades in fact! This ongoing pain – lower back, mid back, neck, shoulder, you name it – has seen many trips and countless dollars spent on chiropractors, massage therapists, physios and osteopaths in an attempt to bring relief. While they would generally succeed, the relief was only ever temporary. But I’ve since tried a new program. A simple, postural alteration has changed my life so that back pain becomes a permanent thing of the past.

While the importance of posture is not a new concept, what is new is understanding just how we should be standing and how we can permanently affect change. I discovered this when I visited Myofascial release therapist and personal trainer Chris O’Brien about ongoing issues with my jaw, that had rendered me unable to eat anything remotely hard (trust me, not enjoyable at all). Chris explained that my jaw pain (as well as all of my other back problems), was largely the result of standing incorrectly, with a sway in my pelvis causing my shoulders to round and my neck to push forward.

Trent Langlands, movement specialist at Lifecycle Fitness, says he sees the same condition on a daily basis, the result of too much sitting down. ‘The distortion it’s creating in our bodies is just dreadful. Most people who come to me are all out of alignment, their balance is out, they’ve got different injuries and distortions throughout their body, they’re very rounded through their upper back, they’ve got an anterior shift in their hips. It’s a very poor base to start from if you’re trying to train.

Chris, who has been doing bodywork for 18 years, says all this bad posture is the cause of a litany of complaints, anything from lower back pain to neck and shoulder pain, hip and knee pain, headaches, TMJ syndrome (jaw problems), shoulder rotator cuff issues and carpal tunnel syndrome, to name just a few.

Frustrated in the past by not being able to achieve lasting results for his patients, Chris has been converted by a new method known as Functional Patterns (functionalpatterns.com), developed by Naudi Aguilar. The basis of Functional Patterns is correct postural alignment and Chris explains that this is achieved by making sure the ‘three pillars’ of your body are correctly lined up.

‘The three pillars are your abdominal core – so your transverse abdominals – then you’re aiming for ideal gluteal function and finally you’re looking at an integrated thoracic spine, so your upper back and shoulder girdle,’ he says.

For the one-minute adjustment to achieve perfect alignment of the ‘three pillars’, Chris explains you should do the following.

  1. Stand with your feet hip width apart with your head facing straight forward.
  2. Inhale, then on the exhale, draw in your belly button, as though you’re trying to get it to touch your spine.
  3. Next, activate your glutes by squeezing them as you curl your tailbone under you.
  4. Finally, you draw the shoulders back and down.

Feeling a bit uncomfortable? And trembly? If you’re standing correctly, you should feel quite challenged.

“Correcting your posture is a lot of hard work because these people have been so out of alignment for so long,” says Trent, who adds that people who weight train using poor posture are only exacerbating the problem.

‘They’re building up the wrong muscles,’ he explains. ‘The more I study, the more I realse there are so many exercises in the fitness game that are so bad for you. The perfect example is the chess press, something that for men is a go-to exercise because they want a big chest and big shoulders. All it’s doing is shortening your pec major and pec minor and internally rotating your shoulders, giving you that kyphosis through your spine, that rounded spine.’
It’s one thing to learn how to stand correctly, but the important thing to achieve permanent change, Chris says, is to try to adopt this correct stance whenever you think about it.

“The research says that to change that neural pattern between brain and muscle, you need to do 3-5000 repetitions, so basically you just need to do it as often as you can. When you stand up, do it. If you’re at the bus stop, do it. Brushing your teeth, do it. Watching TV, do it … You can even do it sitting down, just by activating your core.”

Chris explains that once your body starts getting used to the correct way of standing, the benefits will be immeasurable – with diminished pain being just one of them.

“Once you start to switch those three areas on, the body just starts to function better,” he explains. “Your body is no longer fighting gravity, it’s working with gravity, so gravity becomes your friend. You can run faster, become stronger, jump higher than you ever have before and you’ll have loads more energy.”

Changing your posture could even bring about weight loss, adds Chris. “You’ll be breathing more effectively and your body will produce less cortisol – the stress hormone which contributes to weight gain – because poor posture is putting a fundamental stress on your body.”

Adopting the ‘three pillars’ stance is the stepping stone to affecting permanent change, but switching on those correct muscles isn’t an overnight fix. Years of incorrect posture have caused other muscles and tissues to shorten and tighten to compensate for the ones we haven’t been using.

“Once you integrate those three pillars, you’ll be putting the muscles that are overactive to sleep, and waking up the dormant ones that you need,” says Chris, who suggests some other exercises to assist in strengthening those dormant muscles.

  1. Stand with feet hip width apart, arms bent, with elbow at your sides (robot style). Hinge forward from your hips so that your upper body is at a 45 degree angle, then very slowly, try to raise yourself back upright, using only the muscles at the base of your glutes. It’s very challenging, but a great way to fire up those under-used muscles.
  2. Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched out to the sides and your head looking to the floor. Slowly and gently raise your arms and upper body, feeling the stretch across your upper back. This is a great way to strengthen a rounded upper back.

Trent says that until you’ve strengthened those underactive muscles and released those shortened muscles, there’s little point starting to train.

“That’s why your yoga, Pilates and myofascial release, using rollers and balls, are all so important,” he says. “Our goal is all about getting to that neutral spine, and to do that you first need to release those areas in the glutes, hips and pecs that are so tight from sitting down all day.”

Trent and Chris both advocate the use of hard lacrosse balls placed under the body to release those tightly wound muscles and open up the abs and rib cage – but be warned, it’s not for the faint-hearted.

“People are in so much pain when we use the balls, from being locked up for so many years,’ says Trent, adding that when it comes to correcting years of incorrect posture, it’s no pain, no gain.

“Until you unlock all that distortion, it doesn’t matter what training you do, you’re not going to have a good base and you’ll just create more distortion throughout the body. You almost have to regress and crawl before you can walk again.”

 

Zoe Meunier

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Zoe Meunier

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Zoe Meunier is a freelance journalist with over 20 years experience. A mum of two, she lives and breathes the daily challenges of trying to lead a healthy lifestyle while encouraging her kids to do the same. As such, she's always seeking out new ways of demystifying nutrition, fitness and wellness while making it accessible for all. She is especially interested in the health benefits of red wine and chocolate ...

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