Low Back Health for Swimmers

It’s official!

I’m doing the solo Rottnest swim February 27, 2016. For those of you that do not live in Perth, Western Australia, it is a 19.7km swim [Yeah! If I am to swim in a perfect line! LOL] from Cottesloe Beach to Rottnest Island. You can swim solo, as a duo or as a team; but, the solos are the only swimmers guaranteed to join in on the fun because there’s so many entries in the teams every year! You need a motor boat and a paddler (preferably two), then your off into the ocean abyss!

Sure, sure there’s risk of hypothermia, sunburn, dangerous weather, poor sea conditions, feeling pukie pukie in the water because it’s so salty and the smells from motor boat fumes, jellyfish stings, and shark attacks… among other things.

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But really, it’s just like anything you do in life: there’s always a risk. Walking out your front door is a risk; but, you take it everyday :)

Anyway… let’s talk about the Making Movement Matter of swimming!

I swam 3k this morning in the ocean {only 17 more to go} and I felt great. YET, I could slightly feel my low back. If you swim OR just started swimming again OR are increasing your swimming mileage you need to seriously consider the mechanics of swimming itself.

Why would someone’s back be sore after a swim, ESPECIALLY since many therapists/therapies recommend water therapy and swimming? Well, let me tell you :)

A lot of swimmers rib thrust. This means when their arms reach overhead, with every stroke, they bring their ribs along for the ride. There are many reasons for this:

1. They have no idea they are doing it.

2. They might think it’s normal.

3. They’re instructed to do so inadvertently because their coach does it.

4. They lift their heads up too high and too much for sighting (in the ocean/lake).

{There’s other reasons, but I’ll do them another day}

Soooo, how can you fix it?

i. Awareness: Make sure the front of your ribs are in line with the front of your pelvis (ASIS anterior superior iliac spine). This is actually for everything you do: Day and Night. Keep your ribs down. Keep your ribs down. Keep your ribs down. It doesn’t matter: the answer is keep your ribs down. I emphasize it in the water with swimmers because it is sooooo easy to rib thrust with the buoyancy of the water, how it shifts our loads around. A lot of you will be “feeling like you are doing abdominal crunches” to keep those ribs in position, don’t overdo it! And make sure you don’t tuck your tailbone in! Every new position takes time. Be gentle with yourself.

ii. When you sight, only do so where your eyes just come above water {i.e. NO need to take your entire head and neck out of the water to see where you are going!}. AND be aware of keeping your ribs down while going into cervical extension. Swimming distances you want to point your nose to the ocean/lake floor NOT in front of you, this will only encourage more rib thrusting.

If your low back is uncomfortable and you want immediate relief, try rolling gently on your belly with a soft inflatable ball. Here I am using a coregeous ball developed by Jill Miller, Yoga Tune Up®. You are more than welcome to purchase a coregeous ball here. If you live in Perth, WA you can come to one of my classes, just email me here.

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YES, rolling on your belly alleviates your low back. Try it before you knock it :) It’s not going to be comfortable at first; but, it feels wonderful after you ‘allow the ball to sink deeper into your abdominal viscera’ {metaphorically speaking}.

My main goal is for athletes to ENJOY their sport, not having to worry about pain, discomfort, or injury.

Happy Swimming!!!

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Throw that posture out the window

Welcome back to Making Movement Matter. As a Performance Recovery Specialist, certified in Restorative Exercise, I look at skeletal alignment and how people, over time acquire certain positions and postures that they think are healthy; but, really they are not at all.

Take your arms (look at them and mine) nice and relaxed. Do you see red dots on me? Those are the elbow pits. As athletes, if we were perfectly aligned in the humeri, we would have our elbow pits facing forward, while having the arms completely relaxed. Guess what? I’m not perfectly aligned. My right arm is actually in pretty good alignment. My left… not so good… you can barely see my elbow pit. I need to continuously work on my alignment through whole body movements as well as positions that I chose to hold on a daily basis.

One cue that I do not like people saying, in regards to posture… and let’s make sure everyone understands that posture has nothing has to do with health, it has to do with cultural beliefs in your own culture. One belief that is held highly about posture is “aesthetics”. A person needs to look like “this”, and that is the golden standard (dependent on where you live in the world and/or your culture).

