January 28, 2021
Let’s be honest, if you’ve got lower back pain, you’re probably missing out on a lot of fun in life. Fortunately, here are a few simple tricks you can do at home, without any equipment, to improve, and hopefully, eliminate your low-back pain.
DISCLAIMER: Before following any advice given here, please refer out to a doctor or other medical professional.
What Causes Low-Back Pain?
Aggravation of the low-back usually occurs due to improper alignment, or if our mobility has been disrupted. Usually misalignment is caused by a previous injury, or by improper repetitive movement over time. As many of you know, it takes only one vertebra to be out of alignment to experience pain.
Discomfort also occurs if two or more vertebrae are stuck together. Consider that each vertebra has 4 joints/facets that are held together with tiny ligaments. That’s 20 joints that can be sprained or fixated potentially leading to aches and pains!
3 Tips to Reduce or Eliminate Low-Back Pain
You can resolve low-back pain at home by taking the proper steps. First, you’ll want to reduce any inflammation, if possible. This is beneficial to remedy joints, nerves, and soft tissue that are irritated, raw, and swollen, causing discomfort and/or aggravation. In particular, your doctor or chiropractor may recommend oral anti-inflammatory medication, applying ice and/or stretching.
Here are 3 tips that you can do in the comfort of your own home to try and remedy that pesky low-back pain!
Tip #1 – Your Low-back Wake-up Call
How you start your morning contributes to the flow of the rest of your day. Your initial actions when you wake up prepare your body for sitting, standing and moving about your day.
Here’s an example of how to stretch your low-back before you even get out of bed each morning:
- Lying on your back with legs bent, gently pull one knee toward your chest
- Relax your low-back muscles while holding this position for 3-5 seconds, or longer if desired.
- Slowly switch legs.
- Now, do the same thing, but bring both knees toward your chest.
- Repeat 5-10 times to wiggle free from stiffness
Tip #2 – Your Core is Key to Resolve Low-back Pain
Strengthening your back is obviously important, but it’s just as important to strengthen your entire core. All the muscles extending from your head to your pelvis deep within your trunk provide support for your spine.
Exercises to aid with low-back pain are those that provide simple, low-impact movement of the whole body. The more you move, the more your lymph and circulatory systems flow. This increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the joints keeping them healthy and removes waste products from your body.
Examples of Exercises for Mobility:
Specific Exercises for Building Core Strength:
- Pelvic tilts to create movement in the pelvis.
- Partial abdominal crunches lifting the head and shoulder blades off the mat.
- Crisscross, also referred to as Bicycles to strengthen the obliques
Give the core a hand by strengthening the glutes, quads and hamstrings with these exercises:
- Glute bridges to activate the glutes & hamstrings.
- Walking lunges
- Single leg deadlift
- Elevated split squat
On the other hand, if lying on your back to exercise is not comfortable, then perhaps getting down on all fours for:
- Planks, either low planks on your forearms or high planks with arms extended
Many exercises are beneficial and improve low-back pain but only if they are performed properly. Please be mindful when involved in the following to make sure your form is correct. If an exercise is too difficult to hold proper form, then modify the exercise appropriately.
Here are some exercises & behaviors you may want to be cautious of when dealing with low-back pain:
I know this may sound contradictory since I mentioned planks as a beneficial strengthening exercise above, however, ensure that you have proper plank form. To do this, align your body in a straight line from your head to your toes. If your low back sags or if you experience pain, try planks on your knees, elevated on a bench/chair or against a wall.
Although prone positions are beneficial for building core muscles, please use caution. Prone positions, such as Superman, can compress the spine by lifting your upper body and lower body too high off the floor. Instead, focus on making your body as long as possible by reaching with your fingertips and toes or lift only the upper body or lower body independently.
Exercises that pull on the low-back such as, trying to pick something up off the floor without bending your knees. This movement can strain your low-back, especially if you cannot comfortably touch your toes with straight legs and/or if your hamstrings are tight. In other words, the low-back tries to provide the slack necessary to bend farther and could increase the chance of injury.
Quick twisting movements
Remind yourself to engage your core to support the low-back before slowly rotating the torso.
Contact or high-impact sports
Even though these sports may be fun, there is a risk of injury to your low-back if your core is weak. Low-impact exercises where there is always a grounded body part (whether it be a hand, foot or even a behind) can build muscle for more strenuous activities.
Heavy lifting that compresses the spine
Lifting heavy weight can increase the chance of low-back injury, even with proper precautions. In fact, it is possible to build muscle using body weight or light weight exercises.
Tip #3 – Strike a Pose to Relieve low-back pain
Posture! Posture! Posture!
