We are so excited to kick off our Guest Blogger Series with Dr. Karen Quinn. Dr. Quinn is an advocate for natural health and active living. As a Chiropractor, she believes health extends beyond how we feel and promotes a proactive approach to function, vitality and performance. She focuses on postural balance, family wellness, lifestyle optimization and neural health. Dr. Quinn practices in the SE community of Ramsay. Without further ado, please welcome Dr. Quinn to the BBS Blog!
In class you likely often hear the cue of finding “neutral pelvis”. You may have heard different suggestions on how to find this, but your personal anatomy, biomechanics and body awareness may make this harder to feel. The reason why a neutral pelvic position is ideal, is due to the fact, that in neutral, general impact and your own body weight is dispersed more equally (less repetitive stress). How we do one activity is generally how we do all activities, so your practice whether it be Barre or something else, is a great glimpse into how you move (or don’t move) everyday. Here are three positions that may create back pain, why it may occur and how to correct it as it relates to “neutral”.
1. Laying flat on the floor on your back with legs straight (think savasana!). If you feel low back pain in this posture, it could be because you have excess stress on the back portion of your spine (facets). When you are in this position, it typically will exaggerate your low back curve. If you already have excess curve here, this can be uncomfortable.
Remedy: Allow for a gentle bend in your knees, ideally with support so you can completely relax and not have to “hold” anything up. If you are in this position and doing any leg lifts, tucking your tail under slightly either with your hands framing your tailbone (palm down), or elevating your tail onto a slight elevation (while maintaining this tucked pelvis). When standing, be mindful that you aren’t collapsing into your low back. Strengthening into your lower abdomen will also help to balance your pelvis as it acts to pull up from the front like suspenders. Some may find that paying attention to the distance between their front lower ribs and the top of their pelvis can help with this awareness also.
2. Forward folds (standing or seated). Just as the previous example created strain on the back portion of your spine, bending forward puts weight on the front of your spine (the discs). This is increased further with limited hamstring flexibility as it will be harder for the pelvis to tip forward, thus more motion will be recruited in the spine.
Remedy: Moving mindfully and learning to isolate pelvic mobility will help. In the meantime, taking tension off the hamstrings by allowing for a slight knee bend (either seated, with or without a prop under the knees or standing) is recommended. To get a feel for the hinging motion you typically want at the hips, bring yourself to a seated position on a chair, and try to hinge forward bringing your belly button to your thighs. You should feel that your tailbone tips back behind you. If your tail doesn’t move and you are rounding through your back, you aren’t hinging. Note, there are times where rounding forward may be cued to help stretch through your lower back muscles. This under normal circumstances should be safe, unless you have known lumbar disc irritation.
3. Side bends! To understand why something isn’t moving properly, it is important to understand what proper function looks like. In the lumbar spine (low back), it has what is known as “coupled motion”, which means two motions occur at the same time. I point this out, because this adds more variables as to why certain movements may be challenging. For example, side bends in the low back in a properly functioning spine, will also have rotation in those same vertebrae (it bends and it turns). If the spine is unable to rotate, your ability to bend to that side will also be compromised.
Remedy: Ensure you aim for motion (both flexibility and strengthening) in all ranges in any given area. Forward, backward, both sides and rotation to both sides. You may also need to see your Chiropractor, Physio or Osteopath to help get “stuck” areas moving again. One of the other possibilities, is pain or restriction bending to one side due to a deeper muscular imbalance. There are many combinations of imbalance that can contribute to this, but one approach you can take is to stretch the opposite hip flexor (if difficult bending to right side, stretch left hip flexor). One last thing, is to be mindful of your mobility. Our body tends to “cheat” and where we don’t have motion, it will recruit up or down the chain. By being present and creating a proper foundation for movement, you will more easily feel where your body is masking dysfunction and can then take the steps to correct it.
A big thank you to Dr. Karen Quinn for sharing just a fraction of her wealth of knowledge with us and our community. We will definitely be keeping these three remedies in mind should we feel any pain in our back while at the barre. Connect with Dr. Quinn online or on Insta, with @dr.kq.
Note: this article is not intended to replace a professional diagnosis or consultation. If you are experiencing pain, please consult your Chiropractor, Physiotherapist or other medical provider.