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Low Back Pain Relief with Isometrics (1 Powerful Exercise)

Video Highlights

• Restoring Lateral Bending for Spinal Issues
• Key Parameters for Using Isometric Exercise for Pain
• Exercise Demo

Hi, I am Dr. Eric Cobb of Z-Health Performance, and today we’re continuing our discussion of restoring lateral bending for spinal issues. So last time we talked about the pelvis and we covered a lot of, kind of basic information about whenever we look at how do we really reduce pain, how do we improve movement with a simple approach? Well, the simplest approach is using isometric exercise.

We talked about the idea that we want shortened muscle lengths to increase neural activation. We talked about wanting a long hold, isometric somewhere between one and five minutes, which then means we can’t do it really hard. So we’re gonna be around 30 to 40% of our max. So last time we covered a specific exercise for the pelvis. So we’re gonna move up one section today and we’re gonna talk about the lumbar spine or low back.

Again, if you’ve worked with a lot of people with low back pain and have examined them, you will know that tilting to the side is often painful and problematic. And whenever we can restore that motion, very often their pain gets better very, very quickly. The problem is that motion itself can be threatening for the brain, which can induce muscle spasm, which can induce more and more discomfort.

So often the safest approach is a a static isometric contraction. So how do we do it? Well, the challenge here, like I said, is that if we want to increase neural activity in the musculoskeletal system with isometrics, it’s important for us to do this in a shortened muscle length position.

So the way to set this up is to find something that you can hang a strap from. That could be a tree branch, it could be a door frame, it doesn’t really matter because all that we’re gonna do is take a rope or a strap. We’re gonna put it over that. And this is going to provide us resistance as we do a lateral bend.

So the basics are gonna be very simple. We’re gonna stand, we’re gonna get into kind of a comfortable posture, bend our knees a little bit, tuck the pelvis, and then whenever we’re ready, we’re gonna grab the strap and we’re going to try to basically push it to the floor. Alright? This is going to be a localized contraction on the side of my hand that’s holding onto the rope or the band, and I’m gonna be trying to get to that 30 to 40% contraction intensity, and I’m just gonna stay there. So if I was setting this up for myself, basically the only real challenge is figuring out where do I need to be? In other words, how far am I gonna bend so that I can decide how much length of rope or strap I need?

So in this particular case, for me, if I get into this position, bend my knees, I tuck my pelvis a little bit, get nice and tall. As I do my lateral bend, I’m thinking about a, you know, there’s a bar here, a bar, and I’m reaching across to get my drink. I’m tilting to the side, and now I feel a nice strong contraction on that right side.

From here, I’m going to basically push the strap toward the floor. So throughout the contraction, I’m continually trying to push the strap to the floor. I’m gonna hold this, you know, like I said, for 90 seconds to two minutes to five minutes. I’m not gonna stand here the whole time and talk to you. You get the idea. Very, very simple exercise.

The challenge again, is just maintaining your concentration as you do it. And then as you come out, move relatively slowly, make sure that you’re comfortable. Most people will find it again, if they’ve been having some low back pain, or let’s say you have pain and rotation or bending over, or whatever it is, that this one simple exercise will often radically decrease the pain or even eliminate it as soon as you’re finished.

So what I normally recommend is you finish this, come out of it slowly, walk around for 30 to 45 seconds, and then retest whatever was bothering you before. If you don’t get a good result on one side, you may need to switch and go to the opposite side. There’s a lot of other, you know, intricacies that’s not really intricate, but there are a lot of intricacies that can go into this based off other evaluations.

But when people ask me, Hey Doc, what’s one simple thing I can do for my low back that’s gonna work most of the time? This is the exercise that I show them, not a mobility drill. This. Because it is safe and is there’s the research around isometrics for decreasing pain is growing immensely, and it has been shown to be radically effective.

So I hope that you find this useful. Give it a shot. Let us know what you think. And if you are new to Z-Health on the whole, just remember, we are a brain-based education company. We bring neurology into the movement world and show you how to blend it seamlessly. So if you are a doctor therapist or coach interested in blending neuroscience into the movement professions, make sure to subscribe to the channel and check out our free resources online. All right, talk to you soon.

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