Have you had enough winter yet? Is your back sore from shoveling all the snow? What is interesting is that the source of this pain is usually not the low back. Usually other muscles are engaged that are not located in the low back but pull on the low back that are causing the problem.
One of the main muscles is the psoas and its twin sister the iliacus. These two muscles join in the pelvic floor and are called the iliopsoas. When we bend forward at the waist to pick up a shovel full of snow these muscles are engaged. As we work, we are often doing so from our dominant side. This torques the body and further compounds the problem. As this muscle works, it contracts and tightens. Because the psoas is connected to the low back from the front side, when it contracts it pulls on the low back causing pain. Of course after any physical exercise, stretching is good habit to help restore the muscle to its prestressed condition. Many people, however rarely do this and even so, the psoas is more difficult to stretch. But effective relief can be had in just less than 15 minutes. A well trained massage therapist knows how to access this muscle through the abdomen, the pelvis and even on the upper thigh.
Many people think the solution is to suffer and take aspirin. While this will numb the pain, the cause is still there. Overworked and stressed muscles can lead to chronic states of imbalance. Other muscles can also be involved such as the hamstrings, gluteals and quadriceps. When the gluteals or hamstrings are too tight on one side, they pull on the back and pelvis. This compresses nerves and blood vessels and impacts the vitality of our organs and immune system. At a minimum, because our muscles are out of balance, the chronic condition of contracted muscles uses more energy, and we feel tired.
To get immediate relief and help solve your structural problem, see a qualified massage therapist.
A snow shoveling tip: Try to balance your snow shoveling activities by shoveling from the other side of the body. If you normally turn the blade of the shovel to the left, then try switching hands and working with the shovel blade turned to the left. If will feel awkward but it will help minimize the imbalance caused by shoveling too much from one side.
Stretching tip: To relieve the pain of the lower back and ham strings,
1. Lay on the floor with your butt against the wall. Slowly raise your legs up the wall. Your gluts should be touching the base of the wall and your legs should be resting on the wall. Your lower back will be pressed naturally against the floor. Slowly flex your feet, keeping your kneecaps pulling up toward your pelvis and pressed back toward the wall. Keep the legs active and rest here about 1 minute.
2. Slowly separate the legs as far as you comfortably can, keeping your legs straight and against the wall. When your muscles relax you may want to use your hands to gently separate the legs a little further. Rest here about 1 minute. Bring your legs back together to the starting position straight up the wall.
3. Slowly bend knees and bring soles of feet together, keeping legs against the wall. Use your hands to gently press the knees back toward the wall. Hold this position for about 1 minute. Then roll toward the right and press your hands gently to the floor, push away from the wall and sit up. Notice how your back feels.
Namaste. Pat Krajovic
Pat Krajovic B.S., M.B.A., is the Co-founder and Director of BodyWorks Healing Center and the Global Breath Institute in Plymouth, MI. She is a nationally certified massage therapist with advanced training in alternative healing techniques (She was named “Best of the Best” for Massage by Allure Magazine). Pat is also a Master Trainer and Certified Facilitator for the Transformational Breath Foundation. She can be reached at BodyWorks at 734-416-5200 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.