Click the link below for our latest newsletter:
If you’ve ever hurt your lower back, you know how much it can affect your life. Whether you’re getting up from a chair, carrying groceries or hoisting a barbell overhead, your lower back is involved in nearly every movement.
While lower back injuries should be treated with the help of a doctor or physical therapist, many cases of lower back pain can be avoided with simple exercises that strengthen the core muscles and teach proper movement of the spine. Stuart McGill, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo and the world’s premier authority on spinal health, designed exercises to build a healthy spine.
McGill’s research has been pivotal in helping people understand core training for a healthy spine should focus on stability exercises like planks. Movements that bend the spine like crunches and situps, could even contribute to lower back injuries if performed incorrectly or too often. McGill’s “big three” exercises can be combined into a daily routine that requires no equipment and can be done at home or in the gym.
If you’ve been injured and your doctor has cleared you to work out again, or if you’re perfectly healthy and want to give yourself the best chance to keep your spine pain-free, try these three simple exercises to start building a more resilient spine for all of life’s activities.
Back pain can often be traced to two simple culprits:
1. The lower back itself moves too much.
2. The joints around the lower back (e.g., hips and upper back) don’t move enough.
The McGill curlup teaches you to stabilize your lumbar spine (lower back) using your abs, while moving through the thoracic spine (upper back). The act of pushing the lower back into the floor is how you properly “brace” your abs, so remember how that feels because you should be using it for just about every other exercise you do.
The move: Lie on the floor, face up to the ceiling. Bend one knee until your heel is flat to the floor, a few inches away from your butt. Keep the other leg straight and dig the heel of that foot into the floor, pointing your toes to the ceiling. Place your hands under your lower back and actively push your lower back into your hands to engage your abdominal muscles. Bring your chin toward your chest but keep your head on the ground. Continue to push your lower back into the floor to gently lift your shoulders off the ground. Make sure not to curl your chin toward your chest or let your lower back leave the floor. Perform all your reps on one side, then repeat on the other side.
Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 5–10 reps per side, holding each rep for 3–10 seconds (hold each rep longer to make these more challenging)
The McGill curlup teaches you how to brace your abs, now it’s time to put that stability to the test with bird dogs. This teaches you how to move your arms and legs around a solid core position without moving from your lower back.
The move: Start on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Flatten your back by bracing your abs much like you did with the curlup, but instead of pushing your lower back into the floor, tighten your abs as if someone is about to punch you in the stomach. Reach out with your opposite arm and leg until both limbs are parallel to the floor. Be careful not to arch your lower back — imagine keeping your leg long and low. Repeat with the other arm and leg, making sure to brace your abs on every rep.
If you feel like a fish out of water when doing bird dogs because you’re not quite coordinated enough yet, try them with just your legs first. Once you’re able to lift your leg parallel to the floor without arching your lower back, add in your arms, too.
Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 5–10 reps per side, holding each rep for 1–5 seconds (hold each rep longer to make these more challenging)
SHORT SIDE PLANK
Curlups and bird dogs mostly work your ab muscles on the front of your body: the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis. But we can’t forget the important oblique muscles, your “side abs.” The short side plank builds strength in your obliques to prevent unwanted twisting and side bending of the spine.
The short side plank resembles a traditional side plank but leaves your bottom knee on the floor for added stability. Think of it as a more user-friendly side plank so you can learn how to properly use your obliques to support your spine.
The move: Lay on your side with your bottom elbow and leg on the floor. Bend your knees until your upper and lower leg form a 90-degree angle. Tuck your bottom elbow tight to your side, squeezing your bottom fist. Lift your bottom hip off the ground while leaving your bottom knee and elbow on the floor. Pull your shoulders back and squeeze your glutes to keep a straight line from your head to your knees. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth for the duration of the exercise. Repeat on the opposite side.
Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 5–10 seconds per side. Even though 10 seconds may seem quick, exhaling forcefully (like you’re blowing up a balloon) can make even just 10 seconds seem challenging.
