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Rory Holliday Physiotherapy

Jumped back into January?

New years resolutions already slipping because of injury holding you back?
Getting those old niggles sorted will enable you to achieve those goals and keep your resolution!

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In this article I wanted to talk a little about something that appears to cropping up more and more often with my low back pain patients. Those big back muscles that run parallel to the spine on both sides are seen as the powerhouse of the back. They help lower you down when you bend over and pick you up from that bent over position. When you pick something or someone up, they are working hard. This is all normal and healthy; however, there are situations where they don’t relax even when you think you are. More specifically, they alter their role to give more of a postural input. This means they get tired, painful and usually a little tight as they remain "switched on" constantly. The reasons for this change are numerous and a little different for most people.


Are you at risk of this kind of problem or do you think you might have it already?
Let’s have a look at a few simple observations.
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Erector Spinae

The Erector Spinae muscle (Grey's Anatomy)

Sway back

1.     Observation:
A sway-back posture with pelvis that tilts forward puts the Erector Spinae (ES) into shortened position and lengthens the abdominals to put them into a weakened position. 

Extension give with shoulder flexion

2.     Video observation: A rib cage that lifts at the front as the arms are lifted above the head is an example of abdominal muscles not activating appropriately to stabilise the thorax in preparation for shoulder movement. This can also lead (or be caused by) to stiffness in the shoulders. (Common in climbers!) 

Extension give with shoulder flexion

3.    Video observation: A similar dysfunction can be observed in crook lying. This can be easily turned into an exercise once the range of controlled shoulder motion is established and should not be pushed beyond.

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Question- Where do you breathe from?

Answer- Your lungs.. yes, but how does your rib cage behave during this? Imagine an old-fashioned wooden barrel. Imagine it being quickly pumped full of air causing separation between every plank in the barrel. That’s how the ribcage should move essentially, equal expansion (and lift) of the ribs all around the chest.

Over-active or tight ES (amongst over things) can cause a restriction of the ability for the back of the rib cage to expand in this way.

Here's a great video exercise to help relax and stretch those Erector Spinae muscles using simple breathing techniques. This video comes from Eric Cressey's excellent website.

Awesome Video of Beetle breathing


As per usual, I have a small disclaimer. Several other factors can often be relevant and in this dysfunction. These other factors will usually need addressing also. Equally, over-active Erector spinae can be present without the observations discussed above. To be sure, come for a session and we'll have a look.

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