Hi, I’m Dr. Eric Cobb of Z-Health Performance and today we’re going to be talking about a very cool exercise approach for people who are dealing with chronic low back pain. If you are new to Z-Health, we are brain-based practitioners company. We’re an education company and we work with coaches, doctors, and therapists around the world. So if you find this interesting, make sure to subscribe to the channel and check out all of our free resources. There’s the advert, let’s move on.
When it comes to dealing with low back pain, there’s lots of approaches and one of the things that we always like to talk about is the fact that your brain has a lot to take care of in movement. So whenever we look at movement, we kind of break it out into three categories: we have Anticipatory Control, we have Voluntary Control, and then we have Reflexive Control. Which means that whenever we’re training people to get out of pain and to move better we need to address all three systems that the brain uses to help us move through the environment.
When we look at people with chronic low back pain, they typically show degradations in what is called “Anticipatory Postural Control”; which basically means that your brain is going to prepare your postural muscles so that when you move you don’t fall over. How do we work with this? There’s a pretty simple exercise it’s just called, a Reaching Exercise. It has been shown in research that 100 reaches, done three days in a row, will improve brain function for that particular problem for up to three months with no more training! So, I want to go through that with you really quickly today. It’s important that you hear this. This may solve back pain for some people! It may do nothing for others. It depends on what your specific problem is, so if you try this and it doesn’t do anything for you, just understand that’s okay. It can always be useful as a training tool as a part of your rehabilitation process but we have seen this help lots of people with low back issues. The rule is, you have to go slowly and safely in the beginning.
Here’s how you set it up: you’re just going to stand and you’re going to need two targets, one to either side of you in the beginning.
Now you can see here, I’ve got these bands hanging to each side. I don’t care what you use. People often will do this on a wall with a couple Post-it notes. It doesn’t really matter. What is important, is that the target needs to be as far as you can reach without your feet coming off the floor, alright? So if I’m leaning and I’m coming up on a toe and I’m really trying to get there, that’s okay. What I don’t want is, again, to lose balance or to have one foot come up off the ground. So, what you’re going to do, is you’re just going to relax comfortable stance and you’re just going to begin reaching. And you start off nice and slowly. You want to make sure that you’re not going to hurt yourself. So go slowly, go safely. You start off as well using the hand that is closest to the target and then progress to reaching across and reaching with both hands toward the target. Now obviously depending on what hand or combination that may mean that the target is going to need to be a little closer to you. It doesn’t even matter if you touch it. The point is to reach for it! And then you’re going to do that to the opposite side. So I’m now going here again, my opposite arm, both arms, and you can adjust the height of these. Most of the research is shoulder level and above. We have people work at multiple levels; way up here, down toward the ground, overtime. Again, the key is, if you look down at my feet, the key is that I’m pushing myself to go as far as I can without having to lift one foot off the ground.
Now, the other thing that I’m going to recommend is that you do this in different stances. So if you look at my feet in the beginning, I’m in neutral. I’m then going to do the same drill with my feet turned in, the same drill with my feet turned out, and then the combinations of those. What you will find as you change the foot position, is that the reach feels different. So again, we’re going to be doing 50 to the right, 50 to the left. If you really want to up the ante, you want to increase the efficacy of this because this is anticipatory postural control; we need to make it a little bit more difficult. So the fastest way to increase the difficulty, even if you’re choosing to move relatively slowly, is to use an auditory stimulus that is not on a regular beat. So basically a random auditory stimulus. So you grab your phone and you download an app that will give you random sounds. Like dogs howling in the background. So what happens, you set up the phone as soon as you hear the sound, you do the reach. That is hyper critical because that will actually improve all these systems that are involved in anticipatory postural control.
Fantastic exercise, super useful. Remember 100 reaches, three days in a row can have effects up to three months. Totally worth giving it a shot! Let me know what you think and hopefully you find it really helpful. Thanks!