Q. Hello Sukie,
Thank you for your efforts in trying to make us more flexible and relieve us from our backaches.
For my part, I’ve been suffering from lower back pain in the night and immediately prior to leaving the bed in the morning. The pain would disappear after a few minutes once I was up. It’s been like this for several years now. I went to a massage therapist, a physiotherapist and a osteotherapist without much results. The only thing that seem to work is stretching the muscles attached to my lower back but i just started that a week ago, just before stumbling onto your blog.
On top of that, a few times a year without really knowing why, I hurt my back with as a result a really sharp pain in the middle of my back about an inch left of the spine. The pain is worst when I try to lower my head. And it would last for a few weeks at a time.
Thanks for reading this description of my back problems and I will continue to try the exercises in your videos.
You’re on the right track with the stretching of your back muscles. Dynamic movements are even better, like the traditional cat/cow spine mobilization from yoga. Motion is lotion – it’s said so often that it’s a cliche, but it’s true. When you move your body, you’re pumping fluid into the tissues which brings nutrients to your cells and flushes waste products away. Movement lubricates your joints like adding WD-40.
If your back is feeling stiff at night, you might try adding some heat for 30 minutes or so and then performing some gentle movement and stretching exercises.
Most people wake up a little stiff in the morning. You shouldn’t be in pain and you should feel loose after you’ve been up and moving around for 10-15 minutes. If not, you probably have some systemic inflammation going on. Take a look at your diet and make sure you’re not eating processed or chemical laden foods. Alcohol can also be a culprit, even small amounts, particularly if you’re sensitive to it. White flour and white sugar are the biggest culprits.
You can also add in some anti-inflammatory foods like ginger and turmeric. I love adding fresh ginger to a big glass of green veggie juice because it’s the fastest way for the body to absorb it. You can also take a teaspoon or so of fresh, chopped ginger, but it is really spicy!
As for the pain in the left side of your back, it sounds like a rib dislocating. Ribs are flexible and move in and out of their joints at the spine fairly easily. If your hips are out of balance or your spine is twisted or rotated, the ribs will also be twisted and more likely to “pop out.” You might be able to keep this from happening by balancing your body through strength training and stretching, but you might also need the help of a qualified bodyworker to get things realigned. Rolfing or structural integration is really effective for taking these twists and rotations out of your body.
Q. Was asking about my head being tilted forward – been working at opening my chest (I’m a woman) it’s working great and maybe as a result my head is tilted forward- asking what can I stretch to have it aligned with my shoulders –
The video with the dowel is straining my trapezius and then maybe it should until I get looser?
Opening your chest shouldn’t worsen head forward posture. Without looking at you, I can’t say for sure what’s going on, but it might be that your rib cage is depressed. When the rib cage collapses down on your hips, it usually causes your belly to pooch forward and your upper chest to get flat. You might develop a kyphosis in your upper spine – increased curvature of the mid back, like the beginning of a hunch back.
The rib cage collapses down and then your head has no support. The neck is forced into a forward angle and the head rests in front of the midline.
To fix this, work on exercises that strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades, your rhomboids, latissimus, and serratus posterior inferior. Serratus anterior is also a good one to work (the muscle under your armpits). Rows and push ups are helpful for these but make sure you sit up straight and don’t hunch your back or you’ll just be making the problem worse.
Also, strengthening your abdominal muscles will help to support your rib cage. For this, I love carrying weights overhead. You can start with crosswalks – lock one weight out in your right arm and hold another weight at your side in your left hand. Walk for as far as you can (try for about a block) and then switch sides. You’ll be engaging every muscle in your body to support the weight.
Note: You have to use a heavy weight that’s challenging to get any benefit from this! For some people, that might be 15 lbs. For others, it might be 50 lbs. But pink 2 lb dumbbells aren’t gonna do it.
Q. Hello Sukie, Nice to meet you. I am 56 yr female that has just discovered I have Tietze’s syndrome. I am not sure if you can help. Rib movement of any kind while symptoms are aggravated is not suggested. Maybe this would be helpful after inflammation goes away.
I’m honestly not personally familiar with Tietze’s Syndrome. However, it appears that it’s periodic inflammation of the costal cartilage and the causes are not well understood.
