The #1 Technique you MUST learn after a Back Injury
Not every case of back pain is a chiropractic problem. New movement strategies are needed to build stability while healing takes place
I’m no expert on treating low backs. Although I have spent most of my time developing expertise in the biomechanics of the head and neck, a great deal of my patients come in with Secondary Conditions like low back pain, herniated discs, and sciatica.
While many of these people do get better quickly under my care (especially if it’s a chronic issue), sometimes as a chiropractor, we have to accept that some back injuries take longer to heal. While we are working on correcting the structure of someone’s spine, there are times when we just have to give the body enough time to heal. Part of that means teaching people how to move to prevent aggrevating their injury.
When you say that you have a back injury, chances are, you’re talking about a problem in one of your lumbar discs. Those moments where you bend over to pick something up, you feel a pop, and an almost crippling pain takes hold in your back or legs. Disc problems include herniated, ruptured, and degenerated discs. Disc problems are a result of something called Spinal Shear.
What’s Spinal Shear?
When we think about shearing forces, we usually think about objects rubbing together and wearing out. While we can never eliminate shear, we do have the power to reduce how much shear we are exposed to.
In order to do that, we have to understand that the more moving pieces we have, the greater opportunity for shear. When you add weight or load into movement, then you magnify the amount of shear that you have with a given movement.
The spine is made up of 24 moveable pieces. It’s what gives us the ability to be bend and be flexible, but it also exposes us to greater rates of injury. The more we can move our spine as one joint (especially weight bearing/under load), the more we can reduce shearing forces on the spine. Which is why we are going to be talking about abdominal bracing.
Don’t worry. You don’t need a six pack or take 8 weeks of core training for this to be effective for you. We’re talking about a movement strategy that turns your gut into an iron canister for critical moments in time, and you can use it effectively right away.
Abdominal bracing means engaging your core in such a way that you can only move your lumbar spine as a single unit. People often rely on weight belts and back braces to accomplish this. However, your back has a natural brace called your transverse abdominus muscle, that when utilized properly, can protect you for most normal daily activities.
Most people with back injuries struggle a great deal with tasks that many people take forgranted. Take standing up from a chair for instance. We can have sloppy spinal mechanics and organization when we feel okay, but this is tremendously painful for many disc patients, and they often feel like they look ridiculous doing such a simple task. We need spinal organization, here’s how.
Prepping to stand up/lift/sit/etc
Step 1: Take a breath in, and breathe out while tightening your stomach to push out remaining air. Resume normal breathing while keeping abs tight.
Step 2: Tighten your glute (butt) muscles.
Step 3: Keep your spine straight/upright
Step 4: Perform desired activity.
As you can see, this is excruciatingly simple, and easy to do. You’ll probably also notice that it’s almost impossible to have a slouched or overextended posture when you have this spinal position. Like my friends over at mobilitywod.com, it’s important to maintain a minimum 20% activation of your abdomen throughout your day. Whether you’re walking, sitting, talking, etc.
Here’s a secret….
This isn’t just for people who have pain. This can be used by anyone to sit/stand/lift, and it will protect their spine from damaging shear forces. It’s a common technique used by weight lifters to move extremely large weights in a short period of time.
If it’s good enough for a man lifting a thousand lbs, then it’s certainly good enough for the mom trying to lift her child, the dad trying to move the box, the grandma who just wants to stand up without pain, or the new crossfitter learning how to squat.
It just takes awareness and repeated conscious effort to become habitual. Once it’s a habit, then it simply becomes the way that you do things. That’s how you get long term results.