EXERCISES FOR TREATING A BAD BACK
Once the stage is set with adequate rest and any necessary drug therapy, the following exercises reverse the structural and functional changes of the motion segment. Basic theoretical treatment regimens, using various combinations of the exercises for specific back disorders.
ROCKING THE KNEES TO THE CHEST
The least taxing and therefore least frightening exercise in the early loosening of a jammed segment is rocking the knees to the chest. It is performed in the horizontal supine position to eliminate compression of the spine. The primary function of the knee rocking exercise is to fan open the posterior compartments of the spine like flaring out a deck of cards.
The action stretches the muscles down the back of your spine when their tonic hold has pulled the interspaces shut. Releasing the muscles un-jams the facet sand releases the pincer effect on the intervertebral disc. Thus the passive stretching inhibits the additional closing down effect across the inflamed vertebral segment. By providing ‘active’ decompression it provides the first glimmer of the spine lifting off the compressed segments.
It is a very efficient first base exercise. Like spinal rolling which you will read about below, rocking the knees to the chest is very effective if you have just jarred your spine or hurt it in some way. Rocking has an immediate neuro-physiological ‘switching-off’ effect which defuses the alarm and pre-empts the local muscles locking up the spine.
The to-and-fro rocking action familiarizes your back with movement again so it doesn’t have time to get stiff. It keeps your back moving in a non-threatening way and encourages the fundamental physiologic-unhindered blood flow and proper drainage- to resume.
In the acute phase, the pull-and-release evacuates the inflammatory products from the site of injury. With more chronic conditions, the main benefit is the physical stretching of the tight structures.
The non-weight-bearing loosening of all the soft tissues of the posterior compartment, including the back wall of the disc, immediately gives the tight segment more freedom to move.Although rocking the knees to the chest is most effective for segment stiffness of L5 and L4, it is also effective higher up in the lumbar spine where there may be some rotation of the segment as well.Simple as it sounds, rocking the knees is often difficult to get started, let alone do well.
If your back is in acute distress it is not easy to get the knees to the chest. Your legs feel heavy and your spine is loathed to bend, and you may get stabs of pain as you grapple with lifting your thighs.As the spine starts to round more easily, your hip joints often complain about being bunched onto the chest.
It may be more comfortable for the hips if you allow your knees to part widely around the abdomen. (You may also find that one leg is more comfortable doing this movement than the other).With the more chronic disorders, where your lower back may have been stiff for decades, the cement-like rigidity is often unwilling to yield. The lower segments move as a rigid block, with all the hinging taking place at the hips and the upper lumbar levels.
As the segments ease apart, your back start, your back starts to round more easily, making it a natural progression to spinal rolling. The emphasis on rocking the knees is to keep the movement as subtle as possible. Don’t be tempted to tug at your knees with the muscles in your neck standing up. Don’t jab your head up to meet the knees. Leave your head and shoulders calm and relaxed on the floor and gently oscillate your legs with the fingers interlaced around both knees.
As your back relaxes a sense of movement will dawn, like a piece of frozen meat thawing. The tightness will fade as you feel the vertebrae gaping open at the back. Don’t hurry and try to imagine the vertebral segments pulling apart.