In the process of preparing for a lecture I’m giving this Saturday on low back pain, I came up with a few things one can do to manage this condition. First, to increase body awareness, conscious breathing. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet hip width apart, and arms relaxed by your sides. Pay attention to your breathing, noticing how your ribs move to the front, side and back as you breathe-your abdominals (abs) help to move you ribs. Make sure you are not pushing your back into the floor-you may notice you have an arch in your lower back-that’s OK, it should be there. As you inhale, let your ribcage, abs, and pelvis relax. When you exhale, contract your pelvic floor muscles as though you have to stop peeing-feel your abs wrap tighter around your ribs and waist like a corset, and feel your diaphragm under your ribcage pull up and under the ribs. Re-check to make sure that you are not flattening your lower back into the floor. This is conscious breathing-repeat 15-20 times.

Secondly, pelvic circles. While lying on your back, think of your pelvis as a bucket of water. When you flatten your back into the floor, the water will spill backwards; when you arch your back, the water will spill forwards. Next, try to move side to side without moving your knees or ribcage. When you drop your right hipbone, your left side will lift a little off the floor, then do the opposite side. Breathe as you need to-don’t hold your breath. Now, pretend that your backside is on the face of a clock and combine these movements into a small circle. Start by flattening your low back into the floor-this is 12:00. Follow the arc of the minute hand into your left buttock until you reach 3:00. Go back and forth a few times. Then go from 3:00 to 6:00, which is when you are on your tailbone and your lower back is arched. Proceed around the clock from 6:00 to 9:00 (right buttock), until finally reaching 12:00 again. Do this exercise 3-4 times clockwise in 15 minute arcs, then reverse and do them counterclockwise. Next, perform a 30 minute arc (half circle) in each direction, then a full circle each way. Repeat 5-6 times, remembering to breathe constantly and slowly.

Thirdly, prone hip extension. Lie on your stomach with your forehead resting on your hands (if you have pain in the low back, place a towel or pillow under your pelvis) and do the same breathing as above. It is harder to breathe, but think about expanding your ribs to the side and back more and contract your abs in toward your waist with each exhale. On an exhale, press your hip bones into the floor and as you inhale, lift one straight leg off the ground. Keep you hips still and do not move your back. Relax your lower leg-think of your leg being cut off at the knee. The energy for lifting the leg should come from your butt muscle. The limit for true hip extension is ~15 degrees, so this is not a huge movement. Alternate legs 10 times.

These seemingly simple movements have a profound effect on your back because they promote true core strength. True core strength comes from the small internal muscle of the abs,  hips, pelvic floor muscles, and the lumbar multifidii to stabilize your pelvis and lumbar spine.

Finally, when your lower back is flared-up or in spasm, lie on the floor with your legs up on a chair. Keep your toes pointed toward the ceiling, your knees over your hips, and relax for a few minutes. Next, place a pillow between your knees and squeeze with about 50% of your maximum strength-hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

I am going to film this lecture/workshop, and may offer this DVD in the near future.

PROBIOTICS are all the rage right now. With the overuse of antibiotics and other stomach issues, bacterial inequities in the gut are rampant. However, in order for probiotics to work, they need what is called “prebiotics.” Prebiotics  are, quite simply, indigestible foods that stimulate the growth and maintenance of beneficial gut microbiota. In other words, prebiotics are food for your probiotics. Prebiotics are soluble fiber, and come from plants, vegetables, and fruits. Soluble fiber is what our gut flora can actually eat and ferment. Pectin is a well-known prebiotic, as are part of the banana. Wild roots, tubers, and agave are others. To keep your gut healthy, eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.