Alignment wise, if you were to stand up straight or sit up straight, the last thing you would want to do is {and this is a cue so many people use} bring your shoulders back. Bring your shoulders back. Bring Your Shoulders Back!

Every athlete has internally rotated humerii. You’re asking an athlete to, using an internally rotated humerus, shove the humerus back in the glenohumeral joint, into that cavity. So you have more tension where it doesn’t belong. Everything connected to the humerus and surrounding areas become restricted (tissues, muscles and bone). What is that doing for us? It is creating more hyperkyphosis, believe it or not. Yes, more hunching! It is creating more tension in head, neck, shoulders, and back, AND a higher risk of injury, just by cueing yourself on a daily basis to bring your shoulders back.

Okay, so you are thinking “Wait a second, wait a second, let’s just get those elbow pits in line and shove my shoulders back, like this”. It’s the same thing. If I asked you to clench your teeth all day everyday, would you do it? It doesn’t feel right.

You need to start with your shoulders and arms completely, totally relaxed. And, see over time where your elbow pits are located. That’s when you can see how much internal rotation you have in the humerus, the arm bone.

Well, how can I fix that?

There’s many many many things you can do; but, I’m only going to give you one thing. And this one thing you will fight. Because athletes fight for time, they fight for performance and they fight to get that next Personal Best, all that kind of stuff. Don’t fight this! We are bipedal animals. We are suppose to walk. Quite simply, most athletes don’t walk enough. In order to get your shoulders back in place and your humeri back in place, all you have to do is use our most reflexive movement and that is walking. We were meant to walk. And walk a lot!

And guess what happens when you walk? You use reciprocal arm swing. This is natural! It actually helps relieve tension in the arm/ chest/ shoulder/ upper back regions. All the tissues and muscles around the humeri are getting the appropriate amount of movement in such a way that garners wonderful length and strength of both sides of the arm and even the body close to the arm. Walking will slowly get your body back into place. [Now, there’s an assumption that you aren’t sitting too much or doing things that will hinder your arms/shoulders].

Walking is Key. And please don’t walk with a water bottle in your hand, iPod, partner, or dog leash. And please don’t equate walking with running. Running is a completely different activity/gait/biomechanics. Walk, walk, walk with nothing in your hands and it’s just normal and natural movement. Nothing else.

You can do wonders for your skeletal frame, your alignment. Throw that posture [shoulders back] out of the window. Just relax, and keep an eye on those elbow pits. You will recover a lot quicker.

Do you have a leg length discrepancy?

Welcome back to Making Movement Matter.

My name is Kristin and this is Lesos.

Has anyone ever told you you have a leg length discrepancy? There are two kinds and they are both very very different. Let’s go through them. Structural leg length discrepancy and functional leg length discrepancy. For the first one, structural, the only way you could possibly find out is via an x-ray, unless is remarkably different, like 2 inches. You get an x-ray of your femurs and you measure both femurs. You get an x-ray of the tibia, and fibula on both sides and measure them. Structurally speaking, if you have a big difference between your right leg and your left leg, absolutely you need to do something about it. And a lot of times people will just get a lift in their shoe. Fantastic! Because the last thing you want in terms of the structural leg length discrepancy is to have issues with the knees, the hips, the back and even the shoulders and neck due to that difference.

The next one is functional. Now, you could have the same issues uptown as the structural leg length discrepancy; but, you can actually get your body back into balance and back into alignment because of the muscular imbalances and how you move or not move on a daily basis. So depending on what you do all day everyday: if you are sitting for a long period of time, if you are sitting crossed-legged, or do you stand with one hip hiked up, what sport do you play? (I don’t know). Is it unilateral? Are you a sweeper in rowing always going on one side? So some muscles on one side of the body might be tighter than the other. It affects your leg length. Functional leg length has to do with the musculature and the connective tissue.

Now, you need to obviously be aware of that on a daily basis, get exercises going, get back in alignment. And maybe you’ll need a bandaid temporarily. But, it is not long term. So, if you are bracing yourself, taping yourself, or adding leg length because of a functional difference, that can be a problem. Just like, if I get a cut on my arm and it’s bleeding like crazy. I’m going to put a bandaid on it. I’m not going to have a bandaid there for life. That would be ridiculous.

Be sure to get the correct information so you can so you can properly take care of your body, because you only have one life long. Bye.