Spinal Decompression Exercises

Each and every one of us, for the rest of our lives, will be engaged in the battle against gravity.  It is a constant force applied to us every single day.  Coupled with the hours we sit, the sports we play, and the unexpected trips and falls we might endure, this translates to massive compressive forces placed upon the spine.

To deal with this, the spine has ‘discs’ between each vertebra.  They are fluid-filled shock absorbers and prevent bone-on-bone friction.  Since they do not have a blood supply, nourishing the discs occurs via osmosis.  Movement throughout the spine is thus vital to preserve and feed these structures, so that the discs can prevent excessive wear and tear to the vertebral column.

Incidental spinal movements throughout the day create a physical pumping effort which shunts nutrient-bearing fluids in, and stale fluids out.  Well-hydrated discs become plump which gives better bony separation and ultimately renders the spine more able to accommodate compression, impact and jarring.

The force of gravity means the discs naturally lose fluid throughout the day – people can lose up to 2cm in height by the end of the day.  Sleeping horizontal at night allows the natural fluid exchange within the discs to be carried out – fresh nutrients are drawn in, whilst stale fluid is expelled.

Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for maintain healthy discs.  In the first two hours of sitting, one can lose up to 10% of intradiscal fluid. Slumped sitting is particularly bad for the discs, as is any low activity posture.

The majority of back pain that exists today, is often due to compressive forces applied to the spine. In the age of chronic sitting, performing spinal decompression exercises daily may serve the overwhelming majority of back pain sufferers.

Using a back block is an easy and effective way to perform spinal decompression.  Lying backwards passively over a block exerts lumbar traction and both stretches the compressed disc wall and passively elongates tight local muscles and ligaments that have tethered and contracted the spine down.  This method works by stimulating pressure changes within the intervertebral discs by alternately loading and unloading the discs within their physiological range.  The physical separation of the spinal segments also counters the fluid loss and the slow deflation of the discs.

Using the back block

  1. Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent so that your feet are touching the floor.
  2. Lift your backside off the floor and slide the block, on its flattest edge, to rest lengthways under your sacrum (the hard flat bone at the base of your spine).
  3. Straighten your arms above your shoulders to rest on the floor, then straighten out one leg at a time until both legs are relaxed.
  4. Remain in this position for 60 seconds only.  Expect some initial discomfort as your body adapts to the position.
  5. For a greater effect, you may progress to using the block on its second highest edge on subsequent sets.  Always start using the lowest edge first.
  6. After 60 seconds of lying over the back block, bring your arms back down to your sides.  Then return your legs, one at a time, to the starting position (take care as this can be uncomfortable).
  7. See the following pictures to reference the correct positioning of the block.

 

The challenge when in the final back block position, is to let go of all muscular tension.  If you are suffering back pain, your body may resist completely relaxing your back over the block.  Take your time.  With each exhale, attempt to let the muscles around your pelvic floor, hip flexors and lower back give way, so that you can begin to feel the traction sensation building up through your spine.

Pelvic rock

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. In this position note that your lower back is somewhat raised (or arched) off the floor.
  2. Flatten your back against the floor (push fairly hard) and then relax.  Do this fairly quickly for about 30 seconds, aim for 30 repetitions.

Having just followed the back block routine, your back may now be feeling slightly sensitive.  Traction through the spine is a force we are not usually accustomed to. It can be a mildly painful experience following this decompression exercise.  The pelvic rock is a gentle way of alleviating any immediate discomfort experienced through the lower back after using the back block.

Knees rocking

  1. Raise your knees, one at a time, towards your chest so that your thighs are parallel to the floor.  Cross both ankles and relax your knees outwards.
  2. Place your hands around the outside of each thigh to hold your knees so that all the weight of your lower body is held in your hands.
  3. Gently oscillate your knees towards your chest for 30 seconds, do this rhythmically as if rocking a baby to sleep.

