This series was first published in 2014 for Arizona Dance e-Star, a publication of the Arizona Dance Coalition. In this series of articles you’ll learn how to treat low back pain… hip and groin pain… knee and leg pain… and ankle and foot pain. In Part 1 I’ll introduce you to this easy-to-learn pain erasing technique, share what really causes muscle pain and what YOU, the dancer, can do about it.
Tools Of The Trade
IN PART 1 (April 2018), you learned how to use your knuckle to locate a trigger point in your arm. When it comes to larger muscles, an elbow is often the best tool to use.
This is all well and good if you are working with a partner, but trying to get your own elbow in your gluteal muscle is a little like trying to get it into your ear. Impossible. So we have devised some self-help tools you can use if you are working by yourself. (ILL. 1) You can see them in use on our website videos at www.bonnieprudden.com. If you are creative you can use the end of a wooden spoon instead: just put one end on the wall and back into the other end.
Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy® is very forgiving. You don’t have to be exact in order to get results. If the pressure hurts, then hold steady for 7 seconds. The more you use Myotherapy the better you will become. If you press and it doesn’t hurt, move to a different spot or change your angle. Practice, intuition and knowing your body will all contribute to your success.
Re-educating The Muscle
Half of Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy® is finding the trigger points and defusing them. The other half is re-educating the muscle with corrective exercise. Picture yourself holding a piece of rope with knots in it. The knots cause the rope to shorten. Taking out the knots lengthens the rope. To make it straight again you would need to stretch out the kinks.
In the case of your muscles you are trying to break the muscle of the old habit of spasm. As with many habits, muscles needs to be reminded often throughout the day. We find it works best if you do your corrective exercises as follows: 4 reps on each side and four to six times each day. It’s a small price to pay for a pain-free back. All corrective exercises can be found in Bonnie’s books.
Reasons For Corrective Exercise
• It teaches the muscle a new habit and helps keep the pain from returning
• It gets rid of the tension before it has time to accumulate in the muscle
• It gives the muscle a variety of movement
Chronic back pain has been the scourge of the American people since the forties. Over a lifetime, 85% of Americans will have back pain at one time or another. Back operations are the fastest growing surgery in this country. However, studies have shown that about half of these operations are failures.
Whatever name has been given to your back pain – and there are many, the cause is usually muscles, not the spine. The names given to your back pain usually mean that your spine doesn’t look perfect or like the spine next door to you. (ILL. 2)
For most of America, back pain is associated with weak abdominals and / or tight hamstrings.
But the dancer is not most of America. The dancer usually has a strong and flexible body otherwise he / she does not dance well. The dancer – like most athletes – has demanded much of her / his body and often for many years, starting even as young as 4 and 5 years old. This demand may be called over-use, misuse, abuse, repetitive movement or just plain hard work. No matter. The demand has set down those pesky “trigger points” (micro traumas) whose sole purpose is to throw the muscle in which they are living into spasm when stress is on the rise.
Since the dancer’s muscles are strong, so is the muscle spasm. The more powerful the muscle, the more powerful the spasm. And if not treated immediately these powerful muscles call neighboring muscles into the fray.
Quick Fix for Back Pain
The trigger points that you will be addressing for low back pain are common for most people. And these are the ones that will make the biggest difference in the shortest amount of time. (Throughout this series if you need more help and directions go to our website instructional / educational videos at www.bonnieprudden.com or refer to one of Bonnie’s books or DVDs for complete instructions.)
The gluteal muscles underneath the back pocket are well developed and powerful in the dancer. Have your dance partner lie face down. Stand on the right side, reach over the body to the left side, and put your elbow in the back pocket area. To get the correct angle and to use your own body weight to do the work, lean forward so that your shoulder is ahead of your elbow, press down SLOWLY and hold for a count of 7.
Rely on your partner to tell you when you have pressed hard enough – the person on the table should be the one in charge. You don’t want to go any harder than a 5, 6, 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. Better be nice as it is your turn next!
Go on and look for two more trigger points in the back pocket area. Remember to go in SLOWLY. These trigger points are numbered #1, 2 and 3 in all of Bonnie’s books. Go around to the left side to find the trigger points in the right back pocket. Always treat both sides even if only one side hurts.
If you need more direction, view our educational / instructional videos at www.bonnieprudden.com.
We Are All Hung Together
You know the familiar song that goes “the hipbone connected to the thighbone….” and so on? In Myotherapy, we always treat adjacent and opposing muscle groups. Muscles work together but they also pull on one another if they are in trouble.
The Belt Line
The next place to look for trigger points for low back pain is on the belt line. Look in the soft area between the hipbone and the ribs, and about two or three inches away from the spine. (ILL. 4) Stand on the right side and reach over your partner as you did for the pocket area to find #11. Press down – going in slowly – and hold for 7 seconds. This is apt to be a very tender area.
Walk around to the other side and repeat the hunt in the belt line.
The Side Lying Exercise is the best exercise for complaining backs. This is done to a count of four and preferably to a rhythm. Don’t hurry. After you have done 4 repetitions, turn over and repeat on the other side. (ILL. 5)
- Lie on one side. Bring your top bent knee up to your chest. Use your hand to help.
- Extend the leg to a full stretch about 8 inches above the resting leg.
- Lower the leg slowly, slightly bent, onto the bed in front of you.
The Front of the Back
The abdominals and the groin are the front of the back (ILL. 6), and they are intimately connected.
Have your friend lie supine on the table. Stand to one side. This time you can treat both sides from the same side. Find the hipbone on the side nearest you. Using the hip bone as your guideline, with your fingers, press down steadily into the abdominal cavity and pull back against the bone to catch the trigger points between your fingers and the inside of the hip bone. Try for three. Go slowly and carefully.
Next reach across the body and place your thumbs on top of the other hipbone. Push the skin off the bone into the cavity and catch the trigger points between your thumbs and the bone. Try for three and go slowly.
Don’t Forget to Stretch
Have your subject lie at the edge of the table and hang her leg over the side. (ILL. 9) Place one hand on the hanging thigh and the other on the opposite hipbone. Bounce the leg down gently, letting gravity do the work. Do eight gentle bounces and repeat on the other side.
You have now completed your Quick Fix Myotherapy for low back pain. Get up and try out your body. Look for changes. It feels better, you can bend over easier, you aren’t listing to one side, it doesn’t hurt to get up off the bed…
Changes, however small, tell you that you are on the right track. In which case, continue to do your side-lying exercises often throughout the rest of the day and the next day. If the pain is not completely gone, repeat the Myotherapy steps again and continue to perform the side-lying stretch.
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®. Drawings by Bonnie Prudden.