If I were you, I would focus on decreasing inflammation in my body and mobilizing my joints when not experiencing an inflammatory episode. You can mobilize joints from the inside out by taking them through a full range of motion, but you would want to start slowly to make sure the movement didn’t exacerbate your pain. It would probably be best to find a movement specialist in your area who could work specifically with you.
Adding anti-inflammatory foods into your diet might also help, but you definitely want to be working closely with a holistic or naturopathic doctor on this. Herbs like ginger and turmeric are powerful and might interfere with medications.
Q. Hi Sukie,
I am just frustrated with not being able to move comfortably. I was an athlete growing up…playing football, basketball and baseball in high school. Injuries started to pile up and not having trainers on staff meant we just sort of played through injuries or rehabbed them on our own. Fast forward 12 years and now I am almost 30 but my body feels like it is 60!! I go to yoga, lift, do calisthenics, just started with kettlebells and I run. I am trying to figure out what my best course of action is to not only get in shape and shed some fat, but also move efficiently and pain free and not feel like a stiff tree anymore!!
Looking forward to your emails and reading through your blog.
You’re on the right track! I’d also suggest looking into dynamic joint mobility to help restore your range of motion and cutting back on inflammatory foods like sugar, white flour, starchy foods, fried stuff and anything processed. Add in a ton of green veggies and you should notice a difference right away.
You might also back off on the workouts, give your body time to heal. This is the hardest thing for athletes, but rest is super important, especially when you’ve had a lot of past injuries. Maybe mix in a few active recovery days, days where you work with things like Indian Clubs (not club bells but the super light Indian Clubs designed for mobility) and do gentle yoga. By gentle yoga, I mean the class for senior citizens! No flow yoga or power yoga on those days. You just want to move your body extremely gently and let it recover from your activity.
You will actually see better gains by backing off.
Q. Hi Sukie,
Not really sure where to start…so I need some time to take it all in. I’m 44 love my life however really crazy down lately because I’m stuck in a major rut of no energy, drinking way too much alcohol using the excuse that’s it’s my escape from my kiddos! Got no energy, and have sooo many resources to turn to but have remorse each time over the confusion of where to start. Way too many choices and my “ADD” sets in and I do nothing but the same thing I did yesterday out of bad habit. I start out ok in the morning and by nighttime I’m volcanic in my own explosion of anger. I have an amazing husband, great family and sometimes need to pinch myself because I have it all and deserve none of it…In any event, I’m praying that all the confusion in my head can be sorted out and I could start feeling better and focused on living clean & well for the sake of all my loving peeps. I love Kris Carr’s emails and wisdom and have been addicted to Oprah’s lifeclass/masterclass ie. Feel like Tom Shadyac and want to run from all this worldly chaos of so many American choices. In any event, I need to detox really soon and should start w/? my liver, colon, stomach, brain most likely…
It sounds like you’re stuck in a downward spiral and don’t really have a direction to point to get yourself out. On the one hand, you say you love your life, but on the other, you’re stressed out and engaging in self sabotaging behavior. Believe me, I get it and there is no judgment, but you really have to back away and take a look at your actions here.
When you feel lost and directionless like this, it’s really easy to look to a detox or cleanse to “fix everything” and get you back on track. And likely you do need to detox your body a bit.
But I guarantee that if you don’t figure out what’s triggering this negative behavior before you detox, you’ll just rebound back into drinking too much alcohol and feeling like crap.
Your body is actually constantly in detox mode. Every chance it gets, it’s breaking down old, useless cells and rebuilding new ones. You can just speed this process by giving it good, clean foods consistently and removing toxic substances from your diet. You don’t even have to do it all at once. You could just give up sugar for now, for example.
But before you start making those changes, you have to figure out what it is in your life that you’re really trying to escape from. You say it’s your kids, but I think there’s probably more to it than that. Is it the mind numbing routine? Constant bickering? Sheer boredom? Lack of creative expression? No time for you?
Grab a journal and start writing. Or, get thee to therapy. Go for long walks in the woods. Sit and meditate. Do whatever it takes, but figure out what you’re running from. Fix that and you won’t need to escape from your life anymore. Then detox will happen naturally and effortlessly.
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