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Old 05-16-2005, 06:30 AM   #1
Abasan
Dojo: Aiki Shoshinkan, Aiki Kenkyukai
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Back Problems

I recently injured my back carrying some bags up a couple of floors. When I was carrying them, there were no problems. And as far I know, I'm quite capable of carrying around 60-70kg over my shoulders. The stuff I was carrying might have weighed at 20kg or so...and had to be carried with both hands in front of me.

That afternoon my back started to ache. And it got so bad that the next day for several days I couldn't stand without pain.

About 15 years back I injured my back and an MRI showed that I had spinal protusion on the lowest disc. A recent MRI showed no change. Although it was painful then, it never occured again unless I strained my back (like doing the boat exercise for the stomach). I've been practising aikido for some 7 years and have never had any problems with my back even though we take hard ukemis a lot.

So its been 3 and half weeks now. Its not very painful, but I can still feel it. What do you think I should do? Should I start training again or wait until it completely disappears. I'm afraid that by not training soon, I'm just allowing my back to dictate the pace of my recuperation.

The doctor said it was a muscle problem not a nerve problem. But somehow, I think its a little bit of both.

Are there any remedial stuff I can do in your experience?

Thanks.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 05-16-2005, 07:08 AM   #2
ian
 
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Re: Back Problems

1 in 3 people have back problems during their life and my next door neighbour actually killed himself due to the chronic pain from a back problem. My point is - be very very careful with your back. Unfortunately students I've known who have had back problems can have it exaserbated by aikido - although I believe aikido can strengthen your back, it can be very hard to protect the bone and muscle once it is severely damaged.

My advice is, try and see the most qualified people you can, make sure you get a second opinion, and follow their advice. Also, from the experience of friends, many modern doctors are often at a loss as to what to do with back problems (you'll get the standard; 'rest it' solution or radiotherapy) - often alternative therapists seem to have some success.

Hope this is of some help!

Ian

Last edited by ian : 05-16-2005 at 07:10 AM.

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Old 05-16-2005, 07:37 AM   #3
SeiserL
 
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Re: Back Problems

I have four disk bulges in my lumbar area and still train hard three time a week. I did not do surgery, but have gotten major reliefs through the lumbar stabilization programs available through physical therapy and occasional chiropractic adjustment. Get a complete work up by competent specialists in the sports area.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-20-2005, 09:25 AM   #4
Abasan
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Re: Back Problems

Thanks, but I don't think I'll die from the back pain. although it feels like it sometimes. its a bit better now, and i went for training the last two days. Pretty light but so far no ill effects. here's hoping.

Lumbar stabilisation programs? Its that like pilates or something. Are disk bulges like my problem. Where the disk fluids excretes and touches the nerve? How often do you do chiropratic adjustment?And lastly do you still do breakfalls?

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 05-20-2005, 05:52 PM   #5
aikidoc
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Re: Back Problems

The chiropractic adjustments depend on how bad your back is and how well you respond. There are no magic numbers. I'd stay away from break falls until my back was healed. Make sure you stretch well also before training. Sometimes it is necessary for more aggressive treatments such as epidural steroids injections.

Lumbar stabilization exercises are core stabilizing exercises-exercises to stabilize your core muscle groups. Here is a good website that has some exercises for core stabilization.

http://www.lasportsandspine.com/philosophy.html

Last edited by aikidoc : 05-20-2005 at 05:58 PM.
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Old 05-22-2005, 07:10 PM   #6
Janet Rosen
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Re: Back Problems

MRI research projects (and no, I cannot point you to links; I read the articles many yrs ago when still a practicing RN) have shown that there are many people with bulging discs and NO PAIN and that there are many people with chronic back pain with no bulging discs. Therefore many folks in health care are thinking, if there is not a correlation between back pain and bulging discs, why is surgery done on bulging discs in order to treat chronic back pain?
I agree that stabilizing the back via some kind of core exercise or pilates program would be a very good place to start.

Janet Rosen
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Old 05-23-2005, 08:50 AM   #7
Abasan
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Re: Back Problems

Great link. Thanks!

