Sunday, February 02, 2014

Kvetching...

Did you hear about the Siberian housewife who was toiling away in the kitchen, only to look out the window and see the barn on fire? She said "Oh, my baking yak!"

The counter tops and dishwashers of this world tend to be placed at heights that make them accessible to midgets (by which I mean people in the 5'6"-5'9" range.) This means that when I am washing dishes and loading them into the dishwasher, I am constantly bent at the waist just enough that my lower back is afire by the time I'm done.

This is a new thing in the last year or so. I guess the warranty has expired on my lumbar region or something. Anybody know any good exercise that will help that?

53 comments:

Carteach said...

Yes, yes I do.

Arthur said...

1)Get down on all fours.

2) Let your 'belly' hang to curve your spine back in the right direction. This actually works best if you have a belly to hang, but either way...

3) Kick one leg straight back, then the other. Do that for a bit every morning.

This might sound stupid but just that little bit of work on the muscles in your lower back helps *immensely*

For a while it was taking me 10 minutes to get out of bed because my vertebrae needed some time to negotiate with my back muscles and reach some sort of tense standoff. After starting those light exercises I haven't had to see the chiropractor in years now.

Jennifer Thompson said...

Sit down on the floor (carpet is best), legs out in front, feet about shoulder-width apart. Reach around and touch the floor behind you with your fingertips on the ground, hold for a bit, then do the other side.

Hollowpoint1938 said...

Strengthening you abdominal muscles will greatly reduce the problem

Keith said...

I think you mentioned at some point that your 6' tall (or was it 5' 12")? As a fellow person of unusual height (6' 4") I feel your pain. I'm 29 and can mess my back up for a bit if I stoop for too long. The only thing I have found to help is to avoid situations involving stooping and a firm mattress. Fortunately I think the newer constructed buildings out west have higher counter tops than their older eastern counterparts. I have been in a number of older (by AZ standards) homes that had counter tops that would have unpleasant for me to work on.

Anonymous said...

Besides that one, rowing is a good one that isn't too had on the joints.

And who are you calling a midget Stretch?

Gerry

Boyd said...

After 40+ years of being 6'4", I can legitimately say, "I feel your pain."

Anonymous said...

Try this: http://seanlinnane.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/resolutions.html

burkdoggy said...

Only load the top rack?

TheOtherLarry said...

Getting old is not for sissies...

Rusty Gunner said...

Interestingly, crunches or other ab exercises also help keep my back from its occasional habit of simply giving up and going on the dole. There's also an exercise called a "Superman" which looks exactly like Steve Reeves trying to clear the phone lines at the end of the runway that may help.

Flighterdoc said...

Got to strengthen your core....

Anonymous said...

I have heard wearing a traditional, lace-up corset can help with back pain. I have no idea where to find one.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tam,

Your blog is one of my regular stops, thank you for doing it.

Yes, I know of 3 things that help. I'm tall (6'5"), and I have *exactly* the same issue....washing dishes, making dinner, etc. Countertops are built for flippin munchkins. I've had back trouble for years. Had surgery a few years back. I did PT for a long time, and these are some of the exercises that they taught me:

Lie on your stomach flat on the floor. Keeping your legs and hips flat, lift your upper body propping yourself up on your elbows. Hold for a good ten count. Lower yourself back, and count ten again. Repeat a few times. This can be a bit painful, but it is good for a back that has what you have. (Probably disk issues at L-4 and L-5).

Another one is to lie flat on the floor on your back with your legs propped on a chair so that everything is a right angle (knees, hips). This just plain feels good.

And third.....lie on your back, with your knees up to your chest....hug your self, and slowly roll side to side. Sort of like ironing out a lump on the floor with your back.

My sympathy....my neurosurgeon told me that I would have back problems for the rest of my life. I used to be able to get into a really nice tight sitting position for shooting a rifle....not anymore. Prone I can do, but it isn't easy if I use a sling and do the full target shooting thing.

YMMV. Good luck.

-UnReconstructed

Al T. said...

Sit ups.

B said...

There are several, but if I described them, you'd blush....and they (generally) require a partner....

but if you can't find anyone to help with that, the best thing for solo exercise is situps. Tightens the gut, which supports things so the lower back doesn't

Steve said...

Check out Back Rx, by Vijay Patel.

Will Brown said...

Squats, basic stretching and those foam rollers or lacrosse balls taped together are supposed to be helpful too (you can get the last two from Amazon).

Wait 'till you hit 60. ;-)

rremington said...

The same thing they tell the rest of us.......

Jess said...

There's an old Yiddish saying I just made up:

"In a world of midgets, the tall have chronic back pain."

skidmark said...

Drag your dining table chair into the kitchen and put it in front of the sink/dishwasher. Much better to sit and reach over the lip of the sink than to reach down.

