So Your Back Hurts!

This article is for Naomi,remember to do your homework xx
 Your body is an amazing thing! You decide to stand up, reach across a table , go for run, climb stairs and you do it, without thought or problem. Then one day, for no apparent reason,  you drop a sock, bend over to pick it up and suddenly you have dreadful pain in your lower back, you are stuck and can hardly shout for the help you need!

So, there you are, wondering what you did to cause this much pain. I believe that we can, with a little education, learn to maintain our aches and pains. We can discover where we have built up unwanted muscle tension, weakness and tightness. 

I’ve been teaching, instructing and coaching real people since the  80’s. I’ve attended so many training courses and know how and why training recommendations have changed over the years. Modern scanners, thousands of peer reviewed studies, real life data from athletes in many sports all give us a good grounding on how our fantastic bodies react and adapt to the stresses of everyday activities and the sports we choose to participate in. 

So often injuries are ‘set-up’ by our patterns of behaviour in our everyday, we notice them when we change something – a new car, chair or desk at work. I meet clients everyday, usually through my Pilates teaching, referred by therapists of all kinds that need to maintain a healthy framework for their sport, exercise routines and lifestyle. 

Ok, you say, but how do I know what is a ‘normal’ framework?

Your pain is specific to the centre of your lower back. You may feel pain more on one side than another. You may have been told you have tight hamstrings, hip flexors and gluteal (bottom) muscles that are lazy – my clients hear me talk about  what I call  ‘lazy a** syndrome’! We may joke, but it’s not funny if you have it. 

Sitting for long periods, not activating your core by using a proper bracing technique or forgetting to train your pelvic floor can all lead to low back pain, pelvic rotations and ‘Lower Cross Syndrome’, SI joint dysfunction and Sacroillitis. 

Lots of expensive Osteo and Chiro visits can give temporary relief, but until you learn to add your homework exercises into your exercise plan your back pain will return. I think it’s worth checking your range of motion at your hip joint. So often back problems and pain are related to hip dis function. This is what I’d like to focus on here. 

 Find a mirror and check out your range of motion at this important joint. Your hip joint, pelvis and surrounding muscles work very hard all the time. To allow us to move in the many ways we enjoy all these structures have to align and remain in support of each other. 

If you don’t achieve this amount of movement you are setting yourself up for problems. 

Sometimes it’s tricky to work out exactly what you need to do so I’ll outline a range of exercises that won’t hurt anyone,  but may solve your imbalances in muscle length or joint mobility. 
Anterior & Posterior chain.

The muscles and structures on the front of your body should balance the tension in your posterior chain (back of your body) makes sense, doesn’t it, just like the ropes on a tent, they need even tension  all round to stabilise. Sounds simple – but sometimes imbalances happen. Bad postural habits, movement patterns at work, driving or even in your sport can effect your alignment. If this happens the smallest action can cause enormous amounts of pain and discomfort!!

I will list below the exercises, stretches and mobility work I think you should include in your exercise ‘Pre-hab’ to stay balanced and healthy. Make sure you’re warm before you stretch. 


Use a resistance band or old belt around your foot. This allows you to straighten your knee. Ideally you should get a 90′ angle at your hip ( if it’s a lot more so that your foot is next to your face you will probably have the opposite problem of joint instability. In which case swap stretches for strength work.  See later for strengthening work. 


This stretch is more focused on getting your thigh to your rib cage. Notice does your leg wander to the side of your body? Your muscles will find the line of least resistance – so try to correct this and pull your bent knee as close to your body as you can. Use the band or belt to work on straightening your knee, still keeping your thigh done on your ribs.  You can point and flex your foot/ankle too – you’ll feel the stretch beyond your knee into your lower leg/ankle. 

The next stretch is probably the most important – often forgotten by most gym goers. 


As you can see the red muscles are the ones that need to stretch. The bright red ones inside and a cross the pelvis cause a lot of problems. They cross so many joints in the low back, pelvis and hip that almost any action we perform – sitting, driving, running, cycling and squatting all involve these muscles. 
If they become short, weak and or tight incredible strain is put on your pelvis – your Sacro Illiac joint – causing it to twist or rotate out of its normal position. Leg length and gait can be effected. You might find you feel the need to roll your knees from side to side or ‘crack’ your back to relive the pressure. Sadly, this will only give temporary relief and may even make your imbalance worse!


This deep kneeling stretch should be a regular ‘hangout’ for you and when you can,  you should raise your arms up above your head.  Try using a doorway to support your back and then reach your hands up along the frame. Build up to 3 minutes a side. 

Stretches done you can focus on joint mobility – these exercises can be done as part of you’re Pre-Hab warm up. 

I call this one the carpet fitter  mobility. 

Start on all fours, ram your knee against your ankle – so that your shin moves across the floor underneath you. 

Stack your hip directly over your knee and then explore the corners. Remember it’s not a stretch – it’s a mobility move , so push in and out to feel pressure, stretching or maybe even slight pain in your hip joint capsule. Or aim here is to release any tightness that’s built up and get dramatic improvement in your range of motion. 


It may take sometime doing your other exercises before you can sit as low as Kelly – shown here. 

This is another ‘hang out’ position. With heels down – no cheating with high heel training shoes!- feet pointing forward  is your target. Apply a little pressure on your knees with your elbows – rock and grind into your hips , keeping your feet planted and your chest up. Sit sideways on to a mirror if you can, look at the shape of your lower back. Ideally it will have its natural curve, in a strong but soft curve, rather than your bottom tucking under. 

The other factor in your framework is that your back extensors a are trying balance the tension in your hip flexors   If you feel along your low back, either side of your spine you may notice more tension one side than the other.   

