Let's be honest, I am not the best blogger out there. The chance you will find some gramma mistakes is really high. One day, I read a random comment on my FB post where a lady said: "Ohh what an awful English". Oh well, I do apologise and feel that it will take me another decade to get better but I still like to use "the second language" excuse as my defence. So please, if you will see anything which doesn't sound like English, don't give up on me and keep reading 🙏.
It's everywhere around me and I bet you also know someone struggling with lower back pain or LB discomfort.
As a movement coach and someone who is passionate about LBH (Lower Back Health) I am a fan of collaborating with different types of specialists - both professionally (refer in) and personally. Physiotherapist, Osteopaths, Chiropractors and even Nutrition Coaches have a lot of in their arsenals to contribute to this widely epidemic issue. I would like to think that there is a mutual relationship between al of us because we all have strategies which are unique and can definitely help.
This post is based on my own story. What is working for me currently and what I have to do to move well. To be in constant pain isn't fun for anyone. Sure, not everyone is the same but in the end you might find some similarities with me and hopefully my strategies will help you to make some small improvements. Also, I want this to be an easy to understand and applicable so I will leave behind all technical terms and science.
LET'S BEGIN HERE
From very early years - precisely four - the sport was going to become a big part of my life. What sport I wasn't sure yet but my dad (thanks dad❤️) made the decision for me when he bought me my first ice-hockey skates. If I would have known how these 'coffins' will change my life.
Growing up, I spent literally everyday in the hockey arena and continued up until I reached a senior teams. Due to my height and robust body composition I was always 2-3 years ahead of others in my age. When I was 16 I played for a senior team. Ice-hockey is still the only "thing" I miss from Europe and I dream about playing the game almost every night 😳.
I retired at age of 28 due to exhaustion and small series of injuries.
I know that one day I will install a shooting board, get a few of my favourite sticks and will shoot as a part of my workout. It's in my blood. I LOVE it.
OK you are probably saying, "nice story bro but how this is linked to the LBH"? Well, I am a big believer of the theory that feet/footwear are one of the main contributors to LBH.
Of course, there are a number of disruptors which are involved in the game, however if you wear boots daily for more than 20 years which don't allow you to move your ankles, they are completely flat and have a minimal space for your toes to spread, sooner or later you will run to some pretty serious consequences. Too much too often = injury.
When I moved to Australia I was 32, my back was still in pain and I had days when I could not walk or get up off the ground. I had to take painkillers to make things happen and trust me, I am not a huge fan of them at all. Surprisingly, the pain usually came at its worst prior to some big events such as mentorship, workshops or presenting. Any guess why...?
The boat really only started to turn around for me about 4 years ago. More on those strategies soon...
WHAT ARE OTHER HIDDEN CONTRIBUTORS TO LOWER BACK PAIN
What else is standing between me (you) and lower back comfort? The short answer is LIFE and its environment. Here are just a few, often overlooked, factors that contribute to the lower back discomfort:
too much sitting, too much standing = repetitive movement
soft/ hard bed (I don’t like soft)
too much movement, not enough movement = repetitive movement
lack of hydration
stress, fear, anxiety (this is big one)
poor breathing habits
inappropriate footwear selection
lack of self-care strategies
bad walking/running pattern (biomechanics)
HOW TO DEAL WITH LBH
So, the main question is what can we do? The points below are all are important for me but I can imagine they could be a part of your life too.
1. CHILL OUT 😂
WAIT! Don't give up on this post just yet 🙏. As you might know we reside in a cute town near Byron Bay. Those who visit Byron Bay know, that prior entering the town there is a sign saying "Cherry Up - Slow Down - Chill Out".
Yes, you can say it's related to speed but knowing people in this town I would bet that it's also about to rest, being present and not worrying about "things". Hippie? Maybe but pretty powerful in the world we currently live in.
Don’t take life too seriously, have fun and enjoy every second of it. Keeping stress out of our life is the number one goal not just for LBH but for health in general.
The human body doesn't like anxiety and fear. The more anxious and stressed we are the more our movement is affected and then, it's like a domino effect (back to the beginning when I got the pain before big events?). Hence why I value breathing, mindfulness and meditation practices. I usually do all of these for 3-5 minutes every day .
Up in the Whitsundays I had to drink gallons of water and it wasn't enough. People don't know this, but one of our reason in the PROS collumn for moving down south was getting away from the heat and humidity. I couldn't bare it up north. Thank you to my incredible wife for making sacrifice as she is now frozen in the winter ⛄️.
