Sunday, January 15, 2012

Case Study #1 - Upper Back Pain

Our first Broga case study!

When my co-worker DC was struck with a mysterious pain in the upper back last week he naturally turned to me, his trusty Broga guru, to help him in his hour of need. Oh okay, I volunteered my opinion unasked, but whatevs... the point is the guy had a sore back... and yoga came to the rescue!

First of all... what's going on?

Neck and upper back pain can often be caused by muscle overuse, poor posture or over/under exercise. Often it can comes from holding uncomfortable positions for long periods of time; which, lets face it describes most of us working in offices in front of computers all day (that cricket coverage won't watch itself, will it DC?)

Improving posture in general, as well as the following exercises, will be the best way for DC to start feeling better again. In fact, awareness of our working habits and posture is the first step we can all take to avoid these problems arising in the first place.

So yeah, your mum could have written this post: SIT UP STRAIGHT! *wags finger*

In the short term however there are some exercises DC can do to alleviate the pain and start stretching out his muscles and aligning the spine (some of them he can even do at his desk without looking too much like a twat)

Seated Chair Twist:

This one is great as you can do it at your desk.

1. Sitting up straight, take a deep inhale, then on the exhale bring your right hand to your knee and the left along the back of the chair, turning your torso to face the right hand side.

2. Pause here and use the inhale to stretch your spine up tall in your new position.

3. On the next exhale begin to twist your waist and lower ribs further to the right.

4. Inhale, lengthen spine.

5. Exhale, twist shoulder and turn head to bring your gaze as far over your shoulder to the right as possible. Stay here for a few breaths - still using the inhale to lenghten and the exhale to twist further into the stretch.

6. Use an inhale to return the head and neck to the front first, followed by the torso.

Repeat other side.

Shoulder Twist against the wall:

Find a wall (and bandana?) and place your arm at about a 45 degree angle along it. Turn your chest away from the arm and twist to look over your opposite shoulder. Breathe here - again; inhale straighten spine, exhale increase twist. Inhale - return head, then release. Repeat on other side.

Ardha Jathara Parivarttanasana

1. Begin by lying on your back, arms outstretched at shoulder height, knees bent with feet on the floor.

2. On the exhale bring your legs down to the left and place your hand on your knees to ground them into the floor. Gaze over your right shoulder. Keep both left and right side shoulders grounded into the floor, as you breathe in and out here deeply and slowly.

4. On an exhale return head to middle, then knees.

Repeat other side.

"The Merv" (copywrite DC, 2012)

1. Grab a bandana/ scarf/ belt and hold either end above your head so one arm is at ten and the other two.

2. On an exhale bring the arms down to the left.

3. Inhale - return to the middle.

4. Repeat on right and continue repeating in time with your breath.

Try and keep your arms parallel to the body, not pulling back which creates an arch in the lower back (bad!) - pretend there is a wall directly behind you which you are sliding the arms along.

Longer term:

As mentioned earlier improving posture - along with strengthening the muscles that support the spine - is the best way of making sure these problems don't re-occur.

First up DC needs to activate that core, and then continue doing regular exercises that work on improving core strength and postural alignment. A strong core works as a kind of "corset" for our spine, meaning it doesn't have to take the whole load of carrying our torso, head, neck and shoulders alone. Strong core muscles = healthy supported spine = healthy body/ happy DC. The spine does so much work for us; not just posturally speaking, but also in carrying messages all round our body to our organs and limbs. Give it back a little love!

In an upcoming post I will share some more exercises DC can do to strengthen this area, stretching and twisting the spine and the muscles which support it. In the meantime here is a handy video of yoga back exercises he can do in the comfort of his own home.


Disclaimer: I am not a doctor! These are suggested exercises, not solutions for medical issues or injury. Please consult your doctor if you have severe or re-occuring back pain, and before undertaking any exercise regime. Stay safe brogis :)

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