How many people do you come across on a daily basis who have back, shoulder or neck pain? And how many have hip, knee or foot pain? I wouldn’t say in all cases…but, in my experience as a therapist and trainer; I have mostly found the culprit to be our back.
Firstly, the back is not singular!
Back = Upper back with shoulder and neck + middle back + lower back
Therefore, stop treating it as one in training.
Like how a second bogie in a train follows the first – effortlessly, make your back follow all your movements, in the smoothest possible manner; and not only you will experience an effortless physical endeavour, owing to equal contribution from your back’s – upper, middle and lower; but you will also experience amazing swiftness in your pursuit.
I further believe that we cause hurdles within our body, by virtue of imbalance and misalignment owing to our actions; and therefore, we end up using one part more than the other.
Example: watch a fielder reaching to a cricket ball on the ground and throw. And since no two fielders perform this action in the same way, then there must be a difference in how they are using their muscles. Some players bend down more than others; some use their arms more than the other; and a few use their entire body equally! Apply that in any sports…no two sportsmen play alike and therefore, there exists a NEED to identify your requirements, and apply them in training.
Doesn’t that directly imply that if there is somebody using their muscles correctly; then there has to be some using theirs incorrectly!?
In this case, the technique will only work when you bend down in a certain manner, to a certain angle,to facilitate the pick and throw. It is not a matter of runs or wickets; this match is between your muscles! Therefore, there is a need to do something about those muscles which you are over or under using in an action.
The same occurs in football when a player plays with his head – how he uses his neck (angle he prefers) determines how he uses his upper back and how much lower back he is using? Or badminton, where a player while hitting overhead, uses his entire back to generate maximum power through the swing. But you will see several players who use more shoulders and upper back than lower back. Or in tennis where certain players overwork one of their sides completely, and differently?
In a game like hockey I don’t need to explain the overuse of back; and in basketball, a player uses his back in multiple ways. Even in a game like Golf, a player needs a good back support to help finish his swing coming from hip up through the body!
The science of ‘power’ doesn’t change even though some may use slightly different techniques to hit in different sports.
And don’t forget, outside of sports, in our everyday lives, we keep our shoulders and head titled forward in all our movements! This is the most probable cause of frozen shoulder or cervical or lower back pain.
My question today is: What do we do about it?
How do we do lower back stretches to make it flexible, if we are using lot of upper back in our actions? Or, if we open the middle back wherever we need to relax the lower?
How do we do anything extra to relax that part of the back which is overworked as compared to the other, which is under worked?
How much do we do to relax our back, compared to, how much we use it?
Any repetitive action will bring an imbalance in our body. I believe that we should attend to it by working on individual sections to bring the balance back in our body. Your overall BACK stretch, perhaps, is not enough!
Yes, we are blessed with amazingly flexible backs perhaps say, like a plastic water pipe. But if you keep the pipe folded and expose it wet to sun then, depending on its strength and quality, it will break one day. Think!!!…we also keep our back moulded one way or the other – whether on the sports field, in the office, or even the car!
Check your back….
Drill: Step 1: Do a back bend stretch and hold it for 15 seconds.
Step 2: Now do a side bend stretch and hold it for 15 seconds each side.
The pain or niggle that you must have felt from the above is a message from your muscles indicating all is not well!
Now bend forward for 15 seconds to bring the balance back.
My dialogue with a player:
P: Why my Back pains?
Me: Because you are not warmed up!
P: But, on a daily basis, we indulge in warming up our Back for a few seconds here and there and then test it out to its extreme!? How is our back taking it?
Me: Nope…it’s just not your back which is taking it! It takes some and passes it on, by not contributing fully in actions and hence contributing in other injuries.
P: But, I thought injuries happen because my muscles or my joints are weak in that region?
Me: Not necessarily! In your case for example: you have a knee pain because your lower back is stiff and doesn’t contribute much in your forward bend downs because of which you are putting more pressure on your knee joint every time you bend forward.
My article on hamstring injuries talks about this in detail:
The BACK is bound to get stiff because of our sport/activities/movements. Therefore, minor niggles or pain are bound to occur when you work on it. But how many of us make any effort to remove this pain completely?
Of course, you can argue that you can run fast even with tight lower back and glutes; however, the fact of the matter is: You Don’t JUST Run! It is not a marathon you are running on the field! You jump…you bend forward and backward…you move sideways…you swing your legs and arms, you are a Spiderman on the field in any sport; and all of it requires a flexible back beside other things. And of course, think when you relax your back in the entire day if you are an office goer? Sitting or lying on bed doesn’t completely relax your back as you can see in the above picture.
Isn’t it true that we only and only bother about bringing strength in our body, however it takes, and in the process we forget that some important areas of our body – BACK in this case, gets strengthened more when you make it flexible!
This is an excellent drill to open your back. Place your arms on the side (pay attention to the height! It should be comfortable to your shoulders)…pull yourself up-straighter from the middle back. Make sure your head is straight – not falling forward like in our normal sitting. Release the pressure from your arms (pressing on chair) without effecting the back. Sit tall and feel your muscles.
Add elasticity to your strength; and see yourself turning into a Turbo Power
Therefore, where it may not be possible to change your technique or body posture; the least you should do to nullify the damage is to make an effort to bring the balance back.
I am suggesting you – to give more time to your back, than you usually do; simultaneously focusing on the part/s that you want to relax or stretch. Treat upper, middle and lower back separately; and work on each part individually. Take whatever luxury you want; but reach out to the muscle that requires your attention. Example: in this picture, the focus is on the middle and upper back while simultaneously opening the shoulders. But if you were to do similar stretch for your lower back then just hold the band and swing backward as it pulls you. Keep the upper and middle back still…close your eyes, and just move backward from your lower back as the theraband pulls you.
(The pic shows Sangram Singh, a champion Indian wrestler: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sangram_Singh)
Learn the art of engaging and disengaging your muscles and you may not require any tools to capture your un-healthiness!