Appreciate the input I've gotten. Went for a massage just now, but nothing too creative. I'm off the mat 4 weeks now. Maybe will not go into any breakfalls till another 4 weeks. But some good senseis are visiting this coming june and I would be missing a lot if I don't get to play by then.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 05-23-2005, 11:48 AM   #8
kironin
 
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Re: Back Problems

massage ok

but you should really listen seriously to Janet's suggestion to do some type of core exercises to improve stabilization of your back

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Old 08-06-2006, 12:27 PM   #9
Tony Wagstaffe
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Re: Back Problems

Don't do anything if you have chronic pain. If and when bearable get up and walk around. When your back stops hurting strengthen up your stomach muscles either with isometrics or abdominal crunches and very gentle stretching. when your back is generally feeling good start leg raising (on the bed) ie/ raise your knees to 45 - 90 degrees to start and just do what is comfortable as far as reps are concerned, when that gets easy raise the feet to 45 - 90 degrees, when that gets easy you should find that your back is getting the support it needs through strengthening your abs.
When your back is good try isometric back exercise ie/ keeping your back.straight try pulling your backside up to your shoulders
(this can be done lying on your front or standing up) If you are overweight, cut down on carbs and eat plenty of oily fish, protein, veg and fruit. Drink plenty of water.
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Old 08-06-2006, 12:41 PM   #10
David Orange
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Re: Back Problems

Quote:
Ahmad Abas wrote:
I recently injured my back carrying some bags up a couple of floors...its been 3 and half weeks now. Its not very painful, but I can still feel it. What do you think I should do? ...Are there any remedial stuff I can do in your experience?
Ahmad, I urge you to find a certified practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method (C). I had a debilitating back problem when I was in Japan. I went through thousands of dollars worth of accupuncture, shiatsu, chiropractic and hospital (outpatient) treatment with shots and pills. I had also recently had a full $2000.00 course of Rolfing from an excellent person in Tokyo. But then I got injured.

After months of agony and walking with a cane (!!!) at age 37 (!!!!) I heard of a Feldenkrais practitioner. Not only did I quickly get the sense that this person really cared whether I got relief, after two sessions, I found myself walking without pain and without my cane! And shortly after that, I got back into full scale aikido practice at the yoseikan hombu, where the workouts were severe.

I'd say lay off the practice until you get better if you don't want to wind up in a wheelchair. But you'll probably get better quickly if you get some Feldenkrais treatment!

Best wishes and good luck.

David

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

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Old 08-06-2006, 04:42 PM   #11
Carol Shifflett
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Re: Back Problems

Quote:
Ahmad Abas wrote:
I recently injured my back carrying some bags up a couple of floors. When I was carrying them, there were no problems. And as far I know, I'm quite capable of carrying around 60-70kg over my shoulders. The stuff I was carrying might have weighed at 20kg or so...and had to be carried with both hands in front of me.
One really big problem with saying that "my back hurts" is that a "back" is not a "back" is not a "back" -- there are SOOOOO many possibilities! You can turn this disconnect into a party game. Gather up your troops, close eyes, and have everybody put a finger on his "back" (or "shoulder" or "leg" or "foot".) You will be astonished at the differences of perception. That said, I can think of several possibilities for injury, but WHERE exactly does your back hurt? What you do about it depends on what you've done.
Quote:
About 15 years back . . . an MRI showed that I had spinal protusion on the lowest disc. A recent MRI showed no change. Although it was painful then, it never occured again unless I strained my back (like doing the boat exercise for the stomach). I've been practising aikido for some 7 years and have never had any problems with my back even though we take hard ukemis a lot.
As Janet pointed out, the ubiquitous MRI has pretty much destroyed the notion that "your back pain is due to that there bulging disc." There was an astonishing lack of correlation between the discs, their bulgy-ness (or not) and back pain (or lack of it). I'd say that if you saw a bulgy disc 15 years ago and no real problems since, that attributing back pain to that disc was probably a case of "Point & Shoot Diagnostics," i.e., "We've got a problem, what could it be? Oh look! There's a bulging disc! Aha! That must be It!" Well, maybe. Maybe not . . .
Quote:
The doctor said it was a muscle problem not a nerve problem. But somehow, I think its a little bit of both.
Did the doctor say WHICH muscle? WHICH nerve? You've got some 600 muscles in your body, some 200 in the torso. Two big issues in your post are:

1. You were carrying weight with arms forward.
2. You were carrying a load upstairs.

This presents several different possibilities.

