Exercises showing how to relieve acute back pain are critically important. If you can achieve success here you will be in the box seat and never at the mercy of your back again.
Getting a bad back better is not all go-go-go full speed ahead. If a spine is deep in crisis it's not the time for galloping on with relentless pro-activity. The back needs to calmed and soothed, mainly to persuade over-active spinal muscles to settle down. This will not be achieved if you are too gung-ho!
Being able to relieve acute back pain is all about getting the rate right. Usually, this means activity phases followed by recovery phases, hard work then rest, like an athlete training for the Olympics. It’s all about bringing the back on then resting to allow everything catch up; regrouping and setting forth again.
If you've been in trouble for a while, be prepared for this two-exercise regime to go on for days, even weeks. Also, think of it as the go-to exercises when you back starts acting up again for no good reason. It's the universal panacea and should be firmly in your repertoire of tricks to control your back. But remember, everything here is very, very gentle! There's no rush, no mission to get the number done, no time limit, no goal scoring. It's all about soothing and calming and getting the back to let go. (If it's been locked up for years - yes, even 20 years - this may take time.)
When a back is literally rigid with pain it surely makes it worse to just keep 'going at it' and this is sometimes where 'therapy' gets it wrong. With the rehabilitation world becoming dominated by the gym culture over the last few decades, it's become a common pitfall to think that 'progress must be through action' where indeed the reverse is true, at least in the acute period. This applies most to sciatica relief exercises when you try to stretch the nerve itself, or the hamstrings muscle. It also applies to a back rigid with spasm, where there are excruciating shrieks of pain at the slightest move.
'Rocking the knees' is so soporific it should almost send you to sleep. It's best to have the ankles crossed and knees wide to avoid the hips pinching, hands cupped over knees, using your thighs as levers
These are small-range oscillatory movements with the hands rocking the knees at a rate of slightly faster than 1 cycle/second (1Hz). Make small amplitude movements in mid-range, bringing the knees up and down to your chest. But remember, it's not a stretch, it's a pump, as it evacuates swelling from around the joints and gently teases out the clench of the back muscles. These small rocking movements create a sort of soothing or lulling 'Nature's rhythm' that the body likes, like rocking a baby to sleep in a pram. It's barely an ‘exercise’ because it's so gentle and relaxing you'll be struggling to keep awake. Remember, less is more is when it's most effective.
It's impossible to overdo this exercise. And after rocking the knees up and down for a minute or so, you can start going left to right and then in small circles. Rocking left to right, you will always feel a difference in 'hardness' between the left and right side of your pelvis (the stiffer side will always be the problem side). Eventually - when you are really feeling inside your back more and getting in the zone - you will be drawn to focusing more on the harder areas and feeling them soften or 'melt' as the muscles and ligaments let go. This harder side of the back of the pelvis will gradually feel 'less bony' and this is what you are aiming for. It will come quicker each time.
This is also the exercise to do when you have done something bad to your back. If you've picked up something wrongly, felt a twinge getting up from the floor, or a twang doing a deadlift, this is when you literally dive to the floor - there and then - and start the 'knees rocking'. In seeking to relieve acute back pain there's no time limit. You can do it briefly, say for 30 seconds as Step 2 after coming off the BackBlock, or for 10 minutes (or until your arms get tired).
Having the legs almost straight with 'spinal rolling' brings you down lower over the lower lumbar segments. Make small excursions up & down
With 'spinal rolling' you hold behind your knees and let your legs fall out out almost straight to make it easier to balance. Then you tip gently backwards and forwards, up and down your lumbar spine, making small see-sawing movements. Often the problem area can be felt as a small flat patch, so it's like rocking over a square wheel. Try to fine the movement down so you are only oscillating on the flat patch. Don't tip back and forth with too much gusto or you will spend too much time off the stiff area. Doing it with too much vigour also makes it less effective at switching off the the over-active spinal muscles.
This exercise is very effective at breaking up lumbar brittleness while at the same time encouraging better coordination of the back and front (abdominal) muscles. Don't sit right up on your bottom between rolls (we all spend more than enough time sitting on our butt); make sure to keep the movements small, staying on your lower back only. You can even try to isolate the most painful segment and stay rocking there - almost pivoting on the spot. It's quite hard work on the tummy and the front of the neck being local and accurate, hovering over the flat patch, so you will only manage a minute of two before you need a rest. Repeat twice, doing three session a day, morning, afternoon and evening.
In this video package Sarah Key discusses all the aspects of relieving acute back pain and shows you herself exactly how the exercises are done. Read more about the Acute Back Pain Relief video here 'Back Pain Relief Video Package'.
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