Relax the back
Lie down on your back on a hard surface, such as a carpet, with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the carpet, with your hands, palms up at around 45º below the hips.
Relax the muscles and joints by breathing gently from the lower abdomen – do not use the muscles of the thorax, or chest, as this may add to the tension already being felt in the back – and literally visualise your spine – from your sacrum – to the lumbar – up to the thoracic and on up to the cervical vertebrae in the neck.
After a few minutes, the reflex Psoas muscles linking your lower spine to your femur (thigh bones) will extend and the lumbar vertebrae will flatten out.
Slow and deep abdominal breathing induces relaxation – do just this for 5 minutes – with your eyes closed and really feel what is happening to your back and its general physiology.
If you are comfortable doing this, there is another version of this exercise, which rotates the pelvis a little more than the exercise above.
Still lying on your back, place your right ankle on your left knee and let the weight of your right leg draw your left leg down to the right, down to the floor, if comfortable.
Repeat the exercise for the right leg by placing the left ankle on the right knee and allow the weight of your left leg to draw your right leg down to the left, to the floor if comfortable.
Again turning your head/neck in the opposite direction in each case.
In order to slightly extend the Psoas and whilst still lying down – bring your right knee up to your chest, grasp it with both hands and gently draw it in to your chest, whilst breathing out and keeping the head on the carpet.
Do the same with the left knee and repeat 5 times.
Lie back as above and further relax for a few more minutes.
Total time – minutes.
For a generally ‘achy’ back after a day in the garden or driving a long distance this may suffice and be just the ticket to relieve this type of pain.
Rotate the back
Rotation of the spine, or its limitaion, is normally a sure indication of deeper or underlying problems with the spine, particularly if they are chronic. A healthy back and neck is one that should rotate freely from the cervical vertebrae in the neck right down to the lumbar in the lower back.
This is a simple non-invasive technique that will provide an indication of the degree of spinal rotation capability.
Keeping your knees together and your shoulders intact with the surface you are lying on, slowly begin to move your knees to the left to 45 degrees and slowly to the right to 45 degrees and turn your head/neck in the opposite direction, so that the whole spine is rotated.
Hold this position for 30 seconds at a time.
As you feel more comfortable increase the angle, until your left leg on the one side and your right leg on the other touches the floor on either side, also holding the position for 30 seconds at a time.
Keep on ensuring that you are turning your head in the opposite direction each time.
Now roll over and place your hands and knees on the floor with the left hand in front of the right by about a foot and the left knee in front of the right knee by the same length – hold for 1 minute slowly rotating the shoulders and pelvis respectively.
Now take one pace forward where the right hand and the right knee is in front of the left hand and the left knee by the same length – hold for 1 minute, slowly rotating the shoulders and pelvis once again. Repeat for as long as the physical space allows.
This exercise rotates the spine using the shoulders and pelvis in two ways – an ordinary circular rotation as one moves around – but also the spine is being moved linearly by the shoulders and the pelvis as movement is made from left hand/knee to right hand/knee.
The great advantage of this exercise is that it is non-weight bearing.
Another rotation method is to gently ‘do the maypole’ whilst standing, by gently moving both arms circularly around the body from left to right and back again.
Stretching the spine
Whilst still on the hands and knees with both hands and knees square – or opposite each other.
Gently arch the back and stretch the neck backwards by looking up, followed by its opposite – that of pushing up the lower back as far as possible and lowering the neck by dropping the head and bringing the chin to rest on the chest, if possible.
Repeat 10-20 times.
Keeping the hands where they are on the carpet, gently lower the bottom until it is in touch with the heels and hold that position for 1 minute.
Slowly sit up to an upright position on the heels, if possible, on get into an uprright position on your knees and hold it for a minute, until the back eases itself.
Another useful exercise is to sit down on the edge of a bed where the edge meets the right angle created by the rear of your bent knees. Now lie back and relax the spine and let the weight of the legs slowly extend the spine.
Duration 5 minutes
When finished, straighten your legs out, place your arms above your head and roll over onto your tummy and let your knees slowly slide to the floor and then stand up.
Now bend down and grip the underside of the bed and allow your bottom to drop down until a crouching position is achieved – now lower the head slowly – until a complete curvature of the spine is achieved.
Hold for 30 seconds and then straighten up.
Another example of this exercise is when you have just finished your bath.
As the water is running out - grip the taps - which should be cold by now - and do the same exercise - with a lovley warm back and body just a few times - its brilliant!
Bend down in a ‘touch your toes’ type posture and allow the arms to dangle just above the feet and rotate the arms circularly – 1 minute.
Now, whilst in this bent over posture, place the backs of your knuckles at the highest point possible on each side of the spine and slowly stand up and bend backwards by looking backwards and thereby relaxing the back muscles, and firmly press the knuckles – especially the foreknuckle - into the muscles on each side of the spine and whilst in this position, slide them firmly down to the level of the hips. Repeat this entire exercise 5-10 times.
Follow this by lying on an exercise ball or large cushion or a rolled up towel, to further gently extend the spine in a concave manner.
Time 2-3 minutes.
Do not sit up from a lying back position.
Take care when complete to lie back in the relaxation mode as above, after this exercise and then stretch out with arms and legs and then roll over on the stomach and arise from this position.
Massaging the neck
Place the thumbs in an inverted position – with the fingers above the thumbs – at the point where the neck ligature joins the skull. Roll the hands inwords – left to the right and the right to the left, whilst the thumbs are still in touch with the same point on the neck and begin to use the thumbs and the fingers of both hands to massage the neck, whilst moving the hands downwards and pressing the thumbs inward and downwards into the neck muscles, whilst arching the neck backwards as far as possible and repeat the process on the way up.