Symptoms originating in the lumbar spine can be felt in the lower back, legs, or even feet and can range from pain to numbness and tingling. Similar to the cervical spine, or neck (which we discussed in the second post of this series), these symptoms arise primarily from stress being placed on the joints, muscles, and nerves of the lumbar spine. This stress occurs when we fail to maintain a “neutral spine” (pictured below) and allow our lumbar spine to either be overly flexed or extended while we sit.
One quick and easy trick to assist you in maintaining good posture is using a cushion or rolled up towel. As pictured in the below video, simply place the cushion or towel slightly behind your hips, it should be just behind your “sit bones.” This helps by cuing you to keep your hips rolled slightly forward which allows you to sit upright with a neutral spine.
A great exercise for learning neutral spine posture is abdominal bracing (shown in video below). First lie on your back with your knees bent and feet resting comfortably. Abdominal bracing is a 2 part exercise: 1) a contraction of the Transverse Abdominus (TrA), and 2) a pelvic tilt. The TrA is a flat sheet of muscle that encapsulates the entire abdomen. When the TrA contracts, it helps to stabilize the lumbar spine. To contract your TrA, you can focus on moving your belly button in and up as if tightening a belt or bracing for a cough. You can check to see if you are correctly firing the TrA by finding your ASIS (the pointy part of the bone in the front of your hip), moving your fingers about 2 inches in toward your stomach, and then pressing down. This is where you should feel the muscle tighten underneath your fingers. The pelvic tilt is simply rotating your hips backward or in to slightly flatten your lower back toward the table, or whatever surface you are lying on. You want to tilt your pelvis until you have only a slight curve between your lower back and the table while contracting your TrA. Once here you will maintain that position for approximately 3 seconds then relax. You can perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions each day.