Richard experienced sore back after running. We knew it was a non-specific lower back pain (i.e. not caused my disc problems, accidents etc) so we could work together.
Over the 12 months we’ve worked once a week to develop strength, flexibility and mobility through natural movement. We also corrected his running form to make it less destructive on his joints and body as a whole.
There were many many changes in his running form over the past 12 months which lead to NO MORE BACK PAIN!! during or after running.
But it’s not over. Next steps: fine tune technique, optimise performance and address other subtle imbalances, tension and restrictions in the body.
Well done Richard!
This is what we look at on the Running Technique Workshop. Of course, changing the way you move and use your body takes time, but on the workshop you will leave with a few concepts that, if used, can make a huge difference.
While same results cannot be guaranteed, with practice, natural running technique will help you run faster, further, with less effort and fewer injuries.
If you want to run lighter, breathe easier when you run and reduce the risk of injuries think about your arms. What you do with your arms, where they’re going, how they’re moving and everything in between.
I explain in the video and also show how your arm direction affects your running, making it heavy and it also affects your breathing.
When your arms cross your body midline the following happens:
your shoulder start to curl inwards
that leads to the chest closing up
which compresses the chest and rib cage
that leads to difficult breathing
your alignment is also off as the shoulders drop forward
your hips fall back
your general centre of mass in behind you
your lower back takes a lot of pressure
your lower back is sore
To avoid this chain reaction you arms should move forward, and your elbows lightly brushing your body.
Lower back pain is very common and many cases are due to poor use of the body (i.e. poor alignment, posture, weak key muscles).
If you are running with lower back pain you should consider finding the source of your pain before you continue. While there are many reasons your lower back pain may hurt, such as weak core muscles or gluteal muscles, there can also be reasons related to your running technique, the mechanics side of running.
In the video I mention 3 aspects of the running technique that may contribute to your lower back pain.
1. THE HEAD
The head should not be tilts forwards or backwards. Instead is should be aligned with the shoulders, hips and front of ankles.
2. THE SHOULDERS
Shoulders should not go out of alignment with the ears and hips. Crossing the arms in front of your body will pull your shoulders forward, closing up your body, and causing your body to lose posture and good form.
3. THE HIP
a. The Bucket of Water
Imagine your hip joint like a bucket of water. In its strongest, stable and aligned position it is slightly tilted forward. However, the tendency is to tilt the hips too much forward (spilling water forward out of the bucket) or tilt backwards (spilling water backwards).
Keep the hip join in a position where you don’t spill water, neither forward, or backwards.
b. Heel strike
Heel striking when running is the perfect way to tilt the hips forward and throw them out of alignment. This put a lot of pressure on your lower back and makes the whole chain become unstable and weak.
A lot of people suffer from low back pain. And there are many reasons we suffer from back pain. These group into specific and non-specific low back pain.
Specific means we know the exact cause of your back pain (i.e. slipped disc, accident etc). This needs medical attention.
Non-Specific back pain, we can’t exactly point out the reason, it might be from lot of sitting down, poor posture, weak muscles (core, buttocks), tight muscles and so on.
Most of the people suffer from non-specific lower back pain, about 19/20 cases. And the reason behind it is usually a combination of all of the above, they are related anyway:
Sitting down too much -> (leads to) Weaker muscles -> Poor posture
Poor posture -> Weak muscles
Sitting with a poor posture -> Weak and tight muscles
You got the idea.
Today I will share with you a video with stretches to release tension in the lower back area, as well as surrounding muscles, in the case of non-specific lower back pain.
This is also a great stretch for the fascia (a thin membrane which connects everything in the body, I will write about it with another occasion). It’s also great to improve flexibility and mobility around the lower back and not only.
This is a video from the MTI Academy. Check it out here and here.
Remember, you can always book a free, no obligation consultation with me here to talk about the online academy of any questions you may have, or help you may need.
This is probably one of the most common reasons we experience shoulder, neck or back muscle pain.
Your body always tries to bring itself back into alignment. When you look at your phone, walking down the street typing, hunching over your computer, or simply walking or running bending from the hips, you back muscles will activate, or engage to pull the body back into alignment.
If the body doesn’t come back into alignment, those muscles stay activated and, in time, this is what leads to muscle strain.
Your core, the core of your body, the trunk, is formed of the abdominal muscles, sides of the abdomen, back, pelvis and diaphragm.
Understanding how to activate, or rather control, the core of your body is one of the most important steps in your development. THIS is the foundation of your body.
Why? Because movement comes from your core, thus controlling the core means you will have better control over your body.
It will be easier to think about tensing the abdominal muscles when you think about activating your core, it’s easier to visualise, feel and control. After a while you will be able to control other muscles of your core.