If you do not want to do that, spread your feet more than shoulder width apart and bend from the waist. Smilinng while looking back seems to help. Least it does for me.

stay safe.

Critter said...

don't turn 40.

Anonymous said...

I recommend stretching before and after, and utilizing a wide, padded, and grippy floor mat in front of the sink work area. This allows me to spread my feet wide apart, lowering the upper body in relation to the counter/sink. Doing squats to load the dishwasher vs. bending is another option, but one I no longer choose due to knee problems.

Jeb Texas said...

Crunches and sit ups. Believe it.

Anonymous said...

This 6'5" man does understand about counters and tables too short to work on properly!!

Walt

Dr_Mike said...

Don't have an exercise that will help prevent it, but to mitigate it, I've found one of those Shiatsu (sp?) massagers that runs two plastic balls around in circles, that is meant to do your neck, is wonderful. Put it at the bottom back of a comfy chair and turn it on. (it doesn't work if you don't then sit in the chair.)

You can often find them used at yard sales, many folks think they should be a great idea, then find they hate them. My wife included.

A caveat - don't let my name fool you I'm a physicist not an MD.

Wyfaggro said...

I hurt my lower back several years ago and my doc steered me to yoga. In particular, look up "Basic Yoga for Dummies" on youtube, and do the Cobra position. Its awesome.

mariner said...

Sit-ups.

No kidding.

Andy said...

A lot of the above point to it, but I'll say it:

Yoga. Not the whole sweatbox stuff, just some good, core strengthening yoga.

While my 6' self has less issue, my 6'3"+ friends swear by it. And we are all in that same 40+ age range.

Anonymous said...

Us (five-foot-three) midgets suffer from exactly the same lower back problems, but it's worse for us, 'cause sinks are positioned so far back that only those tall folk with arms the length of an orangutan's can reach the faucets. :-)

Doing dishes, sweeping the walk, or pretty much any other activity that induces that seemingly insignificant five degree forward slouch can lead to a lot of pain in the lower back.

So - for doing the dishes. I have had great success standing up straight and holding my arms out straight to do the dishes (no, I don't have a dishwasher). It seems pretty funny (and probably looks funnier) the first couple of times you do it, but the rewards in terms of a non-aching back are wonderful.

Second, us MIDGETS need to have multiple stools and step-ladders strategically located around the kitchen to retrieve things from any shelf higher than shelf No. two. Get a couple of stools of different heights. If you're having to bend over to load the dishwasher, drag a stool over, and do it sitting down. That will help a little.

Now for the preventive medicine. As I mentioned before, If you can, see a doctor first, to make sure nothing really important is wrong, and to make sure you don't do ONE OF THOSE THINGS that aggravates it.

And I hate to break it to you, but riding a bicycle is ONE OF THOSE THINGS. As you peddle the bike, your hips rock back and forth from side to side, pivoting on the bottom of the spine. Not helpful. And also why I mentioned paying a visit to the local sawbones to make sure. He might say it's okay to ride a bike.

Now that I've got the cautions out of the way, here's usually what the deal is. Your back is like a suspension bridge. The muscles along the spine and in the lower back should almost never be used, as their only real purpose in life is to lock up your back if the spine gets injured. What holds your back up, the cables on the suspension bridge so to speak, are your stomach muscles. Again, see your doctor first, but plain old ordinary sit-ups can cure all manner of back and lower back issues. Amazingly enough, a regular regimen of only 5 to ten a day can work miracles. Also leg-lifts while laying on your back, and on your side, but see your doctor first to verify it's okay.

To cover lower back issues, there is a nifty little pamphlet available all over the place called "Care of the Back," by William K. Ishmael and Howard B. Shorbe. 24 pages. Get one. They're cheap. Amazon has them used for a penny (plus shipping). Later versions for the pamphlet are called "Ishmael's Care of the Back" and have ballooned up to *gasp* 32 pages. The old version is fine. The new version may also be fine. Haven't seen a copy of it.

Best of luck, and welcome to the young-at-heart geezers club. :-)

BSR

BGMiller said...

More rum or gin depending on personal inclination.

BGM

mikee said...

Airline flight attendants (formerly stewardesses) figured out decades ago that bending over at the waist is a killer, but doing a squat that bends the knees and keeps the spine vertical works just fine.

Plus, back in the 1960s it kept the territory of the attendant away from the busy hands of business travelers. Source: Mad Men.

Tim said...

If your back is burning, you are probably arching your back as you bend forward. Try to keep your back straight and bend at the hips. It requires you to stick your butt out and engage the gluteal muscles. You may feel self-conscious, but if you're in your kitchen only Roberta will make fun of you.

Dan said...

