As a runner and a cyclist, Ive experienced my share of back pain. Ive learned dozens of stretches -- Ive copied them from magazines or online sources and received handouts from chiropractors and physical therapists. But knowing which stretches are good for your lower back is only half the battle; actually doing them correctly and on a regular basis is the difficult part. And performing stretches from instructions in a book or handouts is awkward and incomplete -- you can get only so much instruction from a picture, while a video can help guide you through the movement.
In order to address lower back pain in a user-friendly format, kinesiologist and flexibility expert Brian Dorfman created the Lower Back Basics DVD to help improve strength and flexibility and prevent lower back problems. The routine takes less than 25 minutes to complete and includes 12 different exercises that benefit the lower back muscles and tendons.
The reason I selected these particular exercises is because their combined effects can help address the many issues that cause lower back problems or pain, Dorfman says. Although these exercises are simple and easy to do, theyre able to resolve complex lower back issues. Performing these movements helps improve circulation to discs, ligaments, muscles and bones of the lower back.
One of the main factors in lower back injury is compression, which occurs in everyday activity. So in order to heal the lower back, these stretches focus on countering this compression. Many of the stretches in this DVD focus on the hip and pelvic area, which helps stretch and promote movement at the hip joint, as well as extend and decompress the lower back, says Dorfman.
The stretches are a balance between strengthening and lengthening exercises -- the postural muscles are strengthened in order to prevent injury, and the lengthening exercises help combat the compression of the spine. Dorfman also says that because the lower back is intimately connected with the lower digestive organs, the entire digestive system can benefit from these movements.
Going through the motions
Im already a fan of Dorfman -- I use his Flexibility Training DVD and was eager to try his lower back-focused routine. If you like Flexibility Training, youll love Lower Back Basics.
In Lower Back Basics, Dorfman guides you through 12 different stretches that are clearly explained and require minimal space. Breathing properly through the stretches helps complement the stretching movements and allows you to access your core muscles, which helps reduce stress-related injuries in the area, explains Dorfman.
To ensure youre breathing properly, youre prompted when to inhale and exhale during the stretch, as well as how to breathe -- for example, when you inhale, you should feel your ribs expand, while on the exhale, you should focus on moving your navel toward the floor. As someone who doesnt do yoga or meditate, knowing how or when to breathe throughout a movement isnt obvious to me, so this guidance is very helpful.
The last stretch, Open Hips on Wall, is one of my favorites and one of the easiest stretches. You simply lean your legs against a wall and let gravity do the rest. It not only feels great on your lower back, but Dorfman says this position has a significant effect on immune system health, especially combined with the previous exercises, because the movement accesses the lymph nodes in your inner thigh and groin area. All the stretches are carefully chosen to give you the greatest benefits in the least amount of time.
The basics with benefitsFirst off, the stretches in Lower Back Basics feel great, so you really look forward to doing them. Its a quick, easy way to strengthen and stretch your lower back. At just over 20 minutes from start to finish, this is something thats easy to do three times a week -- as suggested -- no matter how busy you are. All the exercises are easy to follow and move at a comfortable pace. The outdoor location and classical guitar make this a relaxing and enjoyable way to wind down at the end of the day.
And Dorfman knows his stuff. Since 1985, hes maintained his own injury rehabilitation practice and his ability to treat injuries has made him indispensable among Olympic and professional athletes, including Paula Newby-Fraser, Steve Scott, Peter Reid and many others. Lower Back Basics gives you a quick, safe way to both alleviate and prevent lower back pain.
The Lower Back Basics DVD is $30, and an illustrated booklet with all the exercises is also available for $15. For complete details, visit www.briandorfman.com or call toll free 1 866-787-3348.
Lonna Ramirez is a freelance writer, cyclist and runner in San Diego, CA.