Advanced Myotherapy Blog
As a teacher of yoga and a part of the Advanced Myotherapy team, I hear many unique bodily complaints. All are valid and deserve correct care and attention. Lower back pain is a common issue that often stems from multiple factors, which are individual and may be a sign of more serious issues. It is best to seek professional support so that you can fully understand the cause of your pain and eliminate the issue completely. Here I offer you some general tools that can be used in the recovery or avoidance of lower back pain.
You will need
-a comfortable quiet space
-a heated wheat bag
-a large sleeping pillow
To begin I recommend thermal therapy in the form of a large heated wheat bag. Place the wheat bag along the ground and arrange your lower back to lie onto the heat. Lay down on your back, with the head in line with the spine, arms a little away from the body, the knees bent and the feet wider than hip distance apart. The knees can fall into one another here to flatten the lower back and align the spine.The heat will allow the lower back to relax and prepare muscles for lengthening. Close the eyes, breathe deeply into the abdomen and focus on the movement and sensation of your breathing and your body.
Now that you are centred and the muscles relaxed we can safely work on some stretching and strengthening exercises.
The mula bandha, or root lock, plays an important role in the stabilisation and posture of the entire spine. Activating it takes the pressure off the lumbar spine. Here’s how to locate this specific muscle area. Men contract the area between the anus and the testes while women, contract the muscles at the bottom of the pelvic floor, behind the cervix. To begin with contract the whole network of muscles in this region. With practice, guidance and awareness you can get more specific. For now stay in your lying down position, remove your wheat bag, check that you are comfortable and explore the contracting your mula bandha. Work on activating, holding for 5 seconds with steady breath, then releasing for 10 seconds with steady breath. Do this 5 times, or any other amount that is comfortable for you.
Pavanamuktasana – wind relieving pose
Keep the spine and back of the head on the ground and draw the knees into the chest, bringing the hands to the knees to squeeze them into the trunk of the body. You can spend some time circling the knees around to massage the lower back on the ground. This pose will help to gently lengthen the spine, relieving tension in the lower back, hips and thighs that can lead to pain and poor alignment.
Supta matsyendrasana – reclined spinal twist
Now make sure your pillow is close by, place the feet on the ground as close to the buttocks as possible, and let the knees fall over to the right side of your body. The knees are stacked on top of one another and can be supported by a pillow if they don’t comfortably meet the ground. Reach the arms out wide in opposite directions and in line with the shoulders, keeping both of your shoulders in contact with the floor. Then turn the head to gaze over the left, creating a complete gentle spinal twist. When moving into the stretch be mindful of sensation and practice full embodiment – being present in your body.
(3 minutes per side)
Bidalasana – cat cow posture
Consciously move from a supine position into a comfortable table top position. Check the alignment of the joints – wrists (or fists for those with wrist pain) directly below shoulders, knees below hips (maybe a blanket under the knees for knee discomfort) and the feet in line with the legs. Elongate through the crown of the head and the tailbone in opposite directions. Inhale to drop the belly and draw the tailbone and gaze upwards (cow pose), pause to breathe into the stretch then exhale and arch the back, draw the navel and mula bandha in, reaching the crown of the head towards the tailbone (cat pose). When you are comfortable with the two poses you can move comfortably with your breath deep and slow breath between the two. Inhale to cow, exhale to cat. Maybe close the eyes to focus inwards here. This allows for the expansion of self awareness and prevents injuries by helping you explore and honour your own boundaries.
Open the knees wide, sit the hips back onto the feet and begin to walk the hands and upper body forward until the forehead can rest on the floor (or stacked fists). Arms can be supporting the forehead, stretched forwards in front of the head or down beside the body. Take the support of a cushion under the pelvis and belly if you need. This is one of Yoga’s most restorative postures and will help relieve the stress and tension that often comes with pain as well as the physical tightness in the lower back.
Savasana – corpse pose
Finally lay down on your back, take a cushion under the knees, and cover your body with a blanket. Now extend the legs down hip distance apart and let the feet flop to the sides. Bring the arms a little away from the body with the palms facing upwards and the head in line with the spine. Finally tuck the chin slightly into the chest to lengthen the back of the neck and close your eyes. This is the best way to finish your practice and offers the opportunity to relax on all levels. Focus inwards on your breathing and allow the body to be still, tension free and open to receiving all the benefits of your Yoga practice.
(5 -10 minutes)
A few tips..
– Try to practice these postures daily
– If pain or discomfort is experienced through this sequence discontinue and see myself or one of the therapists at Advanced Myotherapy
– Your sleeping position is important to get right when it comes to lower back pain. Try adjusting your sleep posture to savasana with a cushion under the knees or a side sleeping position with the spine in a straight line and a cushion between the legs.
– Avoid all unconscious lifting and bending. Always move with a straight spine and when squatting activate the mula bandha and core to project your spine.
– Learn how you sit, stand, and move in a way that keeps your spine in proper alignment and alleviates strain on your back.