When you eat a heavy meal, it can often make you feel sluggish afterward and even disrupt sleep. But getting up and taking a short walk after eating can help combat this. Not only is walking a great low-impact activity to help you stay healthy overall, it can specifically aid digestion and control blood sugar levels — preventing crashes in energy. Here, a look at the research and why evening walks are particularly beneficial for digestion and controlling blood sugar:
EFFECTS OF HIGH BLOOD SUGAR
Chronic high blood sugar can negatively affect your health. Over time, it can cause damaged blood vessels, nerve problems, kidney disease and vision issues. Chronic high blood sugar can also lead to insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance, risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
HOW WALKING AFTER EATING HELPS
While walking any time of the day can have positive effects on health, taking a stroll after a meal may be especially effective for managing blood sugar levels. A study published in Diabetes Care found walking for 15 minutes after a meal three times a day was more effective in lowering glucose levels three hours after eating compared to 45 minutes of sustained walking during the day.
Walking at night might be the most beneficial since many people eat their largest meal in the evening and then tend to sit on the couch or lay down after. Another study focusing on individuals with Type 2 diabetes found that even 20 minutes of walking post-meals may have a stronger effect on lowering the glycemic impact of an evening meal in individuals with Type 2 diabetes, compared to walking before a meal or not at all.
HOW IT CAN HELP DIGESTION
Individuals suffering from digestion problems and discomfort may also see some benefits from walking. A small 2008 study found walking increased the rate at which food moved through the stomach. Other research has found that walking after a meal may improve gastric emptying in patients with longstanding diabetes, where food may typically take longer to digest and empty from the stomach.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Walking is one of the most studied forms of exercise, with research demonstrating it’s an ideal activity for improving health and longevity. Try going for a brief walk after a meal (especially in the evening) to help with digestion and blood sugar control.
Amp up your walking in general with these 50 tips to get more steps.
These 8 simple poses can help both stretch and strengthen your hips, but keep in mind when moving through them to listen to that internal voice of your body that tells you if you are in pain or just feeling a stretch. A stretch may feel a little sore but inevitably it feels like a release of tension. When you feel sharp pain, back out of the pose and consider using a prop or moving on to another stretch.
Apparently, lizards have loose hips and this hip opener’s moniker is testament to that. Step your left foot forward several feet in front of the right foot. Bend the left knee until it lines up perfectly with the ankle. Drop the right knee to the ground and keep the toes curled under on that foot to stretch the calf muscle. Walk the left foot out to the side and place both elbows on top of blocks on the inside edge of the left foot. Keep hips lined up parallel to each other. You are opening the right psoas muscle and the left inner thigh. To get deeper into the right psoas, lift the right knee into a high lunge.
Bound Ankle Pose
This pose requires that you bind your ankles—and by doing so you’ll unbind your hips. Bring the soles of your feet together, pulling the heels close to your groin, bending the knees, and butterfly flare the legs open. If you notice your knees are set too high to relax, simply place a blanket right under the sit bones to prop the hips up. You can also take the feet out further from the pelvic cavity to create a diamond shape with the legs. Keeping your spine straight, lead with the chest, pull your shoulders back, and fold toward your feet. This pose will open and relax the inner thighs and groin.
Cow Face Pose
Begin by threading the left leg under your right leg. Work toward stacking the knees, while keeping both sit bones on the ground. Tuck the toes in to protect the knees. Sit in the pose for several minutes. When the muscles start to loosen and you no longer feel a stretch, fold forward with a straight spine. If this stretch is too intense, you can situate both sit bones on a blanket and place a block or blanket between the knees.
Starting in downward facing dog, lift the right leg and step it forward between the hands. Drop the left knee down and untuck the toes. Slide the right foot over toward your left pelvic bone placing the outside edge of the right leg on the floor. Tuck the right toes in (flexing the foot). Line up hips parallel to each other, continually pressing the left hip toward the floor. If this position is too difficult, place a blanket under your bottom. To intensify the stretch, move the right foot away from the left side of your body and drop to the elbows or chest. To make this pose less intense, move the right foot closer to your right leg and stay on the hands instead of folding. This is a profound stretch to the psoas, shin, glutes, and outer hips.
