1. Get adjusted.
It’s important to make your chiropractic appointments in order to keep your spine fluid and moving nicely. Keeping your spine in balance keeps those muscles in balance. When any physical, chemical, or emotional stress happens, the spine has to absorb that stress and deal with it. A lot of times, the spine will go into what’s called a compensation pattern—where the body is misaligned and several other areas of the spine become misaligned in order to compensate for the fact that there is tension on the spinal cord in one area and it’ll do that by misaligning a vertebra in another segment in the opposite direction.
2. Stretch your psoas muscles.
Your psoas muscle plays an important role in back pain. It is a deep muscle that runs from your lower back down and across the front of your pelvis. This muscle is a major muscle we use in our bodies that can get tight. When this muscle gets tight, you can feel pain in your abdomen, hips, or low back. A useful stretch to alleviate some of the muscular tension in the psoas is to do the following:
Step 1: Get into a split stance (one foot in front of the other, about hip width apart)
Step 2: Turn the back foot in
Step 3: Make sure your hips are forward-facing
Step 4: Push the pelvis/hips forward by squeezing your butt muscles
Step 5: To deepen the stretch, lift the same side hand up on the side of the foot that’s turned in.
Step 6: Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.
*Tip: Make sure the back foot stays turned in and the pelvis/hips facing forward without rotating your torso
3. Stretch the piriformis muscles.
The piriformis muscle is a muscle that affects hip and leg movement. When that muscle gets tight, it can affect how your hips, legs, and low back moves functionally. Keeping this muscle from getting too tight is important because the biggest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve, passes directly through the piriformis. If the piriformis is tight, it can cause irritation to the sciatic nerve which can cause pain, numbness, and/or tingling in the legs and can decrease the overall functioning of your legs.
These two stretches are very effective ways to stretch the piriformis muscle.
The first stretch involves laying face up. See the picture below.
Step 1: Cross right leg over just above the left knee, creating a “Figure 4” with your legs.
Step 2: Clasp your hands together behind the left knee.
Step 3: Pull both legs toward your chest.
Step 4: Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side leg.
The other stretch to help alleviate tension in the piriformis muscle requires a bit more coordination because you’re standing. See picture on the right. *Note: Do not perform this stretch unless you have the ability and coordination to do so. It may be a good idea to have something sturdy and stable to grab onto if you try this stretch because you will be standing on one leg.
Step 1: Create the “Figure 4” with your legs by crossing your right leg over just above the left knee.
Step 2: Rotate your hips backward like you’re going to sit in a chair. Make sure your back is straight.
Step 3: Lower your hips down to deepen the stretch.
Step 4: To deepen the stretch further, provide gentle pressure above the knee that is in the “Figure 4” position. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.
4. Get a wobble cushion.
The vertebrae in the spine have spaces between them, called intervertebral discs, that allow your spine to move in different directions. It’s important that these discs have adequate spacing between the vertebrae so that the canal where nerves come out of stays healthy. When the spacing between vertebrae narrows, so does the canal for the nerve that goes to all of your major organs in your body and can affect how they function and communicate with your brain. A great way to maintain good spinal hygiene and disc spacing is through movement. Since the discs in between vertebrae don’t have an excellent source of blood supply, they rely on movement of the spine to receive nutrients through a process called imbibition.
Getting a wobble cushion helps to keep your spine moving so that it can receive all of the proper nutrition it needs to function at its best. Wobbling can be done at the office, at home, or both. It’s an easy tool that can be implemented into your every day life that helps maintain good spinal hygiene.
The wobble cushion I recommend can be found at:
When you purchase a wobble cushion, you want to wobble front to back, side to side, and with some rotation so that you aren’t just “sitting,” but being an active participant in maintaining good spinal hygiene throughout the day. A great goal would be to wobble for at least five minutes a day.
5. Get a lumbar support for your car and office.
Back pain can flare-up from having poor posture and/or sitting in chairs that aren’t the best for us ergonomically. Having a lumbar support for the seats you’re sitting in can help reinforce great posture. Maintaining great posture, where you’re sitting up tall (not slouching), helps to not strain the musculature of the low back. The lumbar support can help to remind your low back to maintain good posture throughout the day. You can look on Amazon or eBay for some decent lumbar supports and have it delivered to you.
All of these tips are recommendations from Dr. Samantha Jennings, DC but in no way constitute a replacement for visiting your doctor. If any of these exercises and/or recommendations cause you pain, do not perform them. If you have any comments or questions, please reach out to Dr. Samantha Jennings, DC at (408) 355-3946.