Most importantly, make space in your life for your pain. It is present and means that something needs attention. Don’t numb the pain or try to push through it, honour the pain, adjust your lifestyle and try to allow it for what it is. A chance for healing, an opportunity to build on your self-understanding and self-compassion. The more you look after and love your body, the incredible vessel for your being, the richer your life experience will be.
By Hannah Beggs
Hannah teaches Myo-Balance classes in the Advanced Myotherapy Rehab room and is a Yoga Alliance registered Hatha Yoga instructor. She came to Yoga when she was traveling through Nepal with her family at the age of 16. She has been expanding her understanding of the ancient Indian natural sciences since this time.
After using Yoga and meditation to heal her own physical, mental and spiritual imbalances Hannah decided to study in India to become a teacher and share the practice with those who understand the value of health and wellbeing through alignment.
At the heart of her teaching journey is the love for guiding people back to alignment with their best version of their perfectly unique glorious selves.
After care is such an essential element of successful body therapy such as Remedial Massage and Myotherapy. At Advanced Myotherapy, our key focus lies in the value of Self Care as a vital aspect of muscle health and pain management solutions.
If you want to get the most out of your visit and treatment at our clinic or for Massage, Myotherapy and body work in general, there are some important things to remember that can make a big difference to how much you get out of the treatment.
Drinking plenty of water is so important because it helps flush out the toxins that are stimulated in treatment to be released. If not enough water is in the body, people can end up feeling “giddy” and not so great, so hydration is vital.
Basically it’s a good idea to refrain from intense workouts for a couple of days after a session, however moderate movement and gentle exercise is a great idea to maintain.
Sometimes you can be sore for a couple of days after a treatment, which is normal however if pain persists or worsens it’s recommended that you discuss this with your therapist so that follow up care and treatment can be arranged.
A hot bath or shower as well as the use of heat therapy (using a wheat bag) will help relax any residual pain and stiffness after a treatment. You may also self massage therapeutic massage oil into painful areas to assist in relaxing the muscles.
Ask your therapist which products and oils might bet suit your needs. If your pain is posture related, it is important to be aware of posture following treatment. You may also like to ask your therapist for posture shoulder strapping, to help support the upper body, bringing the shoulders back to take pressure off the neck and shoulders.
We offer this as a complimentary service for existing clients who are in either a Maintenance Care Package or 30 Day Posture program.
Upper back pain can be reversed by aligning the upper body for postural balance. Here are a few simple things you can do yourself at home using things you might have around the house.
Using a rolled up towel and a ball, you can lengthen the muscles of the chest and soften the upper back muscles to bring the shoulders back and take pressure off the spine.
You can also use a doorway which is a stretch we recommend our clients do to reverse poor posture from rounding shoulders, to open the pectoral area. This is a great stretch to help release any tension in the chest to take stress off the shoulders, causing any upper back pain.
As a Myotherapist and people seek my help when pain develops from postural dysfunction and injury.
Here are 6 simple and practical ways I frequently recommend my clients routinely use to gain the most from their body and prevent the ongoing need for medical intervention and drugs for pain.
1. Sleep on your back
Side and stomach sleepers suffer with more pain from their dominant positions leading to rounding (internally rotating) shoulders and neck tension. Sleeping on the back (aside from during pregnancy) is the best way to prevent poor sleep posture and pain down the track.
2. Balance daily activities
Using technology devices like phones and computers and working in various trades, can often lead to overuse of particular muscle groups. Myotherapist work with people in educating them around how to correct and reverse posture related pain through self care.
Using a foam roller or tightly rolled towel under the spine while laying down relaxing at the end of the day, is a great way to open the shoulders, chest and heart centre, to bring the shoulders back into alignment.
3. Strengthen your core
The very basic action of consciously bringing the stomach up and in, works to develop core integrity. Core strength, supported by strong gluts and a strong pelvic floor, is particularly important during and after pregnancy.
This helps not only prepare for physiological birth, but speeds recovery from pregnancy pressure and softening. Recovering strength in the core is particularly important for mothers to help prevent and reduce any weakness associated lower back pain.
Bringing the spine flat to compress transverse abdominal muscles to engage the stomach, is a fantastic discipline to incorporate into your regular routine for core strengthening exercise.
Including squats to build strong gluts also goes a long way to maintaining a strong pelvic floor to prevent imbalances leading to other postural related problems later.
4. Stretch slowly and often
My advice is simple. Lengthen and strengthen. Keeping the muscles not only strong, but also long and stress free, allows for a better range of motion and mobility long term. This is especially important for those who play sports and train for both strength and endurance.
To prevent learning the hard way with muscle tears, sprains and injuries, the best method of active recovery is to spend sufficient time regularly stretching.
Slow stretching is a deeper, more gentler way of increasing flexibility and joint mobility essential for long term musclulo-skeletal health.
5. Balance your pelvis
The main hip flexor has a lot to do with the pressure placed on the lower back. Lower back pain often develops as a result of the main hip flexor (iliopsoas) shortening over time when sitting too long, too often or from simple stiffness and fatigue.