It’s not likely you will ever hear a baby complaining about hip pain. So, make like a baby and lie flat on your back, grab hold of both feet with each hand, bend the knees and pull them toward your armpits. Once in the proper position rock side to side, keeping your head on the floor. This will externally rotate and stretch the hips, loosen the inner groin muscles, and help realign the spine.
Fire Log Pose
This pose should put the fire out in your hips. Sit on the floor with a straight spine, both sit bones pressing against the ground. Take the left leg out in front of you and bend it until it is in a straight line and parallel with your body, knee, and ankle. Stack the right leg on top of the left, lining up the right ankle to the left knee and the right knee to the left ankle. If you find the final position too difficult, you can use blocks as support to lighten the pose. This is a deep stretch to loosen the outer hips and glutes. It also stretches and strengthens the groin, calves, thighs, and abdominal muscles.
Gentlemen, do not be deterred by the name of this pose. It will help you open your hips regardless of your gender. Step your feet out very wide, turn the toes outward, bend the knees so they line up with your ankles, and tuck your butt in to engage the core. The further the toes are pointed outward, the deeper the stretch. This will give your groin, inner thighs, and hips a deep stretch. Note: Avoid this pose if you have a knee or hip injury.
Half Lord of The Fish Pose
Sitting on the floor, extend both legs out in front of you. Keep the left leg straight and bend and pull the right leg in. Line the right heel up approximately 2 inches away from the back of the right leg and 2 inches away from the left thigh. Sit up very tall, avoiding sinking in the lower back. Wrap the left arm around the right leg, creating a spinal twist. Move the left shoulder forward as you move the right shoulder back, attempting to line the shoulders up. Take your gaze over the right shoulder. This pose stretches out the hips, glutes, lower back, spine, chest, shoulders, and neck.
This pose is so effective for opening the hips that it’s the position most women use to give birth. Turn your heels so they line up with your hips, turn your toes outward. Bend the knees until you reach a squatted position. Place a blanket under the heels if they have to be lifted while squatting. You can also stack two blocks to sit on to work up to the full integrity of the pose. The Garland Pose increases fluidity in the hips, and stretches the ankles, knees, and lower back. It also strengthens the core muscles.
All photos by Lulu Lam.
Thanks to Beachbody.com
Are there are some signs or clues that I might need custom foot Orthotic Insoles?
- Walking with a limp or your toes pointed in our out.
- If your posture is poor or altered. Check to see if your head, shoulders and hip heights are equal heights (normal) or if one side higher than the other (abnormal). Have someone check your posture sideways. Your ear should be in line with your shoulder and hip. Does your head stoop or jut forward with your shoulders rolling in? This “forward head posture” is abnormal and can cause a variety of health problems. Abnormal posture can be linked to a foot problem throwing your posture out of balance.
- Obvious shoe wear, such as excessive wear points or uneven wearing on one shoe or between both feet. Outside heel area wear is often a positive sign for over pronation (flat feet).
- Knee or hip pain when walking or exercising can suggest a misalignment or instability in the feet.
- Symptoms of faulty foot mechanics could include localized:
- foot pain
- hammer toes
- arch, heel pain
- leg, knee, hip or back pain
- neck pain
How do I know if I need foot orthotics?
During your initial evaluation or during a re-evaluation, Dr. Phil will watch how you walk (gait analysis) and will also do a digital scan (using a 3-D Laser Computer Aided Design/CAD System) to assess how you are weight-bearing on the bottom of your feet, and he will do a postural evaluation and will visually inspect if you have overly high arches or dropped arches (flat feet).
I have good shoes. Why do I need foot orthotics?
A high quality supportive shoe is indeed the most important element for your feet. However, the insole is not custom-made for your foot. By inserting a custom-made foot orthotic into a good quality shoe, you are ensuring that you give your feet optimal alignment, balance and stability. Most shoes people wear have an existing insole that easily slips out and the orthotic can slip into the shoe to replace the original insole.