Once you manage to connect with your core and focusing on building strength in that area you will experience:
Core strength is the foundation for powerful, explosive movements such as jumping, sprinting, or throwing.
2. Back health.
It is estimated that four out of every five adults (80%) will experience back pain at some stage in their life. Many of the back pain cases are mechanical, meaning they change with posture and level of activity. A strong core is essential to a healthy back that will carry your body throughout your life with little or no pain.
If you ever find yourself in a situation when your balance or stability is compromise a strong core will come to the rescue.
4. Reduce risk of injuries
Back pain, compromised stability, lifting, carrying, throwing, and catching, are all movements we do throughout our lives. A strong core will give you better chances of less injuries and living with less pain.
There is no doubt that having a strong core will enable you to build the lasting foundations required for a fit, healthy, strong and powerful body, but how do we work with it? How do we actively, or intentionally engage our core and jut wait for it to happen?
There are a few ways one can explain what “engaging your core” or “activate your core” means and how to achieve it.
Learning how to breathe, pulling your stomach muscles in is the first step towards learning how to activate your core muscles. As you breathe out your abdominal muscles pull in and the whole core activates, or tenses.
Do you have the Breathing Mastery chapter I share for free? If you don’t, click here to download it. It will explain everything in detail.
Not really punching, but imagining someone is trying to punch you in the stomach. What would you do? How would you react if you had to “receive” the punch?
You’d brace for the punch, trying to withstand the blow. You’d also notice when you brace for the punch you breath our slightly.
Sucking the stomach in
Sucking the stomach in is another way to describe the core activation process. However I am personally not happy with this description.
When you suck your stomach in you don’t necessarily tense your abdominal muscles, maybe just a little, but not enough.
Thus this is one way to do it, but not a way I’d do it.
Lying on the ground
Lie on the ground – preferably a hard, straight surface – face up, with your knee bent and feet flat on the ground.
Notice the natural curve in your lower back.
Now try to flatten your low back, touching the ground with that portion of your spine. You will notice that to do that you need to tense your abdominal muscles.
Four ways to activate or engage your core muscles. Every time you workout, lift your kids, your bag, carry groceries, remember to activate your core muscles.
Many people approach me saying they experience low back pain, they have therapies and treatments but the pain is still coming back. There is a reason that happens and I will explain in here.
Firstly, you must ensure your low back pain is not cause by specific conditions such as a result of an accident, a problem with discs or any specific reason. Your doctor or GP will say it’s “non-specific low back pain”.
This means it’s mechanical pain, which can be caused by poor posture, lack of physical movement, flexibility and mobility (in other areas of the body not only around your lumbar region), sitting for long hours and particularly in a bad position, and in general placing a lot of pressure on your body which ends up being too much and causes pain. You’ve got the idea.
If it’s mechanical lower back pain then this article is relevant to you.
Here are a few reasons your lower back pain keeps coming back:
1. You fail to practice the movements your physio gives you. I don’t blame you, they are boring, but hey they work.
2. You do what you therapist recommends but:
A) you are not consistent – so you lose the benefits you initially gained
B) there is no progression – your body gets used to the exercises and does not respond to them anymore
3. The source of the pain has not been identified. Your pain can come from the position of your feet. It can come from how you sit and stand daily (your physio doesn’t know what you do when you are not there and they don’t have time to check on you and repeat 100 times the same advice). Your pain can come from certain tight or shortened muscles in the body. And it can be from how you walk, run, squat, lift and so on so forth. Your therapist cannot see all these elements.
4. The source of the pain has been identified but you are not aware of it or don’t fully understand it. If you,, the patient, do not understand where this pain comes from you will fail to comply with what your therapist advises you to do. This is how the mind works. We need to understand why we do the things we do, that will motivate us to do them and be consistent.
5. You stop moving because of pain. I don’t blame you. When you are in pain you don’t feel like doing anything. However, if it’s non-specific low back pain, not moving can make it worse. Movement is essential to reduce pain in the body. Sounds counter intuitive but it’s true.
Your therapist knows what they are doing, they are qualified. But they are not coaches. They simply do not have the time to keep you accountable, to work with you long term. This is a coach’s job. To ensure continuous support for your recovery
The Merisoiu Technique has been designed to help people like you reduce pain in the body and reduce the risk of it coming back. We strive to get your body fully functional and unleash your true physical potential.
We use movement patters we have evolved to perform (Natural Human Movement) and Martial Arts elements (similar to Tai Chi or Chi Gong) to enable you to solve your problems.
Furthermore, we keep in touch with you through calls, emails, texts, online programmes, in between the sessions to ensure you are consistent with the habits and get the results.
Moreover The Merisoiu Technique is designed to bring movement in your daily life. It’s a lifestyle not a fitness regimen.
The Merisoiu Technique is much more profound than fitness. It’s a true way of living life.
