The holidays are in full swing now and with it comes a lot of lifting, decorating, and travel. It also comes with a lot of stress, aches, and pains. There are some simple things you can do that can make difference not only during the holiday season, but even after.
1. Hip Hinge
We have all heard when lifting make sure to lift with your legs and not your back. Now, this is true you should lift with your legs over your back. However, lifting posture is often not talked about. When we bend down to pick something up majority of the motion should come from our hips and not the low back. Our backs are at most risk for injury, especially the discs, when we are flexed (rounded over) and lift a load. Add a twist and you have the perfect storm for injury.When you are lifting over the holidays make sure to keep the low back neutral, not rounded or over extended, and hinge over at the hips to get the bending forward motion. Then drive up with the legs through the hips to reduce strain on the low back.
People always hear “you need to strengthen your core”, but how do you do that? Sit ups? Planks? Squats on an exercise ball? No you don’t have to do some crazy core exercises, something as simple as breathing properly is a simple starting point. We talked about this in our blog “Breathing: Insurance for the Low Back”. When we breathe deep into our belly, expanding 360 degrees, we activate all the muscles of the core. Think of a power lifter with a weight belt on about to deadlift, they use the belt to generate pressure to stabilize their back. The core muscles are our natural weight belt that helps to stabilize the low back. When you breathe and expand the belly 360 degrees, it not only activates the muscles of the core, but generates Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) to help protect the low back. So when you are lifting and decorating make sure to let the belly go and breathe.
3. T-Spine Open Book
The thoracic spine (T-spine) or better known as the mid-back is commonly restricted/stiff due to poor posture. It is an area that tends to need more mobility. As we discussed in our blog “Thoracic Spine: The Tine Man of the Spine” it is often an area that needs to be assed when treating shoulder and low back cases. The T-spine open book is a good exercise to get motion into the mid-back and help with reaching during decorating and get some stiffness out after a long drive.
4. Bow and Arrow
The bow and arrow is a way to avoid stressing the low back if you are having to be bent over for long periods of time. It combines hip hinge while using the arm as a base of support to reduce the stress placed on the muscle of the back to hold you up when you are bent over.
5. Standing Extensions
Long trips to travel and see family is a common thing this time of year, which means a lot of sitting. Sitting brings the low back into flexion (rounding), after a couple hours of sitting in the car this can make the low back feel stiff and tight. Standing extensions help to relieve tightness and stiffness after sitting in flexion for long periods of time. Placing a rolled up towel behind the low back can also help to support the low back when traveling and sitting for long periods of time.