During my junior and senior year of college, I had the awesome opportunity to serve as a student athletic trainer in the athletics department at UC Davis. As students, we helped monitor practices and the training room, including a rehab room for injured athletes. We spent so much time serving others and being concerned for their health and safety, that it was sometimes difficult to flip the script when you were the injured one.
During the summer, when the temperature would easily get over 100˚, we would fill large ice buckets for the teams to hop into after practice. Once all the athletes had finished practice for the day, we would dump the ice buckets out for cleaning.
I am super lucky to not have experienced many injuries in my life, but this one is seared into my memory. I twisted while pushing the ice bucket over and felt an immediate and sharp pain in my lower back. I finished cleaning up and then went into the athletic training room for some ice (Ice and its effects is a whole other story that we’ll have to get into another day 😉 ). Other than ice, I did nothing. I was a college student working two jobs in addition to school – the fact that I didn’t have money for a massage or any hands on therapy was negated by the fact that I also didn’t have free time.
The pain eventually subsided after a few days and I continued on with my regular routine. A few weeks later, however, I remember waking up and having a sharp pain on the outside of my foot, but couldn’t recall any specific injury to my foot. This continued for a few days before I really started paying attention. My mom encouraged me to go to a Physical Therapist – so I looked one up in my area and off I went.
I think one of the reasons I do what I do now was because my experience with this specific PT was not stellar by any means. I felt totally helpless, and was not satisfied with the “solutions” she was offering. I know that not every person is in their field because it is their passion and in every profession, there are people who do the bare minimum and act as if they are reading off a script. It happens with yoga teachers, medicine, lawyers, and education. With all that mind, when I was still not feeling any relief after few appointments and was totally frustrated, I did what any normal person would do – I tried to fire my PT and swore up and down that PT was a waste of time. (Can’t you tell I am an incredibly patient person!?)
I’m grateful that I’ve since met PTs and other manual therapists who are amazing at their jobs and go above and beyond. I am also grateful that I have now learned enough to have a dialogue with my healthcare professional that goes above and beyond “it hurts here.” I also strongly encourage you to continue to educate your self, just as I did, through reading of books, articles and taking classes so that you too can have a greater understanding of your body.
Many things have transpired since the summer of my back injury and I’ve learned a lot from my peers and teachers. Of course I wish I knew then what I know now, but thankfully, I have a blog to share it with you so that hopefully you can help yourself or someone you know!
Here are the basics – sitting is wreaking havoc on your body, but for many of us, it is inevitable. When I was in college, I hadn’t yet realized that my brain functions better when it is active (like standing) instead of slumping in the lecture hall. My sitting time was greatly increased with my primary mode of transportation, my bike, and the hours of studying. Today, I still sit daily, but try to keep it to a minimum. Things like driving and eating at the dinner table will always require sitting and I’m ok with that.
Focusing on just ONE piece of the sitting puzzle – having your hips in a flexed position for a long period of time shortens the deepest hip flexor, the psoas. After just a few hours of sitting, the fascias enveloping and penetrating the psoas are already remodeling themselves to be better suited for this new position. They don’t know that you are going to stand up, and if you’re like most Americans, you spend more time seated than you do standing. Your body is a reflection of the shape it spends most of its time in. Because the psoas connects to your spine at your last rib, the pain you’re feeling in your low back could have more to do with the tightness in your hips than you thought.
Knee To Chest is a ridiculously simple stretch that you can do to help alleviate the passive shortening in your hip flexors. You don’t even need a block to do it – a book or rolled up towels will do. Get fancy by pressing the foot on the wall into the wall and trying to drag it up towards the ceiling without actually doing so, which will create a PNF of the hip flexors.
Don’t believe me? Jill Miller (and Oprah!) think Knee To Chest is the #1 Stretch you should be doing before bed. Check out the video below for the how to!
It just so happens that my next workshop is on exactly this: Banish Back Pain. Join me this Saturday (November 7) at 2pm at Yoga Vibe at the Village for YTU Therapy Ball sequences to soothe your discomfort and exercises to help you rebuild a stable foundation. Hope you can join me!
- November 7: Banish Back Pain (Yoga Vibe at the Village, Glendale Ca)
- November 8: Tackle Your Tension: Total Body Treatment (Unfold Yoga, Brea CA)
- December 5: Mobility for Performance: Bulletproof Shoulders (CrossFit SolCity Hollywood CA)
- January 23-24: The Roll Model® Method Weekend (Evolve Yoga, Anchorage AK)
- February 5-7: YTU Integrated Embodied Anatomy Training (Black Dog Yoga, Sherman Oaks, CA)