The knees rocking movement is an excellent way to restore lumbar flexion range of motion.  This helps to loosen the large lumbar erector spinae muscles of the lower back and facilitate further, the imbibition of fluid into the intervertebral discs.

Reverse curls

  1. Start in the same position as for the knees rocking exercise but instead, interlace your fingers behind your head.
  2. Using your lower abdominals, bring your knees towards your chin, attempting to lift your backside off the floor.
  3. Try to keep your stomach pulled inwards as you lower your legs perpendicular to the floor.  Ensure your thighs do not pass beyond this return point (90 degrees).  This will cause your back to arch and potentially become painful.
  4. Do 15 repetitions.

The reverse curl exercise activates the abdominal corsetry that serves to lift your spinal segments off one another.  In this way, the lower abdominals act as the body’s own spine sparing function enabling spinal decompression.

Child’s pose

  1. Start on all fours, then sit your backside onto your heels.
  2. Keep the knees pointing outwards at roughly 45 degrees, then lower your torso forwards with the arms stretched out in front of you.
  3. Relax in this position for up to 30 seconds.

This yoga pose has many benefits but is used in this instance as another means for spinal decompression.  If you have a history of hip, knee or ankle injuries, you may struggle to morph your body into this position.  If so, some simple forward bending off the edge of a seat, or toe touches will suffice.  See the below suggestions.

Forward bending (below left), Toe touches (below right)

 

Since compression builds up in our spines throughout the day, the best time to perform this routine is at the end of the day.  You can however follow this routine as many times as you like.  Remember, in the mornings after sleep, you would have already been somewhat decompressed throughout the night.  It would thus be less effective doing these exercises upon waking.  Ideally, you would attempt to do this routine between 12 and 3pm, and just before going to bed.

Back blocks are available for purchase at Cartwright Physcialtherapy.

Active Release Technique Sydney

Active Release Technique Sydney

Active Release Technique [ART] is available at Cartwright Physicaltherapy, Ground Floor, 157 Walker Street, North Sydney, NSW.

Tom Cartwright, Sports Chiropractor, has been practicing ART since 2008 in conjunction with a multitude of other therapies. He is a Masters ART provider – currently full body certified with additional certifications in nerve entrapment and complex protocols.  Above we see a recent photo of Tom demonstrating an Active Release Technique protocol  at the Masters ART course in front of the founder, Dr Michael Leahy in June 2018.

ART is a movement-based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow are just a few of the many conditions that can be resolved quickly and permanently with ART. These conditions all have one important thing in common: they are often a result of overused muscles and otherwise referred to as repetitive strain injuries (RSI).

 

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL ART TREATMENT INVOLVE?

ART is a hands-on technique. After careful examination of your injury, assuming it is related to soft tissue structures, the practitioner uses carefully positioned hand contacts on your body to affect treatment.

For example, in the case of tennis elbow, the practitioner will place your hand and forearm into a specific position such that the wrist extensor muscles are in their shortest position. The practitioner places his/her contacts very specifically on a targeted muscle. He/she will then have you perform a specific [active] movement that sees the specific muscle move into its most lengthened position. Alternatively, the practitioner may choose to perform the specific movement him/herself while you remain passive.

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Each muscle protocol may be administered anywhere from 3 to 6 times. You can expect a number of different muscle protocols to be used for a particular injury. The skill of an ART practitioner lies both in the application of the technique, as well as the ability to diagnose which areas to treat in the resolution of an injury.

 

HOW DOES IT FEEL? 

Essentially, ART is a combination of massage and stretching. The sensation experienced by a patient could be described as a ‘sweet pain’. This means that whilst there might be some discomfort, there is an overwhelming feeling that there is therapeutic benefit. Patients will usually instinctively know that the practitioner has correctly identified the key area of concern, and will crave more of this ‘comfortable discomfort’.

