5 Simple Ways to Avoid Back Pain

I’m stuck in the airport because my flight is delayed.  To kill a little time, I thought I’d share five back-pain tips that I donated to Natural Awakenings Magazine this month. When I say simple, I mean SIMPLE, yet most people who email, call, or come into the Institute have a hard time making these basic changes.  Let me share something with you:  Simple doesn’t mean easy.  Not eating sugar, Simple.  Not eating sugar, Reallllly hard to do.  Solutions to most things are simple, yet they take great rearrangements of your life, i.e. how you spend your time and money, what you prioritize over your health (everyone says Health is #1, yet the facts show something different!), and how deeply your habits are ingrained.  Take a stab at these and see how things go.  Which one is the most difficult for you?  I can tell you that for me, it is getting down onto the floor and doing an hour of spinal twisting.  I actually LOVE to do this, but I have to be in a class to do it, it seems.  That’s crazy!

I’ve already done Legs on the Wall here in the airport.  Also, I usually travel with a pelvis in my carry-on.  I’ve also been “randomly screened” every time I fly, except for the time I accidentally had a Swiss Army knife in my purse, which I didn’t even know I had and only realized it once I got to my hotel.  They didn’t stop me for that, which is weird, right?

Thanks for keeping me entertained — here you go!

1.  Lose the high heels. The scientific consensus is that high heels compress and damage the lumbar spine, increasing osteoarthritis and degenerative disk disease in the low back.

2.  Let the feet point the way. Just like the wheels on a car, feet should point straight ahead when walking. Military or dance training, or an ankle or back injury can sometimes result in a sort of duck walk. Line up the outsides of the feet along the straight edge of a carpet or tile floor and walk along it to practice.

3.  Stretch the calves. Tight calves are a major contributor to back pain. The tighter the lower leg, the more one’s gait pattern whips the upper back forward and contributes to curling of the upper spine. Adding a daily calf stretch to any exercise routine helps to better align the spine.

4.  Do the twist. Each vertebra in the spine not only bends forward and backward and from side-to-side, it also rotates. Of all these natural motions, the twisting of the torso is the least used in our culture. Incorporating a yoga spinal twist into an exercise routine will gently reintroduce rotation back into our movement repertoire.

5.  Get a better butt. The main culprit of low back pain is weak butt muscles. Gluteal muscles not only stabilize the tailbone, they help support the function of the low back muscles. If the glutes are weak, the low back muscles have to work harder than normal, which makes them fatigued and sore. Squats work well to strengthen the butt.

Read more about the twist: http://nutritiousmovement.com/the-best-abdominal-exercise-youre-not-doing/

Read more about how to squat, naturally! And, there’s the best Calf Stretch pictured here too: http://nutritiousmovement.com/you-dont-know-squat/

Picture of correct foot position here: http://nutritiousmovement.com/the-bunion-blog-and-alignment-sock-give-away/

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14 thoughts on “5 Simple Ways to Avoid Back Pain

  1. Whew! I thought you were going to tell me know sugar! 😉 Actually we do limit it but we do like jam on the morning sprouted whole grain English muffin so I just finished up my fourth batch of organic Italian plum jam!

    That calf stretch works WONDERS for my legs that used to ache all night long. That and a super soft down pillow between the knees.

  2. hahahah. No sugar? really? …..You are right though. Its really simple but REALLY hard. I’m trying ever so intently to change my habits of walking and streatching. Your simple steps really are so easy. I’m finally feeling that they are easy. In the begining not so much but with lots of sticky notes in the office and at home to myslef I’ve finally made them habit. Now I got to tackle that chocoholicism that just wont leave me alone. Thanks for your great advise as always. I pass it along to family, friends and co workers constantly!

  3. Everything of value in my life has been simple in concept and the very devil to implement. RE sure fits that description. The spinal twist is one of several of my “final frontiers”. If you teach it, I will come. Thanks so much for your simple but not easy contributions to my well being. Live aligned and prosper.


  4. I really like this sort of advice – it is something that can be incorporated into our busy lives that can make a big difference. Thank you. I am working on the squat and twist!!

  5. This is a simple, easy to follow program for any one who is disciplined–or in enough pain to want to be free of it. At our studio we work on the “calf-butt” syndrome, which is using the calf muscles and glut max to create a pelvic curl instead of deep pelvic floor and iliopsoas to facilitate the movement. Additionally, we teach Gyrotonic exercise, the foundation of which is Gyrokinesis yoga, an exercise program that incorporates all the seven natural movements of the spine. Lots of spiraling rotations! … I am the one in the airport doing all those spinal movements…

  6. It is unfortunate that little if any actual evidence exists to support the advice to stretch calves as a preventative remedy for back pain.

    In addition there is no indication that people with misaligned feet are any more predisposed to back pain, and equally no evidence supports that correcting misaligned feet will alleviate back pain.

    This is not medical advice.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Jay!

      There is actually an abundance of anatomical, biomechanical, and physiological support for the length of gastrocnemius and soleus sarcomeres and how that length alters the acceleration of the spine while walking. The greater the acceleration, the more tension in the spinal extensors, increasing intervertebral disk pressure. You can check up on many of the podiatric journals as they are beginning to publish the correlation of footwear-induced calf shortness with lumbar spine degeneration. The laws of Newtonian physics are also extremely clear on how altered gaits impact spinal mechanics, and altered planes of repetitive motion are where ailments like disk degeneration and osteoarthritis come from. The same goes for malaligned feet. A quick peruse through an anatomy textbook and perhaps a Introductory-Level Biomechanics text will also get you up to speed on how muscle position affects muscle innervation.
      You are correct in stating that this is not medical advice. This is biomechanical science — what you should have been told BEFORE you needed medical treatment.

      Thanks for your contribution to the discussion!

  7. I actually doing the No sugar for 5 days a week. 🙂

    I am also doing #1, #2 and #5. Working on the other 2. Whenever I am pregnant I have to do #4 every day otherwise I have painful backaches. 🙂

    Thanks for taking the time to post this while at the airport. 🙂

  8. thanks for the info katy. did some farming in the community garden and have some aching and back pain going on so i will do the above and maybe next day farming will not be so bad.

  9. I can check off all five of those, but I still have stiffness in the lower back after long walks. Could it be tight quads? I can do the psoas stretch featured in “when the poop hurts,” and can reach the floor as I should, with a straight back, but it is really hard to get my heel to actually touch my butt.

  10. Here’s a weird little question: I’ve been consciously trying to point my feet straight ahead while walking, standing, even sitting and lying down (simple! hard! seems to be helping my back) and I’m noticing that my little toe and the one that had no roast beef seem to be straightening out. Before, they were more curled and tilted to the outside.

    Is that normal?

    1. Kerry: This is not only normal, it’s also the reason the toes rotate (curl) in the first place. When the feet aren’t straight, instead of using the ankle in the front-to-back plane, it gets used in the right-to-left plane, which ends up creating the “ripple” effect to the toes.
      Nice work!

  11. I had a Swiss army
    Knife in my purse
    Too.. It was my sons, who had it in his back pack and I freaked out because I didn’t want him to get In trouble at school..
    So I took it and put it In my purse.. Totally
    Forgot about it .. Went through airport security ..and they took it. Lol

  12. The links at the bottom of the post don’t seem to be working. Just a heads up. Thanks for this post, Katy!

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