Back pain. It’s one of the number one ailments doctors hear about, and it’s one of the hardest for them to properly diagnose. There are so many things that can get tweaked, pinched, over tightened, and just plain angry that many people decide to live with the pain instead of trying to find the root cause. Would it be nice if there were exercises to ease back pain that you could right at home?
Of course if you are having serious pain you need to consult a doctor, physiotherapist or another health care professional, but if you are experiencing general back pain thanks to poor posture, spending your days at a desk, or an old mattress – there are things you can do!
Have I ever told you all that I have scoliosis? Thankfully it’s a slight scoliosis, and not one that required medical attention, but I do need to be mindful of strengthening my back and my posture in general. I also suffered a lower back injury in junior high thanks to some over zealous classmates helping me into a handstand by half breaking my back. I had to wear a lower back support for a few years, which wasn’t terribly fun. And of course, anyone who spends time at a desk, in a car or on the phone knows what a pain in the neck – and back – that can be!
That’s why today I thought I’d share some of my favourite back exercises to help relieve back pain. These can all be done using a rolled up towel, yoga mat or blanket, but today I’m using The Beam by Nimbleback
The Beam comes in two different levels of firmness. The blue is the The Beam Gentle which is softer and offers less resistance, while the black one is more firm. I was fortunate enough to get one of each, but if you can only afford to buy one, I would go with the black because you can place a blanket or towel over it in the beginning to make it softer, then move into using it without the blanket or towel when you are ready. Basically, it’s easier to make the harder one softer than it is to do the opposite!
The purpose of The Beam is to help release muscle tension and strain, but as you can see in the picture below, it can do so much more!
The Beam was a new product to me, but the exercises I’m going to share with you are not. I’ve been using a foam roller or rolled up yoga mat to do most of these exercises for many, many years, and the last exercise I’m going to share I normally use without any prop at all.
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Constructive Rest Relaxation
This is a bit of a cheat because it’s how The Beam was meant to be used, the only difference is that instead of leaving my legs out long (which is absolutely delightful) I’ve bent my knees to come into Constructive Rest. Constructive Rest (knees bent, feet flat on the floor) is the only position where your psoas is completely at rest. Not only does our psoas get tight from our daily activities, it is also where we hold the bulk of our unreleased stress and emotions as the psoas houses the largest number of sympathetic nervous system fibres in our bodies. Spending 10 minutes in the COnstructive Rest Relaxation (whether you are looking at your phone or going into a full meditation) will not only give you the benefits shown in the little picture above, but will also allow you to release a lot of tension through the psoas which will help to reset your nervous system if it’s been stuck in “fight or flight” for too long (as many of us have!).
Low Back Release
This is especially nice when you wake up with a backache from your mattress, or are experiencing a back ache from PMS or menstrual cramps. Place The Beam under your low back and position it under your tailbone. In the above photo I have it more into the small of my back. The day I took these photos I was actually having back pain from menstrual cramps and this is the position that felt the most comfortable to me. You can let you legs extend long here, or kept them bent as I am demonstrating. On the Nimbleback website they show a similar exercise they call the “The Low Back Lounger” which you can find on their website.
The Posture Fixer
I shared this one on Instagram last night. I do a variation of this in my Thursday morning Seniors Circuit class and they hate it – but they know you need it! In class I have them stad against a wall and bring their arms up like in photo one. Then, while keeping their elbows on the wall, they rotate down to the position you see in photo two. The only difference here is that I’m seated, and have The Beam running up my spine. This addition allows a bit more comfort (sitting for many people is more comfortable than standing) but also allow for larger chest opener, and gives a bit more range of motion since you are slightly away from the wall. I think I’m going to bring one of The Beams in for my class so they can try it using The Beam so they can choose which version they would rather do. Personally, I really like it with The Beam better. It feels like a better stretch!
The Chest Opener
This is another exercise I’ve done for years on a foam roller as part of a chest release series. So many of us spend so much time hunched over that it really takes a lot of counterbalancing work like this to maintain healthy range of motion both through our shoulders, but also stretching our pectoral muscles and strengthening our backs. Start with your arms straight up towards the ceiling, then slowly lower behind you, only bringing them all the way to the floor if that feels ok for your shoulders. Then slowly reverse lifting your arms back to the starting point.
Another exercise I really like but didn’t include is to start with your arms down by your sides, but palms up. Then sweep your arms up towards your head like you were making a snow angel, and then back down. After 5-10 reps of the chest opener and the snow angel arms you should really feel a big difference in your posture when you stand back up.
Then when you are done, you can sit back and relax for a few more minutes. or roll off to the side, sit up and continue with your day.The Beam is a great complimentary piece of equipment, and right now you can get free shipping using the coupon code below when you order!
And if picking up The Beam isn’t in the budget right now, don’t worry – you can still do all these exercises at home using a rolled up yoga mat or blanket. They won’t allow quite as nice of a release, but it’ll still work!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for The Beam by Nimbleback. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.