Question: My lower back muscles ache after working out and spending long hours sitting at my desk. What are some holistic options for relief?
Sara Holliday, MFT, CPT, Fitness Coach
Weak abdominals and tight hamstrings often cause low back pain. Pain in the low back is exacerbated by poor posture, which often happens as a result of working at your desk on the computer. Make sure your chair has good back support, and incorporate these following exercises to strengthen your abdominals and stretch your hamstrings for low back pain relief. Prior to doing these exercises, warm up your body with an aerobic activity such as a power walk.
Pelvic tilt for abdominal strength: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Inhale, tighten your abdominal muscles, and push your lower back into the floor. Exhale as you release. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Supine hamstring stretch: Lie on your back with your left knee bent and pointed towards the ceiling. Your left foot should be firmly on the floor. Hug your right knee towards your chest, and extend your right leg straight up with your foot towards the ceiling. Place a towel behind your right thigh. Clasp the towel with both hands and use the towel to bring your right leg towards your chest. Inhale as you bring your leg towards your chest, and exhale as you release. Make sure you keep your back pressed into the floor. Repeat the inhale/exhale pattern 8 times, holding the stretch at the bottom of the last exhale. Next, slowly point and flex your right foot. Release and repeat the entire sequence with your left leg.Sara Holliday, MFT, CPT, is president of Fit by Sara, Inc. Holliday, an expert in health and fitness, has appeared on numerous radio and TV shows. Fit by Sara
Shanna Lee, Certified Jivamukti Yoga and Restorative Yoga Instructor
Yoga is a wonderful way to find relief from everyday aches and pains. And developing such symptoms from working out is quite different from the discomfort that results from sitting at a desk. If you get lower back pain after working out, you're probably tightening the muscles in your back during your exercise routine and neglecting to stretch them. A simple Cat-Cow Stretch will help create space in the spine and release tight, post-workout, muscles. Kneel on your hands and knees and spread your fingertips, making sure your wrists are directly beneath your shoulders. Place your knees underneath your hips, hip distance apart, with your toes pointed back. Inhale, reaching the sits bones up. Drop your belly and look up. Exhale, tucking your tailbone under and arching your back like a cat; gaze toward your navel. Repeat several times.
If you suffer from an achy back at work, your body is telling you to get up and move. To help your spine stay limber and pain-free, try a simple Seated Half Spinal Twist while at your desk. Sit with both feet on the floor, knees together. Sit up tall with the top of your head reaching up to the ceiling. Place your right hand on your left knee and left hand on left hip. Keeping your knees together, twist to the left until your left elbow points straight back. Keep reaching upward with the crown of your head. Hold for five breaths, then repeat on the other side. Come back to center.
When it comes to lower back pain, don't take any chances. Yoga can help relieve a myriad of ailments, but without the right instruction it can cause more discomfort. Find a certified instructor to help guide you through these poses. If you suffer from chronic backaches, see a doctor and get a diagnosis before you begin yoga.Shanna Lee is a certified Jivamukti instructor who teaches restorative yoga and mudras workshops at Jivamukti Yoga School in New York City. Om Jiva.
Allison Crawford, MS, Lac
Low-back pain after prolonged periods of sitting or standing is often due to a lack of good circulation to the tissues and a resulting weakness in the low back. There are traditional topical formulas in Chinese medicine that improve circulation and reduce pain. These formulas have ingredients like mint, camphor, and myrrh, and come in either liniment or patch form (two commonly used liniments are Po Sum On Oil, and Wood Lock Oil). They can be found in Chinese herb stores, and in certain health food stores. Though not found in the Traditional Chinese Medicine pharmacopeia, arnica is also commonly used to ease muscle pain.
There are traditional internal formulas in Chinese medicine that are quite good at reducing pain and inflammation. Chinese medicine is unique in that it not only reduces aggravating symptoms but also focuses on strengthening the body so that the condition does not recur.
Diagnosis and internal herbal prescription is a complex process that requires professional expertise. I do not recommend taking any herbs internally without consulting a qualified herbalist first. Topical treatments are extremely safe to use and can provide immediate results.Allison Crawford is an herbalist and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco. Allison Crawford.