Will I have to buy new shoes?
It Depends! The foot orthotics are not a thick, hard plastic, or rigid design. They are slightly thicker than your existing insole, but have good cushion and enough rigidity to correct most foot imbalances. Your custom orthotic insoles are most effective when used in shoes with good construction, fit, and condition. Your orthotics are also a guide in assuring new shoes fit well. If a shoe can’t accommodate a stabilizer which has been custom made for your foot, then that shoe is not the proper size for you.
I have different types of shoes. Can I use them in all of my shoes?
If your shoes are a similar style you just move you foot orthotic from one shoe to the next. There are different orthotics for different types of shoes. For example, men’s and women’s lace up shoes that have a wide forefoot usually need a full-length orthotic whereas a slip on shoe may require an orthotic that is shorter in length. There is a variety of foot orthotics for a variety of shoes. To start, we usually recommend buying a pair of foot orthotics for the type of shoe you wear most, and with Dr. Phil’s 2 for 1 promotion, then have a second pair for either a different type of footwear or to have more than one pair of orthotics for similar footwear. This saves you from having to constantly switch the orthotics from one pair to another.
I wear sandals in the summer. Can I wear my regular shoe orthotics in my sandals?
No. However, Dr. Phil does prescribe and dispense very comfortable Sandal orthotics insoles, as well as sandals.
What kinds of foot orthotics are there?
There are a variety of foot orthotics for a variety of shoes:
- Men’s shoes
- Women’s shoes and boots
- Children’s shoes (ages 5 to 12)
- Golf shoes
See the full line of Custom Orthotic Insole Styles: http://www.atlasorthoticlab.com/orthotics/
How do I Set Up An Assessment with Dr. Phil?
Get Help Now with Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health or contact the clinic directly by phone at 519-826-7973, or by e-mail: email@example.com
An assessment with Dr. Phil will then be booked for approximately 30 minutes, and during that time he can help order the right kind of foot orthotic for you.
- The Process
Custom design for foot orthotic insoles are through a 3-D Laser CAD imaging process.
Once the examination is completed, and you decide to go ahead with the prescription recommended by Dr. Phil, then,
- The casting kit or digital scan is sent to the Atlas Orthotic Lab (http://atlasorthoticlab.com/).
- Skilled technicians build your custom-made foot orthotics using 16 precise measurements based on their analysis of your feet. Your lifestyle, age, weight and activity level are all considered when the custom-made foot orthotics are fabricated.
- The foot orthotics are then shipped back to Dr. Phil at Forward Health. Your Orthotic insoles are usually back to the clinic within 1 week.
- Instructions will be given on how to wear and care for them on the fitting which is set up by the clinic once the orthotic insoles arrive from the lab.
How much do custom-made foot orthotics cost?
The price for the prescription and provision of the 2 for 1 promotion for custom orthotic insoles with Dr. Phil is $500 in total. If you only need one pair and don’t need to take advantage of the 2 for 1 promotion, then the cost is $400.00 in total. There is a $50.00 examination fee for the initial visit and it is built into the total cost if you decide to purchase the custom orthotic insoles.
Most health insurance plans cover some or all of the cost of custom-made foot orthotics. Check your plan specifically for coverage amounts and who is payable regarding types of practitioners. Payment is required prior to sending your order to Atlas labs as they charge us as soon they get the order. If you have insurance make sure you know what they require so you can get reimbursed. They will require a receipt from us for sure. Sometimes a prescription letter from us or a note from your medical doctor is required. Sometimes they require a detailed lab report, so Dr. Phil will always do a full detailed report with the manufacturing process etc. That way you have all the specific necessities for your coverage.
How long do custom foot orthotics last?
Approximately 2-3 years with everyday usage, and then they should be replaced. Many insurance companies re-new custom orthotic insole prescriptions every 2 years.
Looking forward to empowering you to continue to live long & strong, and stay in the Game For Life!
ACRB, CTPI, DC. ABFP, CSCS, CCSP