Until my back problems started in 1992 I could sit in any way I wanted, and on whatever surface, without any ill effect. I could slouch and have poor posture without suffering any bad effect. And I could sleep on a lousy mattress without much if any complaint from my back upon waking. After summer 1992, however, this "indestructibility" changed. I gave up sitting on soft chairs, always slept on a decent mattress, and gave attention to posture that had never been necessary before. If I cut any corners here, my back would irritate me. Trigger point therapy would relieve the irritation, but I had to stop the cause.
18.88 All that was necessary was for me to preserve the normal degree of lumbar lordosis, i.e., the inward curve of the lower spine just above the pelvis. I would sit up tall every half an hour or so of desk work or driving (or whenever I felt tension in my lower back), and very briefly exaggerate the lumbar lordosis. ^is was enough to preserve my normal degree of lumbar lordosis and prevent back pain.
18.89 Whenever I felt the need, I would do some neck stretching. Sitting for an extended period tends to cause the head and neck to protrude forward, even if a conscious effort is made to sustain good posture. ^is protruded position of the head and neck puts stress on the upper vertebrae that can lead to discomfort. Interrupt this protruded position regularly and the stress will be relieved. Retract the head while keeping the chin pulled down and in. Do this a few times and you should feel an immediate benefit. (See Stretch h in THE INSIDER'S TELL-ALL HANDBOOK ON WEIGHT-TRAINING TECHNIQUE.)
18.90 Even now, whenever I perceive any compression in my lower back, whether training related or otherwise, I do one or more of the back stretches described in the stretching routine in THE INSIDER'S TELL-ALL HANDbook on weight-training technique, or perform some inversion therapy.
18.91 Prior to getting the inversion apparatus I would sometimes take most of my bodyweight on my arms while holding the arms of a chair (like in the top arms-locked position of a parallel bar dip), and gently relax my lower back so that the vertebrae there open slightly and the perceived compression is eased. But if I overdid it, it made matters worse. Proceed carefully if you perform this stretch.
18.92 While I used to stretch regularly even before the summer of 1992, it was not until 1994 that I substantially increased my investment in stretching. Prior to that it was more casual. Post injury I found an increased need to stretch very carefully any tight areas prior to training with weights. ^is helped to keep me supple during training and greatly reduced the chance of re-injury. I would only perform this pre-workout gentle stretching once I was already warm. A general warmup activity on a ski machine precedes every workout I take. I also found that trigger point therapy was sometimes helpful for easing tight muscles.
18.93 Give serious attention to following a sensible stretching routine on a consistent basis before you get a serious injury. Do not wait until after you have been injured to start to appreciate the benefits that are possible from following a good program of flexibility work.
18.94 I found the books treat your own back and treat your own neck by Robin McKenzie excellent manuals for how to self-treat and prevent back problems. ^ey helped me greatly. ^e lordosis and neck movements referred to in this chapter are from McKenzie's books.
18.95 In 1994, to prevent discomfort in my neck upon waking each morning, I took action. I started using a contoured pillow with a middle area lower than the top and bottom parts. ^is gave head and neck support and prevented the unnatural positioning of the upper vertebrae that a normal pillow usually causes. I fitted that particular contoured pillow but not everyone can fit the same contour. But it is worth a try if you suffer with post-sleep upper-spine discomfort. Consult your doctor, a chiropractor or other physical therapist for information on from where you can get a contoured pillow.
18.96 In summer 1995 I added reverse back extensions to my exercise program, against manual resistance. I found these to be helpful for keeping my lower back in good order. In the fall of 1995 I fitted a device onto my power rack to enable me to do reverse back extensions against progressive resistance. ^is proved to be more beneficial than the manual resistance.
18.97 Any back problems you may have, or get, cannot duplicate mine because your back structure is different from mine. Your injury history is also different. But you can learn from my experiences, and get insights that, when fine-tuned, may help you.
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