-- Back muscles ("muscles above the buttocks") NB. tight paraspinals can cause bulging discs.

-- Calf muscles. Yes, calf muscles. Strain the soleus muscle (of the calf, which you could easily have done by walking body weight + load up stairs) and you will have pain referred down the calf to the heel, then skipping up to the SI joint (again, where do you hurt!??) and then appearing in face and jaw. But it still comes down to: WHERE, exactly, do you hurt?
Quote:
Are there any remedial stuff I can do in your experience?
Indeed there is! Treat the problem -- not the symptom. But the way to determine the problem is by the symptoms. For any hope of Diagnosing Over the Internet (not recommended but hey! we're talking hypothetically here!), you have to SHOW the bodywork folks just what -- and where -- the symptoms actually are. Thanks to the tattoo thread, I just realized that we can post pics. Can you post a picture of your pain pattern?

Cheers!
Carol Shifflett
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Old 08-18-2006, 11:56 PM   #12
Brad Pruitt
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Re: Back Problems

Ahmad,
I hope your back is feeling better. I used to have back pain every day and since i started aikido it has pretty much stopped. I believe it's because of the stretching mostly. I now stretch almost daily and have started doing yoga on my own. I've been in the construction business for the last 18 years and have been getting smarter with what I put my body through. Maybe it's the self-massaging ukemi.
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Old 08-19-2006, 11:23 AM   #13
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Back Problems

Most times when there is a sudden onset of back pain from lifting or bending, it has little to do with that particular incident. I knew an old guy whose back went out putting on his underwear one morning! Do you sit in chairs a lot? In the US, there is an epidemic of back pain in middle aged and older folks, and the major underlying cause is sitting in chairs, believe it or not.

Most people sit in chairs with their lumbar spine flexed under load, because they slouch. This isn't an extremely harsh stress for the low back, but the problem is the duration. If you have a desk job, it can mean sitting like this for 8 hours plus per day. For a similar illustration, bend one of your fingers back until it is uncomfortably stretched. Let go immediately and there's no problem. Now hold it for a while. It's starting to seem like a bigger deal. Now imagine holding it like that for 8 hours per day... This is what is going on with millions of americans' lower backs. The ligaments and muscles are being chronically stressed by being held in a flexed position during lazy sitting.

Add to this that most also do not do regular exercises to strengthen these structures and practice proper posture and movement patterns for when they do need to lift things. The lower back is basically like a time bomb waiting for a lifted sack of dirt or box of books to set it off.

One upshot of this is that if you have back pain, forward bending lower back stretches are rarely a good idea, as this is just more of what hurt you. Some physical therapy centers around forcibly extending the spine in an attempt to undo some of the damage, but this shouldn't be done without good reason and supervision.

The main reason I mention all this is what Carol said about finding the cause. If you slouch in chairs a lot, put it at the top of the list of suspects. It can be addressed by workplace ergonomics. You might think the solution is just to sit up straight with perfect posture all the time, but that can cause problems too. The best is to vary positions. I came up with a model where one has a standing height desk and a sitting height desk, so one can alternate standing and sitting. Getting one of those slanted kneeling seiza-like chairs in addition to the normal chair can also add options, as can consciously varying the way you sit in your normal chair - sometimes straight up and 'proper', sometimes slouching.

Best of all is to not have a life which requires extensive chair-sitting. The human body does best with frequent movement and variation in position, sitting in office chairs most of the time is simply inherently bad for it... like smoking.

