October 23, 2012 by anelim
Hurrah! I can touch my toes again. If only just…
I’m not bragging, far from it. The fact that I am generally quite flexible is due in part to my having practised rhythmic gymnastics between the ages of 5 and 12, in part to genetics, and in part to my having somewhat thin bones (almost, but not quite osteoporotic). Having flexible vertebrae is also a problem, because it makes my back hurt, especially when I neglect exercise. And I neglect exercise every time I travel. And I’ve travelled a lot in the last 3 months. Between 27 August and today I think I have flown 6 times, been in 3 countries and 5 cities, driven and ridden coaches, moved out, helped someone move in, moved in myself, and basically been a lazy git regarding my own health. Crappy excuse, but there you go. So, amongst all, the slowly worsening lower back pain I’ve had for about 2 years now really got out of hand in the last few weeks. Luckily today I could stay at home and not go to work (why that was is a long story).
After a day of pain I finally decided to resort to stuff I already know: stretching and ballet exercises. I fished out a Maria Calas CD from my landlady’s collection and did a pathetic attempt at structured stretching (that is, doing more than one exercise and sticking to it for longer than a minute at a time – I knew that doing any less than 15 minutes wouldn’t work). Now here is something I always forget: when you stick to something, it usually works, you just need to stick to it for longer than you initially thought. It can be much or a little longer. This time it was a medium-sized longer, and work it did. The moving around warmed me up, and the stretching and easy ballet exercises loosened the joints. The music helped me keep going (as did the fact that dinner needed another 30 minutes to cook, and the other fact that there was no one to chat to online. Oh, and the pain.). I hope the neighbours don’t hate opera. Whether they like or hate ballet is irrelevant: they can’t see me, so if they love it, they can’t cringe, and if they hate it, they won’t get to see an especially unprofessional performance. Well, this wasn’t even ballet, strictly speaking. I switched between stretching, ballet-based exercises and random movements that felt necessary, trying to find out where the pain came from. I don’t have a bar but a strategically positioned tall radiator on the wall did an excellent job. There is no mirror in the room, so I used my shadow to see what I am doing. There is also sufficient floor space. I wished I had dragged myself out of bed earlier today so I could have got in control of the pain earlier.
Here is an awesome article by Dr Yachmennikov which lists a lot of exercises and also tells you what not to do.
I also did some stuff I read about in the wiki page on the Alexander technique.
The good thing about ballet exercises specifically is that in ballet, whatever you do, you do it with a straight back. The French girl who taught adults beginners’ ballet at Warwick university two years ago used to say: ‘Imagine your head is suspended on a piece of string from the ceiling.’ I think that if I always did this, I would never develop back pain of any kind. I sometimes wonder why it is that I know so much, but yet I am so stupid when it comes to using the knowledge.
Well, the result from all these exercises is that I can now touch my toes and my back is so warm it doesn’t hurt any more, or at least the pain from the inflammation is masked by the warmed up feeling in the muscles and tendons. I hope this post will remind me not to scream when I wake up in pain (which will no doubt be much worse, at least initially, because of the exercises I did today) and unable to touch even my knees tomorrow morning.
Right, time to stop sitting and go to bed – on my back, with my knees bent…