“I suggest surgery, but I have to warn you, the success rate of this procedure is not…perfect. And there could be complications.”
I blinked at the doctor sitting across from me with a pasted-on smile that said “I’m trying to be polite, but let’s hurry this decision. I have to make up time today.”
“I think I’ll discuss this with my husband, and let you know asap,” I muttered. My heart thumped a crazy beat.
What did I expect from a surgeon? I exited and never went back.
I’d been through many doctors, massage therapists, and physios with little or no relief to my back issues. I was desperate. Let’s face it, what does a writer or an illustrator do when sitting is out of the question for longer than ½ hour? Longer would have been torture, and it’s hard to concentrate on being creative in that state.
I know, I know, you’ve heard me expound upon my glorious stand-up chair.
But the picture of relief isn’t quite complete without the full treatment regime.
For all of you who are determined to relieve (or avoid) back issues due to constant sitting, here’s what I’ve found after years of constant pain in my lower back and investigations into avoiding said pain. Every back is different but this is for lower back pain, around the sacroiliac region.
Enter a different physio. What surprised me the most was the vast difference between physios (and chiropractors for that matter). You have to go through a few, unfortunately, before you find one that works.
This fellow took me past my instinctive guarding in my movements and insisted that I was too young to have this lack in range of motion. I of course argued that he needed to know my history a bit better. However, I thought I’d humour him just this once. His approach was logical enough, to strengthen the tissues around the area to take the strain off the bones, while increasing my range of motion.
But here’s the kicker. If you are as determined as I am to not feel like an eighty-year-old yet, you have to put in the effort. Not much, but there it is. Or you can face the pasted-on smile doctor I mentioned above.
Here are some exercises and stretches that work for me. I couldn’t find the exercises on the internet to show you, before I had to remind myself that I CAN draw. So please refer to the below, rather unprofessional sketches for visual reference. (Especially if you are anything like me – totally visually oriented) Before you start, exercise to warm up the muscles. I go to the gyn and hop on the elliptical or go for a vigorous walk.
Strengthening exercises for lower back:
Lie on your tummy. Stretching your arms ahead of you and legs straight, raise your left arm and right leg for a second or two. Then the other side. Do about 30 to begin and work up. This is really good to strengthen all those itty bitty muscles around the spine.
Do a plank. On your tummy again, raise up on your elbows and toes holding your body straight. Hold for 30 seconds to begin with. Then work up.
The horrible clam exercise! Lie on your side with an elastic around your lower thighs. Open your knees against the restriction. Do fifteen at first and work up.
Stretching exercises for lower back:
Knees folded under you on mat, bow down arms in front reaching. Go into cat stretch. Hold for about 10 seconds. Repeat about 10 times. (I use this many times a day while writing/illustrating. Go into crouching position illustrated below, and feel the stretch on your lower back.
On a mat, fold right leg in front of you, foot under left hip (or pointing that way at least) Lean over your leg. Don’t push it, just feel the stretch on your butt. Hold for about 15 seconds. Work on the other leg the same.
Lie on your back with legs up, bent at knee. Swing them from side to side holding the stretch for about 10 seconds.
And there you have it! Not too hard right? It takes me about 10 minutes after I’ve warmed up. I do it 3 times a week or so. (The cat stretch I do many times a day because it feels good!)
So, do you have any exercises or stretches that enable you to sit for hours in front of a screen?
I love to touch my toes. I bend forward and stretch as far as I can, which for me means getting the flats of palms on the floor. I just relax that way until the blood starts to pound through my head. Then I bend my knees and s-l-o-w-l-y stand up, stretching my hands toward the ceiling.
I’m ready to write some more!
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P.S. I’m going to start using your exercises. I’ve done some of them before, and I enjoy them.
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They have made such a difference to me and my back!!! The cat stretch sequence especially!
Interesting! That is the movement I was sworn off of for years, but am only now just recovering that lost freedom. You’d be great in yoga. That’s why I never went, I hurt myself all the time. But the stretching toward the ceiling is one I need to do as well! Thanks!
Great exercises! Thank you so much for sharing. We did a couple tonight at the gym that I’m going to add. One is the hunting dog. You point your arm and opposite leg. The other is the fire hydrant. Yup. Think dog going to the bathroom. Fantastic for the hips. I have tight hips and hamstrings from sitting and running. And some back pain (likely because of the tight muscles).
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Yes, I know the hunting dog and the fire hydrant! Great exercises! They are variations on the ones I suggested, but they all work slightly different groups. And of course I forgot to mention that stomach muscles (core) need to be just as strong as our back muscles. All the things I never really wanted to know way back when, but are a matter of necessity now. I also walk backwards up hills. Weird, but it works a whole different group of muscles too.
This post is perfect timing for me! I’ve had a bad back and feet and shoulders and wrists for years. More recently knees too. My lower back has been quite out of sorts for the last almost 3 months. I know I spend too much time sitting… I’m hoping I can convince myself to adopt this regimen as I know I need to do something to improve the situation. Thanks, Loraine!
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I have so many more things I could tell you, Beth, about inflammation!! And they don’t all require exercise!! We can PM about them. It is so hard when we have to suffer from inflammation!! But writing is pretty tough when you can’t sit for long periods of time!! And you are most welcome. I wish people would take heed before it becomes a problem, (like I didn’t).