"Fab 5" - Simple Stretches / Exercises for a Year of No Back Pain!
Whenever your low back is immobile for an hour or more, you can perform these quick and easy techniques to keep your back healthy, flexible and strong. After sleeping, driving in a car, sitting in a chair, at a desk, etc., every hour that passes (or when you wake up from sleep), take 5 minutes to do these Fab 5. You will be helping to undo the effects of that hour of immobility and put your back on the health track again.
1. Leg Back Stretch:
When we are seated, our hips are half contracted and half extended. With Olympic Sitting, they become frozen that way, putting a lot of strain on our low backs. Some call this condition "Sittosis" and the main muscle that freezes up is named the Psoas. (click here to read a full article on Sittosis and the Psoas)
So, the first key to undoing this condition is to fully extend/stretch the hip. To do this, place your left hand on a wall or counter or both hands on your left knee (or you can even sit your left butt cheek on a chair) for stability. Then, bring the right leg back as far as possible and bend the left knee forward with torso upright, as shown. Lean as deeply as comfortable. You should feel the stretch in the front of your left hip. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2 times per each leg.
2. Knee to Chest Stretch:
Next, we want to fully flex the hip to shorten/contract the Psoas muscle to its full range of motion.
Start either leaning back against a wall standing or lying on your back on a comfortable surface. Use both hands to draw the knee up toward the chest and armpit as far as possible, as shown. Hold for 20-30 seconds while breathing slowly and deeply. Repeat 2 times per each leg. (Note: You can also draw the leg up to the opposite arm pit also for additional stretch to the Gluteal muscles.)
3. Single Hamstring Stretch:
Next, we want to fully extend the Hamstring muscles, as well. Stand or sit on a chair and bring the leg out in front of you and rest your heel on a chair or other elevated platform, as shown. Lean forward over your knee, reaching your fingers toward your toes..
If you can reach your toes, then bend your chest and head down toward your knee as far as comfortable. Hold for 20-30 seconds while breathing slowly and deeply. Repeat 2 times per each leg.
4. Pelvic Pendulum:
Now, we want to activate the muscles in the core of your abdomen and also the tiny intersegmental muscles that move each individual vertebra of your Lumbar Spine.
Start standing with knees slightly bent. Using only your abdominal muscles and low back muscles, slowly curve your pelvis into a forward tilt then backward tilt. Focus on going as slowly as necessary to have smooth motion with each segment of your spine individually moving one vertebrae at a time. It should take a count of 4-5 seconds to form the tilt in each direction. Repeat 15 cycles forward and back, breathing regularly.
Then do the same with the sideways tilt, using only your core abdominal and low back muscles. Keep your rib cage and upper back straight the whole time, as you draw one hip up toward your shoulder and then back down to raise the opposite hip. It should take a count of 4-5 seconds to form the tilt in each direction. Repeat 15 cycles forward and back. Don't forget to breath throughout.
5. Giant Steps & Pigeon/Duck Steps
Last, we want to activate and stretch our walking muscles by exaggerated stepping. When we sit, our hips not only become frozen in flexion and extension, but also in outward/inward rotation. Specifically, our hips and legs tend to get frozen in partial outward rotation, causing us to stand and walk with our toes turned outward like ducks. So, we must contradict this external rotation in this final Fab 5 exercise.
For Giant Steps, simply step forward as far as comfortable without losing balance and descend into the lunge as deeply as comfortable before coming up and bringing the opposite leg forward into a lunge. Repeat 15 steps on each leg.
For Pigeon Steps, simply turn your toes, knees and hips inward as far as comfortable, as shown, and walk with the feet maintaining that inward rotation. Walk 20 steps Pigeon Toed. Then rotate the toes, knees and hips outward as far as comfortable, as shown, and walk forward with the feet maintaining that outward rotation. Walk 20 steps Duck Footed.
And that's the Fab 5!
Repeat after each period of immobility. When sitting on a chair or in a car, perform every 1 - 2 hours of being seated. Also perform after sleeping in the morning or after a nap.
Make this a year of mobility with the Fab 5, and you may very well avoid back pain for all of 2017!
Happy Pain Free New Year!