Lateral Flexion (Side Bend) Is The Best Lower Back Pain Treatment

Lateral Flexion (Side Bend) Is The Best Lower Back Pain TreatmentPILATES MAT EXERCISES FOR LOWER BACK PAIN

If you have lower back pain, then lateral flexion (also known as side bend) exercises are the best exercises for lower back pain.

Lateral flexion of the trunk (also know as side bend) is a movement that is rarely used in our day-to-day activities. Yet, go to any type of fitness class and you will find side bend stretches included for almost all warm-up and cool down routines.

This is because side bends help to improve lumbo-pelvic stability, provides lower back pain relief and trim your love handles. An unstable lumbo-pelvic area will lead to acute lower back injury, sharp lower back pain, spinal disc degeneration or even knee pain issues as the force from the feet is unable to travel up the whole spine.

Imagine if you stomp your feet hard on the ground and that force generated by the stomp get stuck in your lower back area instead of being cushioned by every vertebrae of your spine as the force travels up from ankle, knees, pelvis, lower back and upper back. You will experience lower back pain simply due to excessive pressure created when we walk or sit. The lower back vertebrae may also degenerate faster than other parts of the spine due to excessive erosion of specific lower back vertebrae when that pressure is unable to travel up to the upper spine.

A deep side bend also helps to open up the sides of your ribs, thereby allowing you to breathe deeper into the lower lobes of the lungs instead of shallow breathing. Shallow breathing may create tension in the neck and shoulders.

What muscles are involved in a side bend exercise that makes lateral flexion so important?

(Source: Health Appointments)

Last month, we covered the importance of having strong obliques and proper rotation patterns (Picture E). Our focus for this month is on Lateral Flexion of the torso (Picture D).

The primary muscles used in a side bend are: External/Internal ObliquesQuadratus Lumborum and the Erector Spinae.

(Source: Body Smart)

Quadratus Lumborum (QL) are muscles located deep in the sides of the lower back. Contracting one side of the QL results in a side bend, while contracting both sides of the QL muscle results in a spinal extension. The QL plays an important role in the stability of the lumbo-pelvic area as it connects the pelvis to the spine.

Erector Spinae (Spinalis Group) is a group of muscles that extends vertically up the length of your back, and are involved in both lateral flexion and spinal extension. Weakness/tightness in the Erector Spinae may result in overworking the QL muscles to pick up the slack, hence resulting in back pain. If left untreated in the long run, shoulder pain and kyphosis may also occur due to tightness in the QL, erector spinae and obliques.

Our body always tries its best to perform any movement we want. However, performing the movement correctly visually does not necessarily means that the right muscles are used to do the job. Any muscle compensation will lead to imbalances and ended up with back pain or knee pain.

Remember, your muscle is painful because it is overworked, not because it is weak! The overworked muscle is often the stronger muscle. If you push the stronger and painful muscle to work further, it will lead to injury or a total breakdown (sprain or tear) – so that it do not need to work anymore (same goes for our mind!). Hence, to relieve any painful muscle, you have to train the weaker muscle to start working to reduce load on the painful (and stronger) muscle. Once the weaker muscles tone up and share the load, the stronger and painful muscle will learn to work less and the ache will naturally go away! It’s almost like magic.

 

HOW CAN FLEXION OR SIDE BEND EXERCISES HELP ME?

Flexion helps to stretch and stabilise jumbo-pelvic area and relieve issues such as:
1. Tightness in your lower back that may lead to lower back pain
2. Acute lower back injury (eg some people can sprain their lower back with just a hard sneeze!)
3. Chronic lower back pain aka pain that is always there but cannot be diagnosed with MRI or Xray. Doctors will tell you, your back is fine. However, you know it is not fine since it is always sore! 🙁
4. Accelerate spinal disc degeneration. An unstable lumbo-pelvic area means an unstable spine and you may be excessively moving only particular vertebrae thereby causing premature spinal disc degeneration. A stable lumbo-pelvic area utilise the whole spine to perform the movement instead of only a few specific vertebrae
5. Knee pains – when the force from the ground (as you walk or jog) travels upwards from feet to ankles to knees to lower back and get “stuck” at the lower back area due to unstable jumbo-pelvic area, the force shoots right back to the knee instead of being cushioned by vertebrae of the entire spine. This is usually described as knee pain after a jog. If the jumbo-pelvic area is stable, the force travels up from lower back and cushioned up all the way to the upper back, thereby reducing pressure on any particular joint.

 

HOW TO STRETCH & STRENGTHEN IN LATERAL FLEXION TO REDUCE LOWER BACK PAIN OR KNEE PAIN

A basic stretch you can do daily at home is the seated mermaid.

  • Make sure to ground the opposite hip before reaching the arm overhead
  • If you are reaching your top arm to the right, make sure the right shoulder is not touching your right ear lobes. Shoulders should be relaxed.
  • Keep the chin away from the chest, and the collarbones nice and open
  • Reach the energy through the fingertips of the top hand to deepen the stretch
  • Repeat on opposite side

If mermaid seating is uncomfortable for you, perform this exercise in a cross-legged seated position instead.

To strengthen the muscles involved in lateral flexion, try the side plank:

  • Keep the elbow in line with the shoulder, hips stacked, feet flexed and together
  • Energize the legs, and reach the hips up to the ceiling.
  • Make sure shoulders stay away from the ears, especially when lifting the hips

If you find it difficult to balance with the legs stacked, bring the top leg forwards on the mat instead to increase stability.

Simply take 5 mins a day to do these 2 exercises daily (6-8 reps on each side) to increase lateral spinal flexibility and strength, and eventually build a better posture!

Here are some tips to ace this month’s side bend flow in class:

  1. Keep the hips square and stacked
  2. Shoulders relaxed and away from the ears
  3. Chin away from the chest, and chest nice and open as you go into a side bend
  4. Continuously reach and lengthen the sides rather than just pushing and holding
  5. Match your breathing to the movement to allow better core engagement and a deeper stretch

If you want to improve your lower back pain or knee pain, our Instructors can help you to accelerate your recovery and performance by using Pilates Reformer machines.

Give us a call/whatsapp us to book your next Pilates Reformer Flow class! See you soon!

Find out about the Flow Challenge and how you can get FREE CLASSES every month!

 

 WHATSAPP US NOW TO BOOK YOUR PILATES CLASS!

PRACTISE PILATES MAT EXERCISES FOR LOWER BACK PAIN AT HOME!

 

STRETCH DAILY WITH OUR MAT PILATES EXERCISES FOR LOWER BACK PAIN PART 4

 

STRETCH DAILY WITH OUR MAT PILATES EXERCISES FOR LOWER BACK PAIN PART 3

STRETCH DAILY WITH OUR MAT PILATES EXERCISES FOR LOWER BACK PAIN PART 2

STRETCH DAILY WITH OUR MAT PILATES EXERCISES FOR LOWER BACK PAIN PART 1

Do each of the exercises 8 – 10 times for each side. It will take you 5 – 8 minutes. You should do it on the floor with the support of a Yoga/Pilates mat or a soft towel on a carpeted floor. These exercises should not be performed on the bed! You can do these exercises first thing in the morning to increase flexibility of your spine or at the end of the day to stretch out those tired muscles.

If you want to improve your lower back pain or knee pain, our Instructors can help you to accelerate your recovery and performance by using Pilates Reformer machines.

Give us a call/whatsapp us to book your next Pilates Reformer Flow Class! See you soon!

 

 

Find out about the Flow Challenge and how you can get FREE CLASSES every month!

 WHATSAPP US NOW TO BOOK YOUR PILATES CLASS!

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