Last edited by Kevin Wilbanks : 08-19-2006 at 11:34 AM.
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Old 08-19-2006, 09:15 PM   #14
Carol Shifflett
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Re: Back Problems

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
I knew an old guy whose back went out putting on his underwear one morning!
Classic quadratus lumborum injury! Or possibly gluteus medius, as both are involved in stabilizing the pelvis while standing on one leg. Consider that in 2001, the UK Department of Trade and Industry found that thousands of injuries severe enough to require hospital admission were associated with tea cosies, vegetables, and sofas. False teeth were responsible for 933 admissions, toilet-roll holders for 329, and there were 5,945 "Trouser incidents" (compared to 1,207 chainsaw injuries).
Quote:
The main reason I mention all this is what Carol said about finding the cause.
. . . or at least just identifying WHERE it hurts. As Ahmad hasn't posted a pic, I will give it a try myself just to show the difference. Muscles often have highly diagnostic pain patterns whereas "my back hurts" doesn't mean much. See the difference below (IF THIS WORKS!)

The pain pic at far left is from the psoas -- it runs like a bowstring from your thigh to your lumbar vertebrae. This is the muscle that is strained by straight-leg situps. And that's its typical pain pattern which runs UP the back, possibly as far as the shoulder blades.

Middle is the pain pattern from -- believe it or not -- the rectus abdominus. Too many crunches? Pain running ACROSS the back.

At right are two random spots for multifidi pain. Local and awful. And there's lots more!

Cheers!
Carol Shifflett
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Old 08-20-2006, 05:37 PM   #15
Carol Shifflett
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Re: Back Problems

Forgot to mention that the psoas pain pattern (far left in my picture posting) is exactly what you can get from sitting in chairs too long -- exactly as Kevin describes. It has a frontal pain as well. When you've been driving too long or even sitting in seiza too long and stand up suddenly, this is the muscle that feels as tho you've pulled something in the groin area (not to be confused with the groin pull/pain from being tenkan-ed). Its a common cause of chronic backache in karateka (and others) -- and who would know that for real relief, you need to do FRONT stretches and apply the heating pad, etc. to the top of the anterior thigh?
Kevin, I really like your recommendation of "a standing height desk and a sitting height desk." Personally I like a standing height desk / drafting table with a standing height stool/chair for sitting. But either one saves a world of hurt!

Cheers!
Carol Shifflett
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Old 08-20-2006, 07:16 PM   #16
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Back Problems

You are way deeper into symptomatic treatment than me. That stuff is good, I suppose, but it's only pain. I only care about the specifics of the injury insofar as finding the cause. Hence, I actually think it is better in many cases not to ameliorate pain, so that you can use it as feedback to know whether you are effecting the cause. In my case, I tried everything under the sun for my back and hip problems - chiropractic, PT, custom homemade orthotics, drugs, herbs, applied kinesiology, deep tissue massage, orthobionomy, yoga... the problems didn't really go away until I got a new life that no longer involved sitting in office chairs. Years later, when I started spending way too much time driving my pickup truck, the problems returned. Chairs are a menace.
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Old 08-20-2006, 09:05 PM   #17
Carol Shifflett
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Re: Back Problems

Quote:
Kevin Wilbanks wrote:
You are way deeper into symptomatic treatment than me..
Only because I treat.
Quote:
That stuff is good, I suppose, but it's only pain. I only care about the specifics of the injury insofar as finding the cause. Hence, I actually think it is better in many cases not to ameliorate pain, so that you can use it as feedback to know whether you are effecting the cause.
The two work together. Pain patterns suggest a muscle, while the muscle suggests the precipitating / perpetuating factor, whether it's too much computer / truck / sword practice time or whatnot. And to recap: "My [back/head/leg] hurts! What do I do?" isn't enough. Hurts where?

Meanwhile, "ONLY" pain?? Ouch! You're a tougher man than I am!