Patients should feel well supported by their practitioner, being able to perform the instructed movements with relative ease. It should never feel agonisingly painful. Expect to feel some soreness in the area following your first consultation (3 to 5 out of 10 pain scale). This soreness may last into the next day and you should feel ready to receive further treatment two to three days later.

 

FREQUENCY OF TREATMENT?

Patients always want to know how quickly they can be fixed. There are stories of people being cured from their injuries after just one or two sessions. It is highly unlikely there is any truth to these stories.

Repetitive strain injuries take time to develop. By nature, it is many repetitions that lead to the state of injury. Fixing these injuries is the same – it takes time to resolve them. In addition to a period of rest, regardless of what your particular injury is, at the very least you will require four to six sessions of ART.

Treatment by a skilled ART practitioner may see positive changes in as little as one or two sessions. The frequency at which sessions are conducted is crucial. ART therapy works best with no more than two to three days in between treatment. Too much time passing between sessions will thwart the healing process. Once you start treating soft tissue injuries, you need to keep the progress going. It’s akin to keeping fit – exercising once a month is not effective whereas three times per week is.

If you cannot commit to a proposed treatment plan – do not waste your time starting. Wait until there is a period of time in your schedule when you can commit to regular treatment.

 

ART is just one of many techniques offered at Cartwright Physicaltherapy. If you are suffering a musculoskeletal injury, take the time to research other techniques. There is no magic bullet, and so you will most likely find a combination of therapies is the best means of treatment for your condition.

Get your injury addressed today by booking online at Cartwright Physicaltherapy.

Angus Phelps Chiropractor North Sydney

Angus Phelps Chiropractor North Sydney

Angus is an active lifestyle enthusiast and has an extensive sporting background having played rugby union for the Manly Marlins for 12 years. His personal sporting endeavours left him plagued with injury and, as a result, is fully appreciative of the frustration and longevity of pain and injury. Angus offsets his own sporting woes by hiking, swimming at North Sydney Olympic Pool and surfing poorly at Manly Beach. 

Angus is an advocate of multi-modal therapy, a component he reiterates in his own practice, offering a pro-active brand of healthcare that is unique and personalised to the individual. He emphasises communication so that his patients can make informed decisions in a collaborative approach to their care. 

Angus has a keen interest in the management of all musculoskeletal concerns – from work and posture related discomfort, to sports injury prevention and management. He has worked alongside various sporting clubs inclusive off Manly-Warringah AFL, Narraweena Rugby League and Macquarie University Rugby Union. 

After studying a Bachelor of Chiropractic Science and Master of Chiropractic degree at Macquarie University, Angus graduated in 2017.  He is currently a member of Chiropractic Australia (CA) and the Chiropractic and Osteopathic College of Australasia (COCA). Angus is dedicated to continued professional development such that he can offer his patients a well-rounded and contemporary style of care.

Laser Therapy – North Sydney

THOR Low Level Laser Therapy system

CLINICAL APPLICATIONS:

  • Acute or chronic tendinopathies
  • Sprains and strains
  • Neck and back pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Post-operative pain
  • Tissue healing

TREATMENT

Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) improves tissue repair, reduces pain and inflammation wherever the beam is applied. Treatments take only a few minutes and can be applied two or more times a week.

RESULTS

Significant reduction of inflammation equal to or better than NSAIDs within 2 hours, analgesic effects that last for 48 hours, healing time of chronic tendinopathies reduced by 70%.

HOW IT WORKS

When cells are stressed, nitric oxide (NO) inhibits oxygen consumption by mitochon- drial cytochrome c oxidase. This reduces production of ATP and causes oxidative stress leading to increased inflammation and reduced production of ATP. LLLT displaces NO from cytochrome c oxidase thereby reducing inflammation and restoring ATP production, helping tissues heal more quickly.

THOR

With over 3,000 customers using THOR lasers in 70 countries including Harvard Medical School, NASA researchers, US Navy, RAF, British Army, Royal Navy, NHS, BUPA, premier division football teams, British Lions Rugby , THOR can rightly claim to be the number one supplier in the world of LLLT technology and training.