You can use a firm dog ball, cricket or hockey ball or foam roller if you have one to lie on and release these tight muscles. 

Another strange, but very effective exercise is ‘Belly Smashing’

Using a small ball as shown here takes some courage” if you can find a foam or inflatable soft ball about the size of a small Melon you can use that under your belly along with deep relaxed breathing to get good results and release your lower back too. 


Pilates Bridges

You will hold these positions for 5-20 seconds while relaxing your breathing pattern so that your belly rises and falls with each breath. 

Start with 1. and progress through the sequence when you can keep your pelvis level and up in line with your knees and shoulders 

  1. both feet on the floor and parallel

2. Heels turned in and toes out

3. Lift one knee above your hip while pushing same side elbow into the floor close to your ribs. 

4. Hover one foot off the floor – keep it as close to the floor as possible. 

Do these exercise on both sides and increase the repetitions to a point of failure  every time your practise them. 

Do these exercises daily, let me know how you get on. 

Jax 

Make Time to Stay Active

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Although I can’t guarantee you’ll be pain free, move better, sleep well and look great if you practice Pilates – my clients believe it!

Find a class, try it out, ad if you don’t like it find another one to join…

Pilates training is like Yoga these days, there are many teachers and the good ones have the experience to make it their own. They will adapt exercises to suit you. Spending time on your performance and technique. Explaining why and how to complete each move.

Some teachers focus on exact technique, others on fluid movement. Some work slowly others use music and change the speed you complete sequences.

Find a Pilates style that you enjoy, attend regularly and you WILL feel the benefits.

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Are You Too Bendy?

Joint Hypermobility:

How many of you out there have hypermobile joints?

Mobility tends to be thought of as a good thing, however when you have more then the normal amount of mobility in your body, this can lead to problems. Hypermobility only becomes a syndrome when it starts to produce symptoms- it is then know as Joint Hypermobility Syndrome or JHS.

JHS is a inheritable disorder of the connective tissue that can predispose to joint pain, soft tissue injury and joint instability. Often Joint Hypermobility patients are mis-diagnosed. In fact in a recent survey of the Hypermobility Syndrome Association 52% of 251 patients waited over 10 years from the onset of their symptoms to get the right diagnosis (Ross and Grahame 2011). Misdiagnosis can lead to inappropriate or potential harmful treatment and potentially a reversible downward spiral of immobility, deconditioning and despair.

How is hypermobility diagnosed?

Joint hypermobility is diagnosed with 2 scales, the Beighton and the Brighton. The Beighton scale is a test which is scored out of 9. One point is gained for each side of the body for the first 4 manoeuvres. The maximum score is 9 if all movements are positive. Try these tests and record your score

Beighton Scale: see diagram….

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1) Passive dorsiflexion of the little finger to more than 90 degrees

2) Can your thumb reach your forearm

3) Do your elbows hyperextend more than 10 degrees

4) Do your knees hyperextend more than 10 degrees

5) Can you place your hands flat on the floor without bending your knees

If you have joint pain, have dislocated one or more joints and score most or all of these maybe you need a full test with your health practitioner !

Jax

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Do Pilates and Bring Your Grand Mother….

Joan chooses Pilates for her Well being.

Joan chooses Pilates for her Well being.

Get Moving and Bring Your Grand Mother…..

‘Pilates Past 50’ sessions from JaxAllenFitness.com

“I have some older clients who can articulate their spine better than someone 20 years younger, and their fluidity of movement is expressed in a balanced body that moves confidently through space.”

To reverse the effects of aging in seniors Jax stressed that a, flexible spine, focused mind, strong core, legs and feet were essential to balance any body that is to move gracefully and youthfully.

Pilates focus on balance, flexibility, breathing and strength are some of the methods’ key concepts that help oil the joints and condition the body and mind to reverse the effects of ageing.

British journalist, broadcaster and politician Joan Bakewell is now in her seventies and has been doing Pilates for over a decade. Pilates, she says ‘ I want stability.’

Bakewells senior Pilates workouts gives her “a tremendous sense of well-being.” Pilates addresses almost all of her functional needs at this stage in her life. “I didn’t want exercises that left me puffing and red in the face, nor did I want to pound machines.’

‘What I wanted was Subtlety, thoughtfulness and at my own place in a quiet and peaceful setting.”

Jax Allen offers Pilates and other fitness training to combat the effects of ageing, stress and improve well-being in Cheltenham and Gloucester for everyone no matter what age or ability level.

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Would You Pass This Flexibility Test?

It’s time to take the flexibility test…

1. Can you put on your socks without sitting down?

2. Can you get down and sit on the floor — or play with your kids —
without struggling?

3. Can you jump up off the couch without aches or pains?

4. Do you wake up feeling limber and pain free every morning?

5. Do you have consistent high energy all day long?

6. Do you feel and look younger than your age?

If you answered NO to any of these questions, your flexibility and
mobility is a problem.

You see, flexibility is about more than just how well you
“stretch.” It’s about having a body that’s well balanced, healthy,
and ready for action.

If you rid yourself of muscle imbalances and restore your body’s
normal range of motion, you’ll literally turn back the clock by a
decade in a matter of weeks.

But you probably already knew you could use better flexibility. The
problem is… most stretching programs are unbelievably boring. And
most yoga programs are full of New Age fluff.

Not anymore. My Fitness Yoga program gives you the rich
tradition of authentic yoga — the real deal before all the
California fluff — with the benefits of a science-based approach to
flexibility and wellness. I can adapt most classic poses to suit you, give you homework for your daily practice and even seated options you can use at work.

To find out more contact me directly by email info@fitnesssolutionsuk.com