Be mindful of your posture whether sitting, standing or lying down by:
- Engaging the core to support the low-back
- Aligning your head with your spine by lengthening through the back of the neck and pulling your chin back so your ears are over your shoulders
- Slightly pulling your shoulders back and shoulder blades together
- Using lumbar support when needed
Granted, nobody enjoys a moment of “Ouch! My back!”, as it impacts our enjoyment of life. Starting with the wake-up call exercise above and following through with these simple tips will help improve your low-back pain by keeping your joints mobile and your core strong.
If you found this article helpful, please consider sharing it with someone suffering from low-back pain.
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And remember…small steps, big results.
Cathy grew up in NH surrounded by a large, loving family, where she learned generosity and hard work. She now models that for her two children. She was inspired to become a fitness coach when searching for ways to become more healthy herself after a life-threatening illness.
January 20, 2021
5 Tips To Turn That Winter Blues Into Summer Smiles!
Have you felt down, depressed, or even isolated around having to social distance due to the Covid pandemic? If so, this article may be JUST what you need to help you take the steps needed to turn your mood around! Below, I’m sharing five simple tips on how to fight depression, kill the blues, and have you springing out of bed with an extra kick in your step!
What is Depression?
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity which can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, motivation, feelings, and/or sense of well being.
According to a study from Harvard Medical School in July 2013, 1 in 10 adults struggle with depression.
And, right now in our current state of affairs, between Covid bringing isolation to many of us, the holiday’s, time change, and seasonal change, who isn’t feeling a bit stressed out and down?
Let’s talk about some things you can implement into your daily lives to combat these feelings of stress and depression!
Tip #1 – Stay Active
Staying active will give you a huge boost in feeling better!
Take the dog for a walk, join an organization, start exercising! Having something to look forward to will help with feelings of sadness or depression.
When you exercise, your body releases brain chemicals such as:
All of which give you that “feel good” boost, or “runners high”, as some like to refer to it as.
There are so many ways to incorporate exercise into your routine, and it doesn’t have to be crazy intense!
- Playing sports
The list is endless!
And, as a result, your blood pressure may lower, and if you have diabetes, the long term effects may even be reduced!
Exercise becomes even more beneficial in a group setting, such as a gym. There is positive reinforcement, the support of others, a sense of belonging, and simply having fun while seeing positive results physically. Over time, friendships can develop and it begins to feel like a family.
Tip #2 – Get Outside Daily
Try and get outside every day!
Take a walk in the fresh air, and feel the sunshine on your face. Even in the winter, we can bundle up and take in the cold, crisp air. There’s nothing quite as invigorating as fresh air!
Around 42% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, and studies have shown that low vitamin D levels may be correlated with depression. One of the best ways to increase your vitamin D levels? Natural sunlight!
Tip #3 – Do Something That Makes You Happy
Be sure to do things that you enjoy and make you happy!
- Read a book
- Have a cup of tea
- Do something for someone else
- Explore a new hobby
- Spend time with loved ones (virtually if necessary)
- Do something that is fulfilling or gives you purpose
- Volunteer your time
There are no right or wrong things here. Whatever makes you happy is where your focus should be, and we should always take pleasure in the things we enjoy!
Tip #4 – Laugh
Keep in mind to laugh, at yourself and others. Try not to take yourself too seriously! Laughter really is the best medicine!
- Watch a funny comedy movie or television show
- Listen to a funny podcast or stand-up
- Spend time with children – they’re always laughing!
- Play entertaining games with friends
Tip #5 – Keep a Journal
Journaling daily in the morning and/or at night is a great practice to get into. Especially if you’re feeling down or isolated.
Document these feelings! It’s a great way to get them out of your head, down on paper, and be able to reflect on them.
Don’t forget to write down any positive thoughts, as well! You can always look back on these as good memories. It may just spark the positive shift in mindset that you’re looking for!
The effects of these tips on depression is a positive one, not a cure, but it can definitely help with your overall well being. By incorporating these things into your daily life, you should see positive results, and fast! Implement even just one of these this week, and I promise you’ll see improvements in mood, sleep, mindset, and motivation. Slowly build off of that, and you’ll be kissing the winter blues bye-bye for good!
If you found this article helpful, please consider sharing with family and friends that would benefit as well!
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Danielle lives in mid-coast Maine after growing up in Boston, MA. She’s a nursing school graduate, and is currently working towards becoming a certified grief counselor. She also has her personal training certification through ASFA.
Danielle has run multiple half marathons, and has even completed 2 full marathons, including the Boston and Des Moines marathons.
Danielle loves to create a comfortable, fun, and relaxed environment in the gym, and is dedicated to making a positive impact on others, and helping people feel good about themselves while reaching their goals.