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Healthy movement and exercise for your back

When it’s okay to bend and twist your back

April 17, 2013

It seems like the time of year I get outside more in my yard. There’s much more bending twisting, raking that I’m paying attention to. The feeling of these movements is called kinesthesia.

Two weeks ago the raised garden was planted with cool crops and the dirt turned and worked.
Today I was out there testing the soil for moisture and aeration. I was bending over about half way working my back muscles and joints while raking the soil with the hand tool. Like shaping the pure white sand of a zen garden sculpture sized 4 foot x 4 foot of rich moist dirt.

While I rake or bend or dig I notice an amazing array of sensations related to where my body is locating itself in relation to balance, gravity, centering, and fluid motion. Most of this flow of observation has a positive, energizing feel to it. I’m also able to feel almost of all of me move as a stream of comfortable pieces and sequenced ripples.

There is a huge contrast I’m observing between myself and my husband in how we deal with movement as he recovers from late January back surgery.

Regaining movement after a very longstanding movement intolerance is really a tough process. The central nervous system’s conscious and unconscious control of bending and twisting and small segment movement sequencing gets shut off. This is why a sensation of flowing motion is absent in chronic back conditions. As Johnny works on regaining strength and motion, he runs up against years of protective muscle patterns that carry a watch out…be careful…limit that… that’s going to damage me…. feeling paired to movement exploration.

What’s interesting to me is that John has previously been a truly above average athlete who also was bold and brave. You’ve got to be to safely lead 5.11 plus rock climbs.

Another memory of John’s capacity and bravery was watching him attempt a solo paddle through the tongue on House Rock rapid class 5 in an inflatable open kayak on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

So, as we work together to restore him to a full recovery and successful outcome…we focus on regaining twist and bend within comfort and strength and small segment sensations of kinesthesia. To achieve this, we focus on regaining the actions of bending and twisting .Just as importantly, we need to pay attention to the sensations of motion. At the beginning phases of rehab, this kinesthetic sensitivity is likely so limited as to not be perceived at all.

For yourself, if you can train your mind to pay attention to the sensations of motion, you’ll help keep yourself more limber and comfortable overall.

Happy spring,
Rachel Katz, PT, SEP
Boulder Physical Therapist Pain Specialist

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