Alignment there, alignment here, I talk a lot about body alignment. And for good reason.
I was looking at my 8 year old nieces when I took them ice skating. It was their first time on the ice and they were simply naturals. They kept their balance so well, and naturally knew how to move their feet. I don’t know why I was there. Adults, on the other hand, had problems keeping their feet under their bodies. They learn but it takes longer, and their are very unbalanced.
Looking at them I see the correct body alignment. Natural for the kids, un-natural for the adults. We are born with all sorts of abilities, however, when we start sitting more than moving, and stop moving muscles, joints, body awareness goes into “hibernation”. Through Natural Human Movement we wake up those muscles and help the body remember it’s natural abilities, moving the body the way it was designed to move.
Why is correct body alignment important
Firstly, many of the pains, even chronic pains, are a result of habitual movements over a longer period of time, as well as other factors. Now, we don’t talk about health conditions or fractures, for example. Rather lower back pain, knee pain, ankle pain, shoulder pain.
Constant tension and body misuse, over a period of time, can lead to chronic pain
Second, running, walking, or moving in any way with an incorrect alignment can increase risks of injuries, and perpetuate older injuries.
Third, incorrect body alignment can strain certain muscles, and weaken others.
Fourth, strained muscles will affect your posture and your skeletal system, it can literally deform your skeleton; it may not be visible but it happens, think scoliosis, one of the most obvious situations of incorrect body alignment.
How to align your body correctly
In an article I can only give you the basics of correct body alignment. However, if you apply these elements to everything you do it will make a huge different in time.
Whether you are running, squatting, standing or walking remember the following points:
Feet – roughly hip width apart, toes facing forward
The Tripod – each of your feet form a tripod with the big toe + little toe + heel; focus on keeping this tripod on the ground at all times
Soft knees – not necessarily bent, but soft; it’s very subtle
Bucket of water – imagine your hips like a bucket of water; align your hips so you don’t spill water forwards or backwards
Core – if your hip, the bucket of water, is aligned then your core (you will feel it in the abdominal muscles) will be slightly contracted
Shoulders and years are aligned
Straight line from your earsto your shouldersto your hipsto (approximately) the front of the ankles
These are the basics in a standing position. If you have any questions on body alignment or want to try one of The Merisoiu Technique sessions contact me.
When you are in pain the last thing you want to do is move.
Lower back pain doesn’t necessarily mean the back is damaged, it’s not always the case. But because we feel the pain we stop exercising, thinking that’s the right thing to do. In some cases it is, but not always. If the back is not damaged then you can move and exercise. Why should exercise even with lower back pain?
De-conditioning happens very fast. If you don’t move for a few days, when you resume you feel weaker. Even without lower back pain, if you don’t exercise, stretch and move (not only walk) for a few days you feel stiff and weak when you do move. If you do suffer from lower back pain, doing nothing will only add to the pain rather than solve the problem.
Pills helps manage, and calm down if the pain is really bad. But that fixes the symptoms, and not the cause. There can be many causes for lower back pain. Very often core strength and general a weak body can cause lower back pain and, in time, even more serious damage.
Besides being strong, your body also need to be mobile (ease of movement of the whole body) and flexible (related to muscle length).
Preventing and managing lower back pain
Preventing and managing lower back pain requires commitments from the person suffering from back pain.
Going to the gym or taking classes only for this purpose, because you have to and you were told to, thinking you will like them in the end, will only make you unhappy and not commit long term.
Choosing a sport, or type of exercise you enjoy doing increases the chances of committing for a longer time and reap the benefits. Learning about lower back pain and how the body functions, like you do now, little by little, will increases the chances of commitment.
This is what we do at The Merisoiu Technique Institute. We have the solution and we help you, but we also explain how things work. Understanding why you are in pain, how the body and muscles work and how you can prevent further pain and injuries, makes our clients enjoy their training and reap the benefits.
Here are some ideas of sports, besides gym, swimming, classes, yoga and pilates, running and cycling, you could try to prevent and manage lower back pain. Training for and practicing the sport you choose will strenghten and mobilize the body, and reduce pain and risk of other injuries.
Indoor/outdoor rock climbing
Martial arts (Karate, Taekwondo, Aikido, Jujitsu etc)
Even gardening (although not a sport)
Remember it is important to also train for these sports, not just throw yourself into them. For any sport you practice the best thing to do is to have a coach. They will turn your weaknesses into strengths. You want to optimize your body for your sports, nut just throw a ball around.
Movement is more than stepping left and right, back and forth. Movement involved correct joint alignment and muscles must activate in the correct sequence. “Don’t just exercise, learn, develop and master. “
More on lower back pain and exercise for lower back pain in future articles. For now remember that not moving is not the solution.