Stretching out the quads leading into a deeper hip stretch regularly will go a long way in preventing hip flexor shortening = causing an anterior pelvic tilt, = leading to lower back pain.
6. Use heat to melt muscles
Unless you suffer from arthritis that is triggered by heat, rather than cold, using heat therapy works magic to melt muscle tension.
Helping to restore original muscle length through relaxing the area and restoring blood flow, heat application to a muscle group brings great relief from built up tension and pain.
Incorporating these simple steps can greatly reduce muscular pain (a large percentage of pain is muscular), so until your next visit to a Myotherapist, I hope these practical tips are as powerful for you as they have been for many of my clients over the years.
Matthew Cleary – Founding Director
Matthew Cleary is a Myotherapist of over 15 years and is the co-author of Self Care Medicine. As the Founding Clinic Director of Advanced Myotherapy based in Melbourne Australia, he works to educate people in self care as a preventative approach to chronic and acute pain conditions.
Currently Matthew is collaborating to produce and develop a number of training programs for both Self Care and Posture Transformation as well as Practitioner mentoring, to offer an industry benchmark for fellow Myotherapists and Remedial Massage therapists.
The power of stretching is often greatly underestimated. Often people can be unaware of the need to spend sufficient time holding stretches correctly and gently, so as to gain the full potential possible from their routine.
All stiffness and pain in the muscles is experienced as a result of poor blood flow, circulation and range of motion, which is limited due to a lack of movement and tightening of the muscle tissue. Stretching is the most fundamental form of exercise in keeping the muscles soft, flexible and also strong in the long term by increasing the flow of energy and blood throughout the body, thereby enhancing vitality, well being and structural integrity.
Approaching the colder weather (as we are here in Melbourne) increases the need for self care dramatically!
So many people suffer with cold related pain due to the fact that with the cold, comes muscular stiffness. Pain in general is a “cold” type of condition where stagnation persists. This is something that Myotherapy works wonders for, reducing stiff muscles, restoring blood flow, movement and increased range of motion to the working muscles.
Often the first complimentary therapy we incorporate into our clinic treatments is “heat”. Quite simply heat allows the muscles to relax and helps to restore the natural length of the muscle, while taking pressure off the affected joints at the muscles origin and insertion.
Wheat bags are one of the most effective ways of using heat therapy, allowing the weight of the heat to sit resting in the tight area, while literally “melting” the pain way. We know in labour while a women is giving birth, heat is an incredibly well known tool in pain reduction.
Just recently one of our lovely clients Stephanie, reported that the midwives present at her birth, were really impressed with the wheat bags she was using (from our clinic) relaxing her during labour.
So as you can imagine, if heat has this kind of power…then it’s certainly something we recommend as a Myotherapy clinic, to many of our clients as a way of management and preventing pain! Our spine length, locally (& lovingly) made lavender and wheat bags can be purchased from our online store.
Please remember also, though you may already have a wheat bag, they do need replacing every so many uses, as wheat eventually needs refreshing after so many “cooks”.
The best way to increase the longevity of your wheat bag, is to ensure you have a small cup of water in with the bag while heating it up. This way, you will be able to use it for a lot longer. So until next time, we hope you get plenty of use out of yours, to help combat this coming cold weather.
From the common “text neck” and wry neck to other incredibly increasing lifestyle induced pain symptoms, we have found many of our clients come to us not knowing how to reverse such triggers beyond just treatment alone.
The secret to empowering these clients long term, has often been in the self care education we provide, applicable to the unique individual and what is causing their pain.
Our clients tend to inform us that the ultimate “difference maker” is the knowing what to do, how to take care of their own body, and why the pain originally developed.
Persistent, recurring pain such as migraines, headaches and neck pain is largely triggered by activities of daily living which a thorough assessment will uncover. Reversing such habits and correcting the posture to reduce and alleviate this pain is our focus at Advanced Myotherapy. We believe this is exactly why people are referred to us for such pain. Read below to find out what just a few of our clients have experienced from Myotherapy for migraines…
“After over a decade of pain and countless practitioners I finally found Matt at Advanced Myotherapy. In 3 sessions I have learnt so much about what is causing my problems, have been given so many techniques for managing my back problem and my monthly migraine for the first time was only a mild headache and that was only after 3 sessions! I am looking forward to the future which Matt tells me will be migraine and back pain free. Thank you Advanced Myotherapy Angels!!!” Kimberley
“Matthew at Advanced myotherapy helped me become migraine free! I was having several migraines a month and had to take strong painkillers, leave work abruptly and shut myself in the dark for 24hrs. Matthew found an issue with my neck which was causing the problem. He also taught me to self manage and I now know how to recognise symptoms and care for my health much better! THANKS ADVANCED MYOTHERAPY! :)” – Elle Martin
“I have been going to Advanced Myotherapy for 8 years and with all of my chronic neck issues, related to the work I do on computers, I understand what causes it to worsen and how to reduce the pain naturally without using drugs. Understanding it has made the world of difference as when it flairs up, I know not only what to do but also where to go.” – Sean Ryan