Honestly, I'm not sure which causes me more pain; pushups or stupid. I'm only 6'6" butt after 27 years in the Army I find scotch does wonders (and vicodin).

Heroditus Huxley said...

I have the opposite problem with standard counter height. I'm 4'11", and sometimes have trouble kneading biscuit dough when there's a cat between me and the cabinet. And I have to climb to reach more than the bottom shelf in the top cabinets.

I second the yoga suggestions. I have lower back trouble for other reasons, and the cobra pose does wonders.

Paul, Dammit! said...

The old timer that taught me how to catch lobster was 5'5" and his boat was build accordingly. I was 6' by the time I was 12, and complained about the height of the working surfaces. "Use Makes Master" he used to say. So for the next 10 years I worked that boat, and by the time I was 25, my muscles grew according to the way I used them- I stoop. I can lift 250lbs over my own head, but I can't stand straight. So, every time your back aches, it's not a bad thing: it's a sign that your back doesn't want to be deformed by use.
FWIW, when I had my own boat built, it was built for tall people, with a working surface perfect for me or anyone who stands about half a foot shorter than me. And there's your other option: splurge and jack up your cabinetry!

The Reluctant Misanthrope said...

this really helped me: http://www.armyprt.com/special_conditioning_programs/4-for-the-core.shtml

Anonymous said...

Bend at the knees.
CIII

Goober said...

If you have one of those big excersize balls just lay on it on your back and let it stretch and bend your back over backwards.

Old NFO said...

The one that helps me the MOST is to lie flat on the floor on your back with your legs propped on a chair so that everything is a right angle (knees, hips). That was what allowed my back to FINALLY release after my little ER visit on Friday night.

global village idiot said...

You know how short I am, and we short people get back pain too. Mine was chronic and got so bad I couldn't stand in formation more than 10 minutes before it became excruciating. Same with doing tai chi - it shouldn't hurt your lower back.

My relief came from acupuncture. I don't know how it works or why it works but it worked for me. It helped that my practitioner was also my tai chi instructor so there was a level of trust which I think is important. Placebo effect? Who knows and who cares - I found it effecatious.

My posture suffers if I don't do back exercises as part of my workout regimen. One of the things I discovered about doing situps is that the "down" portion (which uses the hip flexor muscles, whatever they're called) is as strenuous as the "up" portion which only uses the abs.

At the gym I used to go to, there was an exercise platform - can't call it a machine - which was a sort of angled frame with a pad at its vertex. You positioned yourself in this frame such that your feet were braced while you were leaning forward, and then did the opposite of a situp. It works the small yet very important muscles in the small of the center of your back.

I believe the muscles are called the erector spinae. Here are several, some of which use equipment, and some which do not:

http://exercise.about.com/library/blbackexercises.htm

HTH,
gvi

Will said...

What Goober said. After a few days, add some weights. Small barbells, and pivot your arms out to the sides and then back. Progress to heavier weights held to your chest, and lifted straight up and down.

The large ball gives your back support, while the flexibility of it forces your abdominal and back muscles to work to stabilize everything. Make sure the ball doesn't resemble a bean bag chair!

That was part of what I did as prescribed by a physiatrist(sp?) (sports medicine doctor).

Which reminds me, I need to go buy one of those balls now.

Anonymous said...

The best 12 dollars I ever spent - http://www.amazon.com/Pain-Free-Revolutionary-Stopping-Chronic/dp/0553379887/

Can't recommend it enough. In addition to that, some exercises from here - http://www.mobilitywod.com/

Doing deep squat for 10 min a day was very helpful in unfucking my back.

Ben C said...

I've had similar back issues for a long time. My issue was my psoas major is too tight, partly from sitting at a desk too much between bouts of actually doing stuff.

Stretching this muscle is a challenge, but helped my lower back a lot. Also building up my core muscles below my belly button helped quite a bit.

Sit-ups actually made things worse, as they built up the hip flexor muscles that were giving me problems to start with. I ended up using "vacuuming" exercises to built my core.

Basically, suck in my belly below the navel and hold it for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times for a set, do 2-3 sets a day.

Back pain sucks, good luck!

LabRat said...

If there's one thing I've learned in the whole derby process (which is rough on pretty much everything below the sternum), it's that there is a big, colorful rainbow of diversity when it comes to reasons your lower back will start hurting, and the ways to fix some of them won't do a thing for some of the others. Essentially, your lower back is a failure point that starts with pain for issues just about anywhere above and below; it's what takes more load than it's designed for any time you spend a lot of time moving in not so functional ways and/or not that much time moving in good ones. For me it turned out to mostly be that, like most people who spend hours a day for years at a desk, my hip flexors were short, tight, and generally fucked; that basically just pulls you slightly forward at the waist and prevents you from using the stronger muscles in your glutes until the lower back just can't take it anymore and starts to yell. Once I had full range of motion in my hips back, back pain while I was skating was a lot less, and went away as my core (which is back AND stomach AND hips) strengthened at a more normal rate.