Cheers!
Carol Shifflett
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Old 08-21-2006, 03:05 AM   #18
Abasan
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Re: Back Problems

Holy cow, I don't think I understood half of the diagnose up there. But to answer your question, sadly no... my back is not getting better. Btw, Spinal Protusion isn't a bulging disc. Is a condition whereby the spinal fluid from one of the disc (in this case 3rd or 4th disc) has escape its encapsulation. The fluid touches the nerves and causes nerve pain.

As for where. Well Carol's 3rd pic on the lower side shows the place where it is. Again, its acute pain. Until recently of course where the tinge remains consistent now. I think Kevin's summary touched a nerve (pardon the pun). I'm on the desk most days in a week for like 4-5 hours stretch and 8-9 hours at least in total a day. Whenever I realise it, I will stop slouching but I don't think its a cure.

I had chiro sessions recently and I'm now using the chiro feet pads because apparently I have flat feet. Jeez, what else can go wrong. The chiro blames my feet and tight back muscles on the back pain. He showed that I can't really put my feet together without using a lot of muscle. (yeah its a strain to put my feet together. Its sad).

On top of that, my aikido time has taken a nose dive. I'm losing confidence in one dojo and the other dojo runs on student timetable. Since its the holidays, there's no aikido. Someone help! I'm swimming a lot now thinking that more back muscles would help, also tried kicking with a swim board. That was no good, gave me back pain.

I think I'll just take up shooting instead. Ukemi is fall down and die.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 08-21-2006, 10:05 AM   #19
Carol Shifflett
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Re: Back Problems

Quote:
Ahmad Abas wrote:
. . .spinal fluid from one of the disc (in this case 3rd or 4th disc) has escape its encapsulation. The fluid touches the nerves and causes nerve pain. I think Kevin's summary touched a nerve (pardon the pun). I'm on the desk most days in a week for like 4-5 hours stretch and 8-9 hours at least in total a day. Whenever I realise it, I will stop slouching but I don't think its a cure.
My apologies! I went straight to "bulging disk" and missed what you were actually saying.Meanwhile, perhaps un-slouching is not a cure, but perhaps you'd settle for a preventative? You must see a back specialist! -- meanwhile, take care not to irritate and shorten other muscles and Kevin is so right about damage of long sitting.
Quote:
I can't really put my feet together without using a lot of muscle. . . my aikido time has taken a nose dive. . . tried kicking with a swim board. That was no good, gave me back pain
"Can't put feet together" how?? Is that standing? Sitting on your sitzbones and unable to bring soles of feet together? COULD be severely tight hip muscles which can cause ghastly pain -- but insufficient data/description. Can't practice with a bum back! But you must see the best back specialist you can find -- not something to mess with (or trust to Unknown Persons on the Internet).

That said, gluteus medius would make it difficult to bring your feet together while standing, give you severe low back pain, and would be strained while carrying a heavy weight upstairs along with its buddy gluteus maximus which would also object to swimming a flutter kick. Psoas (again, shortened by long sitting) can also produce local pain -- it need not extend as far up the back as shown. If it were me, I would have a very good bodyworker look at all the hip rotators, glutes, and psoas. If pain increases on coughing also check quadratus lumborum (commonly injured in twisty sword exercises, golf, in guys who put on their pants one leg at a time -- and a common cause of baffling but horrendous low back pain). And see a Real Time back specialist!

Good luck!
Carol Shifflett
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Old 08-21-2006, 11:57 AM   #20
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Back Problems

Note that my strategy is not merely sitting with better posture. You need to rotate through the greatest variety of postures available. If you could find a way to stand and buy one of those seiza chairs, you could spend 1/3 of the time in each reduce your overall sitting time to only 1/3 its current level, then you could sit up straight half the remaining time and get it down to 1/6th. I suspect that merely sticking with the chair and trying to sit up straight will realistically only cut your exposure by maybe 1/4. If you are extremely tenacious about correcting your posture, maybe more, but too much and you will develop new pain patterns from overusing new posture muscles.
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Old 08-22-2006, 03:37 AM   #21
Abasan
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Re: Back Problems

Can't put my feet together without strain when lying on my back. (feet together close not just heels). Anyway. Thanks for the advice and that's what I'm doing right now... with the chiro. There aren't that many back specialists here in Malaysia.