 

LOW LEVEL LASER THERAPY (LLLT) OR NON-STEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS (NSAIDS)

An excellent alternative to NSAIDs. NSAIDs slow healing and often have side effects whereas LLLT actually improves healing, as well as reducing inflammation and pain.

LLLT IS SAFER AND MORE EFFECTIVE

Over 400 LLLT clinical trials ( RCTs) and over 4,000 laboratory studies have been published. It has proven more effective and safer than pharmaceutical anti-inflamma- tories across a range of musculoskeletal conditions. LLLT also improves healing and reduces muscle fatigue, muscle damage and DOMS. Read our blog for the latest news blog.thorlaser.com

“The use of low levels of visible or near infrared light for reducing pain, inflammation and edema, promoting healing of wounds, deeper tissues and nerves, and preventing cell death and tissue damage has been known for over forty years”
Prof. Michael Hamblin, Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology

“I use laser immediately on acute injuries, it is a very useful adjunct to have at major sporting games, treating acute and chronic injuries alongside manual therapy for pain relief and reduction of inflammation.”
Sarah Cooper BSc (Hons), physiotherapist to the British Olympic Athletic Team.

“I use laser where manipulation is contraindicated and where pain relief is required.”

Julian M. Winer Bsc(Ost) DO

Photobiomodulation Therapy [PBMT] Sydney

At Cartwright Physicaltherapy, our practitioners use the Thor PBMT Pro Laser – the most advanced “low level laser therapy” (LLLT) product available in the market today.Laser Therapy is a light therapy whereby laser or LED lights are passed over the affected area. Laser therapy works by restoring the proper functioning of soft tissue at the cellular level. It increases tissue repair, and reduces pain and inflammation. It is non-invasive, only needing skin contact to function. It targets the affected cells as they more readily absorb the rays transmitted by the laser. Once these photons are inside the affected cell it stimulates repair by creating a biological movement directed at the function of the mitochondria (powerhouse of the cell). While it has a long-term effect on the cells at a biological level, it has a short-term pain reducing function. The laser disturbs the pain-receptors in the area giving an analgesic effect. Laser therapy can be used on soft tissue, tendons, joints, and superficial wounds.

How many treatments are required?
– For acute injuries or recently painful areas – 1 to 5 treatments
– Chronic injuries – 5 to 20 treatments
– NOTE: the area being treated dictates the number of treatments because certain tissues respond more quickly than others. A larger area such as your back is likely to take longer than a smaller area, such as your forearm.

When should I seek treatment?
– With acute injuries and painful conditions, same day treatment is ideal otherwise as soon as possible to the date of injury or onset of pain.

How often should I be treated?
– For acute injuries and pain conditions, treatment administered on 3 consecutive days is ideal followed by 2-3 times per week.
– For chronic injuries, depending on severity, 2 to 3 times per week is sufficient.

How does LLLT benefit me?
– Initiates the body’s natural healing response to restore tissue at a faster rate
– No side effects
– Reduces inflammation quickly
– Provides an analgesic effect (pain relief) quickly, whilst concurrently working to reduce pain permanently.

Will I be able to feel anything during treatment?
– Most of the time, patients will not feel anything while undergoing treatment. If the patients experience anything, it will be a very light tingling or heat sensation. Patients have also reported feeling sleepy following treatment.

When can LLLT not be used?
– The use of LLLT is not recommended on areas where known cancer sites exist.
– It is also not recommended for pregnant women over the developing fetus.
– Patients should never look directly into laser, protective eyewear is supplied during treatment.

WARNING!! Laser therapy must be used with caution with patients who:
– Have had an organ transplant
– Have photosensitivity
– Have photosensitive epilepsy
– Possible mild adverse reaction for patients with tattoos or very dark skin