Who knew Fat Joe was actually rapping about rehab when he sang the classic line, “Lean back, lean back…” That is something I tell my patients quite often, to stand on one foot and lean back in a controlled manner. This teaches an eccentric movement for the core.
Eccentric movements are the controlled elongation of a muscle. You may not realize it, but our bodies utilize these movements all day long. Your glutes elongate in a controlled fashion as you sit down in a chair. Your back muscles are doing it as you bend over to pick up a penny. Hamstrings right before you put your foot back on the ground when walking/running etc.
The reason these movements are so important is they protect our joints and prevent us from simply falling down. If we didn’t control these movements we would simply slam into the end-range of a joint or collapse when sitting down. Now, the joints are tough, they can withstand this a few times. But, when this is done repetitively, it starts to wear on the joint and cause irritation.
Unfortunately, we as individuals almost never think about this and therapists often fail to incorporate this into a treatment or exercise plan. We focus on a strong contraction/shortening of a muscle. We do tons of crunches, planks, and mountain climbers for the core. But we also need to teach the core to control the torso leaning back.
You may think, how often do I need to lean back? Well the answer is all the time. When you reach up quickly for something or washing your hair in the shower. When you run, as that back leg pushes off, the low back extends. As you descend into a squat, the front of the torso will elongate for part of that motion. These all create microtraumas if the elongation control isn’t there.
The body will almost always find a way of doing what you ask it to do. It just may not pick the most biomechanically preferred method to do so. In the above-mentioned examples, the body will default to relying on the end-range of the joints to either stop the motion or to find stability.
If you’ve watched people in the weight room try to squat. A good percentage will hyperextend their backs as they begin the squat. Some of that is poor coaching, but often it is the body looking for some semblance of stability. But often leads to low back pain in the long run.
Eccentric core control is also very important in standing posture. Without the proper control the body lets the back hyperextend and lets the pelvis fall forward. These are often the people that complain of their backs hurting if they’ve been standing or shopping all day.
To address this, we routinely have patients perform exercises doing a slow negative or elongating movement. One of our favorites, and one that surprises most people with its hidden difficulty, is the lean back wall touch.
In this exercise, you stand on one foot with your back to the wall about 8-12 inches away. With your arms crossed over your chest, you slowly lean back until your head touches the wall. The goal is to lightly touch the wall and come back while not actually put any weight on the wall or pushing off the wall with your head.
If you need help with this exercise or any injury/pain, be sure to get on our schedule and we’ll get you taken care of. Don’t let pain get in the way of living the way you want to live. -Live Active. Live Pain-free.
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