Fold Forward for Low Back Support
Increasing your awareness and modifying the way you bend can help to prevent annoying low back pain and can bring you back from the edge if you are already feeling slightly tortured.
How often are you aware of your movements? Of how you walk, bend, twist, and sit? Generally, we roll into two categories here. First is the unconscious, you-just-do-it! group. These lucky individuals move willy-nilly through the world - until they throw out their back. This typically catapults the person into category B: hyper-aware, holy-wow-that-hurts!, a place bordering obsessive mindfulness of movement. Either of those sound familiar to you? As with most things, extremes in body consciousness can be detrimental. Running around having very little idea of your body mechanics at any given time can cause injury, but withdrawing from certain movements due to over sensitivity can also lead to pain. Interestingly, overuse and misuse are the cause of the dysfunction in both scenarios.
So what’s the solution? Moderation! Cliche, but effective. Know the ways in which your body is built to move so you can create a habit of those motions and self correct when needed.
One of the biggest movements you can modify is the way you forward bend. Bending correctly means that you will feel like a well-oiled machine instead of some rusty contraption pulled out of a basement every time your hip pops and your low back crackles. Incorrect forward bending looks like this:
Be honest; that looks like you reaching for your bag or the weights at the gym or the keys you dropped. It is incorrect because it puts stress on your low back, popping it convex when its neutral position is curved concave, and diminishes the supportive role of your hips and pelvis, where the true hinge exists. You might be thinking that you move that way because it is “natural” and it feels “easiest,” yes? It feels that way because that posture is both habituated and reinforced by our lifestyle. We spent years sitting for hours a day in school, likely moving into jobs that also ask us to sit for hours at a time. Plus, we this is a socially approved way of bending. Even if you get a healthy dose of exercise in a week, your hamstrings are still going to be marginally tighter and your glutes a bit weaker than if you spent the majority of your time walking, squatting, or otherwise engaging in more diverse positions making your body more inclined to work with the abs and the erector muscles that are already primed for engagement. We repeat what we know. But all is not lost! Proper bending posture is a movement that both stretches the hamstrings and activates the glutes, solving two problems at once!
As you can see, correct forward bending takes advantage of joints designed for gross movement over ones that are fit for acute adjustments. It’s more of a fold than a bend, really. To perform this feat, keep your back in neutral; lumbar curved, head up, and neck long. (The head position is important here especially as you are learning this motion because the instant you look down, your neck will start to bend forward and the rest of your spine will follow suit.) Push your hips back while bending your knees. Continue this simultaneous motion, folding your torso into the top of your thighs. Use a hand on your knees or mid quads if you need more support. Come back to standing by squeezing your butt.
Bending in this way will elicit a delicious stretch in your hamstrings. Feel free to hang out in this position to take advantage. After a few days, you will also start to notice that post-exercise soreness in your glutes. Also a great feeling! And, most importantly, you will feel more supported in your day to day movements, noting a decrease in low back pain.
Incorporating this into your everyday experience will take practice. We are all human, so be kind to yourself if you forget! But with practice, your body will quickly learn to signal when you need to adjust, helping you to make a habit of healthy movement. Feel like you need some help teasing the tension out of your hamstrings? Or maybe you want to soothe that exercise soreness? Massage is great for that! Call (856) 857-7535 to discuss your goals and secure your session.