Good news: the foot’s gotten better.
Bad news: the back’s gotten worse.
In this post we’ll dig into my back.
I’ll explain the symptoms, the root problems, the causes and the fixes.
NB: I’m officially old.
Symptoms: Sciatic Nerve Pain
About once a month, over the past six months, my sciatic nerve has seized up during various exercises, workouts and movements: deadlifts, parkour laches, cartwheels, back tucks, rowing, cycling, kettlebell swings and even yoga.
The pain level isn’t too bad (around 2 – 4), but it brings my workouts to a screeching halt, and stays aggravated for a couple days.
While it’s aggravated I move around OK when I’m standing or walking, but I have trouble bending down to tie my shoes or lifting things up from the floor.
Then, after a couple days of taking it easy, the nerve pain usually settles down and my mobility is restored for a few weeks until the next flare up.
Root Problems: Over-extension, tight posterior chain, no hip internal rotation
- Over-extension: I’m not keeping my core tight and hips stacked. This means my pelvis tips forward when I squat, pinching my poor back.
- Tight posterior chain: My glutes, hamstrings and calves are stiff – with a lot of fascia build up – which means they don’t stretch when I bend. Instead they unload that stress onto my poor poor back.
- No hip internal rotation: My stiff hips prevent my knees from shifting outward to absorb the load when I squat. Instead they defer to my poor poor poor back.
Causes: Sitting all day and letting my core get lazy
Sitting is killing my back, but I still do it all the time.
I sit at my desk all day at work, sit when I go to meetings, sit when I eat, sit on the couch to relax, sit when I read, sit when I write.
Also, I tend to forget to keep my abs and core engaged to maintain good posture.
These are simple, common, yet difficult faults to avoid.
Fixes: Less sitting, monthly massages and smart stretches
When you work in the corporate world, you have to go far out of your way to avoid a sedentary day. I’m getting better, but it’s a constant battle.
I try to stand up from my chair at least one time during most meetings.
I use a Chrome web app timer called Eye Care that annoyingly reminds me to take a 1-minute break every 20 minutes by shutting off my screen.
I put up the following infographic right by my monitor as another reminder that sitting all day kills. Plus, at home I’ve shifted to lying on the couch rather than sitting when I veg out (I mean, read).
In addition, I got my first deep tissue massage and it helped break up the insane amount of fascia built up in my posterior chain. This seemed to put me on a faster track to recovery, and I plan on getting a massage every month to also help prevent future flare ups.
After clearing that up, I pored over the book Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett, and watched these excellent videos he’s posted, to develop a new daily mobility routine that targets those specific problem areas.
- Over-extension and Assessment and Prevention
- The Pelvic Fault and Low Back Pain
- Weird Hamstring Pain and Simple Neurodynamics
- SI Area Pain; The Basics
- Open Up Your Hips and Squat
New Morning Mobility Routine:
- Wall butterfly (2 minutes)
- Lacrosse ball hammy leg extensions (100 extensions each hammy)
- Banded hammy distraction (2 minutes each hammy)
- Couch stretch front hip (2 minutes each leg)
This daily targeted stretching, with intention, has kept me mostly out of back pain for the past month, and I’ve been able to hit my training plan pretty hard and feel pretty good about it.
The routine takes about 20 minutes, and it’s a drag – but so is getting old and suffering with back pain.
If you’re dealing with similar back issues, I hope this post gives you ideas on ways to resolve them. And if you have any favorite stretches that aren’t mentioned, please share them in the comments. Thanks.
– Live every day –
Note: Thanks to some great reader feedback, this post was updated from the original to address how I’m attempting to sit less at work and home.