(We wouldn't have to go as far as to NSW to feel better but we fell in love with this place.) My body isn't as dry as it used to be but I still need more than normal amount of water to keep my body hydrated. Exercise without hydration is like driving the car without the wheels. Your fascia needs to be moist to function well.
As a side note, I mostly drink just a water but occasionally, like today, I pick up freshly pressed turmeric, carrot, orange juice from our local cafe Top Shop (don't forget to visit next time).
3. SELF - CARE ROUTINES
No way, I can't imagine two days in a row without my favourite routines. These are paramount to my health and longevity. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury to skip many consecutive days. My body would react instantly and even though last few years was a bliss, I still need to separate at least 5 minutes to feel better. But don't over do it - remember, just right...
In the morning, I generally start with some extremely basic moves such as shoulder circling, hips driving, hands reaching, vibrating and/or body tapping. Then, I use ViPR PRO to create more space in the spine and finish off with more dynamic mobilisers for my hips and spine.
The great benefit of this routine is that it creates hydration around and some necessary blood flow.
At night, I will calm things down with some breathing coupled with restorative poses and specific spine exercises for L4-S1.
When I travel, I recently updated my travel kit of a vibration sphere from Hyperice ) and Apple watch set up at to 60 minutes movement mark.
Whilst waiting for the plane I try to mobilise, stretch and vibrate - yes in front of the people, which often gets a few weird looks. These all are not a results of fashion. It works for me and without them my body wouldn't be the same. I have to do this. I commit to it. As a reward I feel better, healthier and resilient.
Ok but the most important part of this section?
DON'T SKIP THE ROUTINE AND MAKE IT VARIABLE
4. HIP DE-COUPLING (HpDC) & WARDING PATTERNS (WP)
There is a lot I learned from the Institute of Motion team however HpDC and WP made a huge difference - sustainable change.
To crate the right amount of space in the body is a vital step to achieve healthy spine and body in general. The pain free movement is all about having enough space in the body and allow internal segments to move into that space cerated. If there is not adequate space between each structures, it's a problem.
So with the HpDCs you create, very subtle, but significant space between your SI joints, sacrum and S1/L5. That space is, as I said, very subtle because sacrum can move only up to 2-3 mm but this is enough for the sacrum to move multi-directionaly plus your movement can be transferred up to L4, L3, L2. and higher which is a winning scenario for lower back region.
Below is one of the drill related to Fip- Decouple.
WARRDING PATTERNS, a lot of people train core strength for LBP prevention. I train core to be sensitive. The idea behind sensitivity is to create muscle tension (turning ON) but immediate relaxation (turning OFF) so we can move with rhythm and timing.
Our muscles don’t like to be engaged for very long... Muscular system is energy extremely expensive and if muscles are engage for too long they get easily injured. Try to squeeze your butt and walk, or brace your core and rotate like you would play tennis. What is the quality of movement look like?
The relationship between relaxation and tension is what I love the most. It allows me to achieve better timing (joint timing) and rythm flow. Every time I get some mild pain I simply try to relax into the movement. OMG this really works!!!
The pain is an output from the brain so if you are guarding, or you are under the anxiety or stress, your body becomes rigid and this impair your movement ability.
WP are one of the top strategies for teaching muscles-fascia-nerves to share responsibility. We teach bunch of the Wardings at our annual IoM Mentorships or the workshops around the world.
5. BONE BROTH / Nutriton
Nutrition, the right nutrition is the key part of my LBH. Same like exercise, also in nutrition I believe in variability. Have you heard us saying VARIABILITY IS SPECIFICITY? Out of the topic, things are much easier for me now as I married a woman who understands nutrition and have super practical approach. Am I selling her? Yes, and why not she 's my wife and I believe what she does. Find out more here.
Bone Broth is something very special. I feel the long lasting impact of bone broth on my health hence we are always sure we have enough in our fridge. Everyone who is making broth at home will agree that you must really like it to do it regularly. Again, at Byron we are spoilt.
We have the luxury to access BB in many different forms. Even when I am travelling. And if you are still searching for tasty Bone Broth recipe .
6. HANDS ON
This is my new addition on the "better do bro " list. No amount of rolling, stretching or movement will replace the hands. Hands on therapy has many benefits and should be a part of everyone's program. I personally feel that I need it once a month but I can easily imagine it more often.
So far, I experienced massage therapist, physiotherapist work and magics of osteopath. They all have different strategy and skills.
So, here you go. These are my most important strategies to keep my lower back healthy. However like with everyhting, consistency, pasion and intention will mostly liley create the final ever-lasting outcome.
Thanks to my passion and consistency I can continue to get this body to function on the highest possible level for life :).
These are all essential self-care steps for better back health and movement.
Be Healthy Before Fit.