I just spent the greater part of last weekend in cars and airplanes, and my body absolutely hates me. My neck hurts, I have a headache, and my hip flexors are so wound up I can hardly stand up straight. Sound familiar? Here are the three exercises I hit immediately upon arrival at my destination after extended travel.
Start by lifting and lowering your head, with your elbows pulled in towards each other. For added intensity, lift and lower your head and hips at the same time, hinging over one of those three spots. Repeat 10 times per spot.
Want to ramp up this mobilization? Place the peanut on top of a yoga block or thick book, and follow the same steps as listed above.
Single Leg Bridges
What happens to your glutes and hamstrings when you sit on them in an airport for 5+ hours? THEY GO TO SLEEP. They shut off. They peace out. And once they're asleep, its a real pain in the you-know-where to wake them back up. This single-leg bridge variation is a great way to wake up your stubbornly sleepy booty so it doesn't miss out on all the holiday fun.
Lie on your back with one leg hugged in tightly to your chest. Press into the ground with your other foot, and lift your hips as high off the ground as possible. Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly lower. Repeat 10 times per side.
**Why the one legged variation? Great question. Glad you asked. When you hug the opposite leg in to your chest, your lumbar spine slightly flexes (hollows forward). When our low back is in this flexed position, it is almost impossible to use our low back muscles instead of our glutes- which is the most common “cheat” I see people do during a two-legged standard glute bridge. This variation makes it WAY harder to cheat!**
Hip Flexor Release
Sitting for hours at a time promotes tight and angry hip flexors. This is a great way to coax a nasty psoas out of its holiday tantrum.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Feel free to comment below, or let me know what YOUR go-to exercises are after a long travel day!
Contortionist: Caty Mae, Instagram: @catymaecircus
ATTENTION: Circus artists with back pain!
Here's a REALLY interesting (and SCARY) statistic on the NUMBER ONE PREDICTOR of if your have surgery for low back pain....
Yep. The number one predictor is HOW MANY SURGEONS ARE IN YOUR ZIP CODE!! Surgeons like to do surgery.
What's the second predictor? Whether or not you get an MRI.
Here's why: When you have back pain, you go to the doctor. Maybe urgent care, maybe your primary care physician, maybe the ER. That doctor does one of several things: refers you to a physio, gives you drugs, or refers you to an orthopedic surgeon. If you end up at an orthopedic surgeon's office, they will do an exam and either 1) send you to a physio, or 2) order an MRI.
Here's where issues arise. MRI findings are NOT always correlated to pain and dysfunction in the lumbar spine!! What does this mean? This means that disc degeneration or disc bulging is a normal part of the aging process.
Take a look at this chart. This study examined MRI's on over 3,000 people WITHOUT BACK PAIN. You can see that over one third of people over age 20 showed findings of disc degeneration, and 30% had a disc bulge.
Here's where the problem is: if you have back pain and end up with an MRI, your surgeon MIGHT say something like "you have a disc bulge. Surgery will fix this! Let's do surgery." This makes sense, right? Plus, there's something very comforting when, as an athlete in significant pain, someone offers a seemingly logical solution.
PUMP THE BRAKES
But what if the pain ISN'T coming from that disc? Then, you just went through a LOT of expensive imaging, had an invasive and risky procedure done, and it didn't even fix the problem.
To avoid this scenario (and potentially save A LOT of money), go see a PT. They might be able to offer a different perspective, and just might get you back on your apparatus quicker, more efficiently, and with more cash in your pocket.
Fun fact: The zip code with the highest incidence of surgery for low back pain is in Denver, Colorado!