As a massage therapist, 95% of my clients come in reporting pain somewhere on or very close to the spine. I have spent many years studying modalities to provide the best bodywork I can, but it will take much more than a massage to get rid of the pain. I became a certified STOTT PILATES instructor because I wanted to be able to help my clients with body awareness and to correct patterns that may be contributing to their pain.
Pilates has been life changing for me and I want to share at the very least the basic principles with my clients and anyone else who wants to listen. These principles are supposed to be thought of during Pilates exercises, but they can also help us with self awareness and to help us with improvement in posture whether we are sitting or standing and with other activities we enjoy. Strengthening the stabilizing muscles closest to the spine is the only road to recovering from chronic pain. The tricky part is that our stabilizing muscles (pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, to name a few) are muscles that are supposed to be working all the time without us having to think about it. As soon as we get an injury, those muscles stop firing and the next muscle layer takes over. When those can’t take it any more, we get to the next layer and here is where there things get dicy.
For eradication or management of pain, we must focus on stabilizing the lumbopelvic region. Here is a little video that animates the Transversus abdominis. This seems like it would be simple to engage, but what happens when there is any injury or dysfunction, other accessory muscles take over and the TA goes to sleep. I really searched for a great video to share on how to engage the correct muscles, but coming from my own personal experience with learning, it is an individual learning curve. There is a lot of visualization involved because we have to learn how to quiet the other muscles that have been working so hard to get us to breathe.
Another muscle that is important in stabilizing the lumbopelvic region is the multifidus. This video is a bit longer, but does a great job of explaining the importance of this deep muscle. Please click here to check out the video. This is one that you will probably need some assistance with checking if they are functioning. You want someone who specializes in functional movement. You can search for practitioners of STOTT PILATES and/or Anatomy Trains to help you get back your primary muscle function. If you are searching for a physical therapist or personal trainer, you can ask if they have any training with this.
Here is the really exciting part of this blog. At my last Merrithew training: Optimization of the Lumbopelvic Region, I went over the muscle testing and reeducation on these muscles. A lot of time when I start to talk about these muscles with my clients, they have a hard time understanding how to get these muscles working properly and since my primary role is to provide bodywork, I don’t often have enough time to get into a lot of detail. And sometimes it can be frustrating to try and get it working when it’s not and you can’t feel it!
After my workshop I purchased a stability balance cushion for my stool at work. I have been using it for over a month and it has really helped me. What does it do? The beauty of this cushion is that you are sitting on an unstable service and it helps get those stabilizing muscles to work again. I do not typically have lower back pain. It does happen every once in a while, but my problem is that my neck gets really sore by the end of the day. My posture on my stool is by no means a functional posture and instead of having all my nice spinal curves when sitting, I look like a letter C. My head, neck and shoulders are just hanging the the top of the C. I was aware I was doing this would constantly try to correct it. Since I have been using the stability cushion, I have noticed a significant decrease in neck pain and headaches. There are still some things you have to think about with the cushion and it will by no means replace you having to do some exercise, but it can be a wonderful way to help those muscles to wake up. The stability cushion makes you have to stabilize and adjust so that when you are sitting, you are not just letting your lower spine sink into a hard surface. It cuts down on the pain associated with the sitting to standing motion. The cushion can be used on any chair, including car or airplane. I usually have my clients try to sit on the cushion after their massage so that it keeps those muscles we just worked in a functional state. Click here to be directed to my recommended products page.
I hope that you at least gained some insight on how to develop more self awareness by reading this article. I would be happy to help you with this if you come into my office, or get you connected to someone in your area to help. Just leave me a comment or ask when you come in for your next session.