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How To Minimize Mid-Back Pain (3-Minute Isometric Exercise)

Video Highlights

• Lateral Bending
• Mid-Back Issues
• Exercise Demo

Hi, I am Dr. Eric Cobb of Z-Health Performance. We’ve been talking about restoring lateral bending in the spine using isometric exercise. This is a fast, incredibly powerful fix. It’s something I use very regularly for movement dysfunction and pain in the spine. If you haven’t watched the previous two videos, definitely go back and watch the first one. In this little series, which was on the pelvis, I explained all the ramifications and why we do different things. But the basics are this. Whenever someone has pain or movement problems in an area of the spine, one of the motions that they are lacking typically is lateral bending. We need to restore that. Once we restore that, very often a lot of their movement issues and pains start to go away or just disappear altogether.

Lateral bending is an unusual movement for many people because we rarely do it purely in real life. So it is something that I want you to focus on. As I said, we’ve already done a couple videos on this, so go back and watch those if you want more of the particulars and if you haven’t watched anything before, we are a brain-based education company, so everything that we do brings brain science or neurology into the movement world. We specialize in working with movement professionals, doctors, coaches, and therapists from around the world. So if this is of interest to you, make sure to subscribe and check out our other stuff.

Now let’s talk about the mid-Back. Previously, we talked about the pelvis, we talked about the low back. So now what do we do for low or mid-Back issues, whenever we’re talking about lateral bending. The thoracic spine is a weird spot because not only do we have the spinal column, we also have the ribs involved, diaphragm, lungs, heart, there’s a lot of different things that may play a role here, but there is a very simple exercise that you can utilize to really start to emphasize improving lateral bending, utilizing the isometric concept or isometric strength training concepts that we’ve already been discussing.

So for this one, what we’re going to need to do is we’re gonna be on the ground. So we’re gonna go down into a side lying position, and I like to have people typically start this with kind of a 90, 90 bend in the legs. This isn’t super, super critical. The more important piece is what am I gonna do with the arm? ’cause we’re gonna be in this supportive position. So you can either have the hand here, you can have the hand here. Alright, with the palm facing up, most people will try to initially do this with a palm down, but because of some things that’s happening that are going to happen in the shoulder, I prefer that you not do that.

So I generally would like to teach this with the palm up. Now, our goal here right now is to do an isometric contraction for the right side of my spine, the thoracic spine that’s closest to the floor. So what this is gonna look like is I need to now create an arch. So I’m gonna be doing in essence, kind of a lateral planking motion. My pelvis is gonna come up, my ribs are gonna come up, but now the key here is my focus. I am trying to think about creating a fulcrum where I’m now bringing my ribs together. All right, and if you’re doing this correctly, it may feel a little crampy. It can be kind of challenging.

So if you go back and again, watch some of the previous videos here. Whenever we’re doing isometrics for movement dysfunction and pain, we are going to do a long hold contraction somewhere between one and five minutes. I normally start people around 60 to 90 seconds and build up, and it needs to be about 30 to 40% of your maximum contraction capacity.

For most people, I don’t now need to add load to this. Just holding their body weight up is enough, and it may actually be too much. If you have clients who cannot actually get up into this position and really contract through the mid back, you may have them keep the pelvis closer to the floor and just use their trunk to create that lateral bend.

So if you’re well conditioned, you’ve been able to hold this for two minutes or something, now you can come up, you can get that nice contraction again, thinking about creating an arch where the ribs are moving up to the ceiling, then you can begin working on sliding the top knee that way, that’s actually going to increase the contraction considerably. So there’s some different manipulations you can do with the legs that will increase the intensity.

The nice part about that is again, it allows you to increase the weight of the isometric exercise as you get stronger without needing to add some kind of external load. If you’re super, super conditioned and super strong, obviously you could hold the dumbbell, put a weight vest over your shoulder or whatever so that you’re now really working against a much heavier resistance.

But for movement, dysfunction and pain, we’re not really looking at this as a strength training isometric. We’re looking at this as a long-duration isometric. So aim for that 30 to 40% and make sure you’re working on extending the duration.

In most cases, after you finish your 90, 120-second contraction, if you get up and then retest, whatever was bothering you, maybe you had pain and rotation, flexion, extension, whatever. In many cases, it’ll be gone completely just by working on this very kind of safe muscle contraction for that area of the body. All right, hope you enjoyed this one. Found it useful. It’s pretty easy to set up, so give it a shot and let us know how it works for you.

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