85 percent of low back pain as well as neck and shoulder pain has an origin in a muscle imbalance commonly due to long term postural faults. Every muscle in the body has an opposing muscle or group of muscles.
Take for example your biceps. Look at your arm and make a bicep muscle contract. While holding that contraction feel the Tricep muscle on the bottom of the arm. The bicep should be firm and the Tricep should be soft. This is the opposing pattern that all muscles in the body follow.
In the low back, one common pattern is a tight Psoas muscle (deep in the abdomen) and an opposing weak Gluteus Maximus (butt muscle). When this pattern develops the individual is at a high risk of having an injury while doing relatively simple motions such as bending to pick up a piece of paper. This is due to the muscles not coordinating their movements and muscular strain occurs resulting in extreme low back or leg pain.
I take the time to evaluate my patients muscle firing patterns, how they affect the underlying joints and associated tissues. I also help them to understand how through incorrect posture or repetitive motions muscle imbalances may develop and how these muscle imbalances may affect there overall ability to function.
The following exercises and stretches are generalized to cover common upper and lower body muscle imbalances. For my patients this is a review and to be used as such. For anyone else viewing these pages either consult my office or your own personal physician prior to attempting any of the movements to ensure they are appropriate for your personal situation. See below the added downloadable exercises:
The following exercises in PDF format are available for you to download:
Upper Crossed Syndrome
This condition is characterized by and seen as shoulders rounded and forward, and head resting in front of shoulders. This is a common postural fault, which leads to the following conditions: shoulder impingement, head and neck ache, numbness and tingling in the arms or hands.
The following stretches are designed to correct this syndrome.
(This is designed to reduce neck, shoulder, arm and hand pain and numbness.)
- Turn thumbs out, roll shoulders up back and together.
- Retract chin, inhale and hold breath for 5 seconds.
- Relax shoulders, keep thumbs turned outward, exhale, jut chin forward and repeat 4 more times.
- Do this exercise 5 times a day to reverse postural fatigue and muscular strain.
(This is designed to reduce upper back pain.)
- Start by sitting on the ball
- Slowly walk your feet forward, and as you do, begin to lay back until you can rest your head on the ball.
- Reach your arms back over your head, and keep your feet spread apart with knees bent.
- Roll backwards until you feel a stretch in the mid and lower back region and hold for 5-10 seconds.
- Roll until you are looking straight up and hold for 5-10 seconds.
- Continue alternating between these 2 positions for 8-10 repetitions.
(This is designed to reduce neck and shoulder pain.)
- Hold arms at the side with elbows squared
- Move scapula (wing bone) away from midline (spine) by tightening the Serratus Anterior muscle which attaches to your ribs at your side and under your scapula.
- Do not move your arms forward! Keep them in-line with your body.
- Reverse the process and tighten the wingbones together and repeat 5 times.
(This is designed to reduce neck, shoulder, arm pain and numbness.)
- Stand in doorway, arms stretched out to the side.
- Lean torso into doorway allowing a stretch in your pectorals (chest muscle) and shoulders.
- Repeat with arms outstretched overhead to stretch the other portion of your pectoral muscles.
Lower Crossed Syndrome
This condition is characterized with having tight hamstrings, tight psoas(deep abdominal Flexor), weak abdominals and weak gluteal muscles. This is a very common presentation for chronic low back pain/ buttocks and hip pain.
The following exercises and stretches are designed to correct this syndrome.
(These stretches are designed to relieve low back, buttocks and hip pain. This strengthens and trains the gluteus and low back muscles to contract in the correct order. This will stabilize the low back.)
- Lay face down and keep your knees locked.
- Slowly raise the leg contracting each muscle in order.
2. Glutues Maximus (butt)
3. Opposite side low back
- Repeat to the first sign of fatigue
Note: It is imperative that the low back not contract prior to the gluteus maximus
(Strengthens buttocks and quadriceps)
- Sit on ball, then walk forward (at the same time lie back) until just your head and shoulders are on the ball. Let your hips and knees bend and lower your buttocks
- Maintain a backward pelvic tilt as your buttocks until back ant thighs are horizontal. Do not arch back!
- Hold for 2-5 seconds, then relax lower buttocks and repeat 8-10 seconds.
- While holding bridge position, lift and strengthen one leg horizontal,
- Hole for 2-5 sec., then return foot to the floor.
- Relax lower buttocks, repeat and alternate sides.
(Deep abdominal muscle/thigh stretch)
- Go down on left knee and hold ball next to you on the right side.
- Lean forward and feel the stretch in front of left thigh.
- Raise left arm and side-bend to the right to increase the stretch.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
- Keep back straight and slightly bent backward
- Put one foot behind the other foot on an elevated surface.
- Keep knee at a 90degree angle and shift weight forward feeling stretch in the groin of the side of the foot on the floor
- Hold for 20-30 seconds.
(Straightens hamstring muscles)
- Lie along side a wall
- Walk the ball up the wall with the other foot until it rests behind the calf, keeping the knee straight.
- Slide the buttocks closer or further from the wall until a stretch is felt in the back of the thighs.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
(Strengthens low, mid, and upper back and buttocks)
- Roll the ball close to your hips, then lay chest over the top of the ball, relaxing your arms and neck. Maintain a backward pelvic tilt (keep abdominal and buttocks firm).
- Begin by extending your legs and raising your chest while you straighten your arms out in front of you. Like Superman.
- Your legs, torso, arms and head should all be in one straight line.
- Hold for 2-5 seconds, then return to original position.
- Repeat 8-10 seconds.