Yeah I wish I can get those seize chairs, apparently they were in fashion several years back but completely disappeared from the market here.

I'm thinking, more stretching ought to do the trick. Maybe yoga or something.

Thanks all.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 08-22-2006, 09:37 AM   #22
Carol Shifflett
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Re: Back Problems

Quote:
Ahmad Abas wrote:
Can't put my feet together without strain when lying on my back. (feet together close not just heels). . . . I'm thinking, more stretching ought to do the trick. Maybe yoga or something.
Ahmad, what have you been doing?? Lots and lots of karate side-kicks perhaps? You are describing a severe contraction of the hip ABductors -- the muscles that pull your leg out to the side -- THOSE are what need to be stretched. They WILL cause back pain (as illustrated in my last post), yank on the lumbar fascia and force other muscles to work overtime in overcoming their shortness and contractions. Adductors are the muscles which are straining to overcome the tense medial glutes. Tighten those up and you'll end up with groin pain, leg pain, knee pain -- and then won't you be in an awful fix! Not pleasant!

Get your bodyworker to loosen up glute medius and minimus in particular and then show you how to stretch those properly. You will also need attention to the adductors which you are now straining with an abnormal walk.

The reason why walking up stairs with a load might have fired this off is that the medial glutes (and also ask about quadratus lumborum) help to stabilize the pelvis under load and you added a load above and beyond normal load. Again, this is diagnosing over the Internet, but now it all fits.

Good luck!
Carol Shifflett
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Old 08-22-2006, 12:01 PM   #23
Kevin Wilbanks
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Re: Back Problems

I'm not a big fan of stretching. I can say with confidence that a bunch of general stretches put together without diagnostic guidance will be of no use. It may be useful in a very focussed way, in a situation like Carol describes - namely a particular muscle or muscles are so tightened up that simply can't become long enough to assume their proper position in posture and movement. I think this is far less common than people assume, but even if it is the case, once the muscles have been stretched, that is only the beginning.

The joint still won't function properly without the patient learning new postural and movement patterns - bascially the motor-neural components of learning to hold the joint differently - then making it an unconscious habit. This latter process is what yoga is about - not stretching. The yoga provides the template for how to hold and use the joint, and gets you started on making everything strong enough to do its job. The rest is the hard work of correcting yourself a million times per day in your everyday life.
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Old 08-22-2006, 09:25 PM   #24
Carol Shifflett
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Re: Back Problems

Quote:
Ahmad Abas wrote:
Can't put my feet together without strain when lying on my back. (feet together close not just heels).
Tilt! Reset! . . . ! Are you saying that you can put your HEELS together without effort . . . but not your TOES? If so, look at hip ROTATORS, specifically piriformis.

Meanwhile, you might have given up flutter-kicking with a swim board due to back pain, but switching to a frog-kick could strain the hip abductors (re: gluteus medius).

Cheers!
Carol Shifflett
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Old 08-23-2006, 01:27 AM   #25
Abasan
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Re: Back Problems

Ok. Now that sounds about right. I did yoga last night by the way, and I'm amazed at my rapidly deteriorating flexibility.

I do stretches regularly...the typical set that aikikai has passed to all its members generally. Only thing missing there is the hurdle stretch which to my mind would help the hip abducters right?

I also prefer freestyle over breaststroke because as you said, the hip movement does seem to affect me somewhat. Notwithstanding the need for me to see a physio therapist for the correct exercise. Could you mention and desrcibe a few for me to start off with? I would be familiar to some of the more general exercises, but if its too obscure I'll just look it up.

Thanks.

PS: There was this famous karateka who injured his back in an accident. He resumed therapy by doing 1000 turning kicks every day. Apparently it strengthens the back... and since he's done that, he's gotten back to fighting fit. Trouble with me is, I've stopped tae kwon do for decades, and whenever I think back to the good old days, and try to relive the moment, I discover that my legs don't kick as fast, as high and as fluid as before. Damn... we should really do more kicks in aikido. seriously.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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