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Summer Back Pain Blues – 5 Muscle Recipe

Summer Back Pain Blues – 5 Muscle Recipe
Summer Back Pain Blues - 5 Muscle Recipe!

Nothing puts a damper on the excitement of summer like a back injury! Unfortunately, they are not uncommon ...

Being cramped up all winter and sitting a lot can shorten our spinal muscles to the point where they are at risk of injury if we use them before properly preparing them for summer fun.

Rather than the ecstasy of warm weather, your first day out playing volleyball or tennis could leave you suffering from the Summer Back Pain Blues.

But that's not going to happen to you!

Instead, imagine your back muscles being strong and flexible and free of trigger points ... because you performed your self-care using simple tools such as a BALL and a WALL ...

Research in the field of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy shows us and clinical experience confirms: Severe low back pain, hip pain, leg pain and even sciatica often result from trigger points in muscles you can treat yourself!

With so much freedom to be gained from so little cost, let's look at the 5 Muscle Recipe that has been shown to work so effectively:

THE MUSCLES: Here are the 5 Muscles you will be treating. Good news! They are all muscles that you have seen before in previous issues of Muscle News.


1. GLUTS This is a group of three muscles, Gluteus Maximus on top, Gluteus Medius underneath, and Gluteus Minimus underneath and forward. The deeper trigger points cause referred pain down the leg that can feel like Sciatic pain. To the left is the drawing of the referred pain pattern (red) from trigger points (X's) in all three glut muscles combined.


2. ABS These trigger points in the front (again marked by X's) refer to bands of back pain across the waist and lower ribs, as shown. The Abdominals are so often overlooked, it is a good thing to have them checked and treated.


3. PARASPINALS These muscles split into three main divisions. The closest to the spine are the Multifidi and they mostly cause pain right in the area where the trigger point is located. Further away from the spine, you find the two Iliocostalis muscles, which attach from the Ilium (hip bone) to the ribs. These trigger points refer down into the buttocks region in a tear drop pattern.


4. QL Second to last is the Quadratus Lumborum, a rectangular-shaped muscle that hikes your hip up to your ribs and pulls your ribs down toward the hips, forming a side bend. Trigger points in the QL can refer really bad "shot in the back" pain into the SI joint and hip muscles.


5. PSOAS This is the muscle that freezes up from prolonged sitting (Sittosis) and is the number one cause of low back pain. The Psoas causes the pelvis to be unlevel and one leg to retract and become functionally shorter than the other. Trigger Points cause pain in the front of hip down the thigh, as well as all along the same side of the lumbar spine.




There are a number of good tools to treat these 5 muscles. A variety of balls work well, from tiny rubber superballs to large inflatable therapy balls. The smaller balls work for compressing smaller muscles and providing more pointed and precise compression. Larger balls are good for covering larger muscles and broader areas.

Also, the larger the diameter of the ball, the less painful the compression experienced. Also the softer and less inflated a ball is, the less painful and intense the compression.

If the area you are working on is highly sensitive, it is often good to start with a larger, softer ball and then graduate to a smaller harder ball as you improve. Always work within tolerance and comfort level.

Very significant and focused compression can be achieved with our S-shaped tooll, the Backnobber. It is especially good for the Paraspinals because it gets to hard to reach areas in the spine.

As far as a wall goes, you just need a decent amount of flat open space. Also, you will need some open space on the floor to perform some advanced compressions.

Alright, we know the muscles! We've got the tools! So, let's get started on this technique!

*The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition and does not substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional. Please consult your physician to determine whether these self-care tips are appropriate for you.


Below are the 5 Muscles you will need to treat. You can perform the following Self-care exercises in any order you please. You may also spend more time on one muscle versus another if you find that one requires more work.

HEAT: Heat can be applied individually to each muscle with moist heat packs, or you can also warm up all the muscles in a warm shower or bath - 15 to 20 minutes is sufficient.


One of the best tools for treating the Gluteal group is the common tennis ball. If a tennis ball is too aggressive to start, try a therapy ball inflated to moderate pressure, such as a Fitball brand therapy ball.

You can lean against the wall, as shown. When you find a tender spot, press into the ball to pain tolerance ("good pain" - not pain that is sharp or makes you want to withdraw). Hold for 10 seconds while completing at least two full breaths in and out. Then continue searching for more tender spots until the entire muscle is covered.

Lying on your side on top of the tennis ball is also very effective (as shown) and provides a much deeper compression for trigger points in the Gluteals. Varying the softness of the surface (floor, pillow on top of floor, etc.) may be needed if the pressure of the ball is too much.


To treat the Rectus Abdominus, we are going to start by leaning into the wall against a ball

Here we demonstrate starting with a 7" Therapy Ball. Begin by standing and placing the ball between the wall and your Rectus Abdomnins (as shown). Lean into the ball to tolerance and hold for 10 seconds over each tender spot. Then roll the ball down to the next tender spot. Always treat both sides.

For a more advanced compression, use a firmer, smaller ball, or lie on the floor on top of the ball, propping yourself up on your elbows with one knee drawn up for balance and support (as shown). This will add deeper compression as well as some valuable stretch as you lean back while compressing.  



Here our model is demonstrating the 'Wake-Up Your Back" technique using the Backnobber (Big Bend model):

She is using the self-care tool to compress into the fibers of the Paraspinal muscle fibers from top to bottom at each segment of the spine. She grasps the S-curve with both hands and applies comfortable firm pressure forward. As she compresses, she flexes the spine forward fully and then extends it backward fully to help the segment through its full range of motion.

For demonstration purposes, the technique is being performed slightly faster than recommended. For therapeutic effect, it is best to take a long breath in when extending the spine backward and then a long breath out when flexing the spine forward.


The best tools are a medium sized therapy compression ball against the wall and the Backnobber.

Ball on Wall

Place the ball between your waist and the wall, just above the pelvis and below the ribs. Lean into the ball with strong but tolerable pressure. To add a stretch, raise the same side arm up above the head and lean toward the opposite side. Roll the ball until you cover the entire muscle, stopping for 2-3 breaths at all tender spots and taut areas.

Backnobber on Stretch

Lie sideways over a pile of pillows, as depicted, to stretch the upside QL. Press the Backnobber into the stretched upside QL, pausing for 2-3 full breaths on each tender area and taut band. Alternate leaning forward and backward as you apply pressure to reach different layers of the muscle.

MUSCLE 5: PSOAS Click here to view larger image

To compress trigger points in the Iliopsoas, lie on your side and lean over on top of a ball, as shown. Here we are using a 7" therapy ball, but a child's basketball slightly deflated or a even a mushy extra soft softball works, as well. Start with the ball on one side of your belly button (upper Iliopsoas). Lean over onto the ball with as much weight as is comfortable. Gently roll side to side a couple of inches over the ball, searching for tender spots. When you find a tender spot, hold that position for 10 seconds. Then roll the ball a couple inches down toward the hip and repeat. Work your way down and finish when you are over front of your hip. Perform on both sides for best results.

Finishing Up with Range of Motion Exercises

Now that you have completed compression and restored function to all those dysfunctional bands of muscle, it is good to encourage them to get used to this fuller way of functioning.

The video below is a sample of one set of range of motion exercises you can use. Always check with a proper healthcare professional to make sure an exercise is appropriate for you.

Pass along this issue of Musculoskeletal Health Update along to anyone looking to prevent or correct low back pain! Happy Self-Care!

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