A lot of the suggestions in this thread are good. Basic yoga- skip the metaphysical crap and sweating your electrolytes away, but they really do know how to unfuck your joints and movement patterns. Any and all core work, including situps (I personally don't get much out of crunches), supermans, good mornings (unweighted)... whatever. And squats are best of all- done properly they ARE core work and they teach and ingrain strong functional patterns for lifting and getting up and down.

Kstarr's Mobility WOD is intelligent, incredibly well informed, incredibly effective, and also, alas, often incredibly painful. The second video in the series is the "couch stretch" for the hip flexors. When I started even the first step would leave me in searing agony, and there was no way I could hold it the whole four minutes. Now I can adopt the end pose with no warmup and hold it for as long as I like. It did exactly what it was designed to do, but I had to sweat through a lot of pain to get there. This is not necessarily best practice, but I've always preferred "fast, hard, and quickly effective" over "gentle and effective but so gentle you can't even tell if you're doing it right".

We'll talk!

Anonymous said...

Situps or leg lifts/flutter kicks
Your choice...

Doc

velcro8ball said...

Hot Yoga!
I'm just sayin' that cause I'd like to see you carry concealled in the appropriate attire.

John A said...

Some years back I had some hope - a company was selling pipes that could expand and contract - sort of like a Slinky® - and the kitchen and bathroom sink/countertop to go with these pipes could be raised or lowered at need. Disappeared after about a year, perhaps overuse (twice or more daily altering?) caused leaks from wear.

Mike_C said...

Lots of good advice, but consider crunches (hips and knees flexed/bent, ideally with heels resting on something, like a weight-lifting bench, of appropriate height) in lieu of situps. And you know not to do that hands laced behind head thing, but rather behind at base of neck, or crossed over the chest, of course.

While recovering, try not to do bending/torsional movements. If your kitchen is typical the dishwasher is to one side of the sink -- are you twisting as you bend? That cannot help. Dorky and bad 60's-movie robotic as it may seem, consider pivoting your entire body rather than at the waist, then squatting rather than bending. Rests the back, plus it's a thigh workout. Personally I'm a fan of ibuprofen in excess of what the wimpy package insert says, but I can't offer that as medical advice.

Rest and judicious exercise will probably fix this (taking longer than you'd like, natcherally) but if you go the chiropractor route don't let anyone do vigorous cervical (that's neck, B@3:47!) manipulation. Pretty much all the other stuff is fine. It's not an MD vs chiropractor thing (I think chiropractic is great and often way more beneficial and cost-effective than some of the surgical horrors perpetrated), but a vertebral artery dissection thing.

Oh, @BSR, if your hips are rocking when you ride your bike, it's not fitted properly. I don't know if you are a man or woman, but if the latter, many frames (and stems, "the gooseneck" to use a term that pains me) are set up for men who typically have longer torsos and shorter legs proportionally. Longer-legged people with short torsos tend to have to modify their position to compensate, which screws up the butt/legs-to-seat geometry. A frame designed and set up for women can make a huge improvement. Terry Cycles was a pioneer in this, but now many companies have caught on. I think REI, for example, has a line of woman-specific bikes. If you're a guy then never mind! Alternatively, a sex-independent reason for rocking hips on the bike is that the frame is plain too big or the seat is too high. With your heel on the pedal (clearly NOT normal riding position) while the pedal is at its closest point to the ground there should be a little flex in your knee. If the knee is locked straight the seat is too high. At least that's a good starting metric.

AM said...

This advice assumes that your source of discomfort is muscular in nature, if this doesn't help, then you should probably see a medical professional

I would start with chinups, pullups, arm hangs or "roman chair" depending on your strength level.

Allowing your lower body to be supported by your upper body forces muscles to contract and stabilize your torso after gravity starts stretching it out. The play of stretch/contraction helps keep things aligned. You can do knee ups while hanging to get more of a frontal ab workout.

Then transition to or add side planks.

That should strengthen your stabilizer muscles a good bit. Still it won't prevent pain from improper posture.

brewerbob said...

Deadlifts and low-bar back squats below parallel.

Matthew said...

Per Instapundit, read Mark Rippetoe's "Starting Strength". Do squats and deadlifts.

therealnewiconoclast said...

McKenzie exercises.
http://www.mckenziemdt.org/approach.cfm?section=int

I feel your pain; I'm 6'3" and everything is designed for 5'6" East Coasters. Had my first lumbar surgery at age 27 and the doc recommended the McKenzies. Plenty of diagrams on the Net, too.