An online client was in town this past weekend and wanted to pop in and have me take a look and see if I could figure out why his back was so "tight" all of the time.
I have a number of tests that I will run when doing my best to better understand why these type of aches and pains are occurring and one of which is a simple toe touch.
I look at a number of things with the toe touch, but specifically in this scenario I noticed that you could sit a bowl of soup on his low back and have it for lunch if you wanted to. It was that flat (hint: it shouldn't be).
During the toe touch, what you want to see is a nice segmental rounding (flexion) of each vertebra as the individual goes down and touches their toes. As you can see below, this isn't the case (before on the left, after on the right).
What Did We Do To Help the Client Feel Better?
My thought process went like this...
His Lumbar and lower Thoracic spine are areas of high pressure (compression) what we need to do is create a position where we can get some air to move into the Lumbar/lower Thoracic area and couple that with a series of muscle activation/inhibition techniques to so see if 1) he has the ability to actually shift the pressure and 2) if once achieved, does it alleviate symptoms?
For those of you who train with me, you may have done a "Heels Elevated Toe Touch". This is a toe touch with the heels elevated where you inhale at specific points of the movement, exhale at other points, and activate certain muscle groups at different points of the movement. This is what I had the client do.
The client reported relief in the tightness and discomfort and then to back that up, we had the comparison photos where we can literally see a change in shape of his spine (if it's hard for you to see, then notice how his head hangs lower in the pic on the right).
"Okay, So Why Are You Showing This To Us, Mike?"
Sometimes I get some interesting looks as to some of the exercises I put into programs. I totally understand why. Especially when:
1) Someone is not in pain, but I have them doing something that is geared toward mitigating the chances of aches and pains popping up. It's the "why am I doing this?" effect. Even after doing my best to explain to the individual it doesn't always result in buy-in or adherence.
2) Someone does have aches and pains, but I might not be trusted because I'm not a physical therapist.
The purpose of this post is to show you the power of how these simple, effective, and although sometimes odd exercises can make a big impact in your life and on how you feel.
I put these into programs for a specific purpose and reason and I wouldn't dare waste your or my time putting something in there that I didn't think served a purpose for the client.
Am I blind enough to believe that these will be effective for everyone? Not at all. I'm aware of the limitations of both the exercise selection and my knowledge, but I do want to shift the perspective that fitness is more than getting up and doing general physical activities (i.e. weightlifting, running, etc).
But perhaps providing variability of stressors to your body while appreciating the interaction of all the body systems (i.e. respiratory, nervous, muscular, etc) and focusing on them can create a more resilient version of you that is better equipped to handle the physical and mental stressors of daily life.