Daily Mobility Exercises by Dr. Kelly Starrett Forums General How to increase lumbar flexion and decrease stiffness

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    • #71246
      AvatarJason Bryant

      I am searching for exercises to decrease lumbar stiffness and increase flexion.  Any ideas?  My chiropracter gave me some.  

    • #75710
      AvatarNathan Richer

      is there a reason you want to increase lumbar flexion? generally we would want to make sure the lumbar spine curve is correct and this part never moves much – it substantially increases danger of spinal injury if it does move. the thoracic spine is where more movement should happen. did you mean you want to increase thoracic spine mobility?

    • #75734
      AvatarKatie Hemphill

      Hey Carmen,

      Even though, as David said, we are often trying to create “stiffness” in the lumbar spine in regards to bracing strong positions during movement, a lumbar spine that is unable to move due to latent stiffness and muscle tone is another issue entirely. It is certainly less dangerous that a lumbar spine prone to excessive flexion, but being stuck in one position is certainly not ideal.
      Your lumbar spine is meant to flex and extent and should have the capacity to do so. Even though we don’t perform flexion and extension in most demanding or athletic situations, there are many instances (such as when sitting up out of bed, performing a forward roll, etc) when lumbar flexion is desirable.
      The mwod model doesn’t encourage a lot of “stretching” of the lumbar spine, in the traditional sense. You’ll find a few good mwods showing soft-tissue mobilization techniques (balls in yo’ back) for the muscles of the lower back, which is a good place to start. Working out the soft tissue stiffness doesn’t really teach you what lumbar flexion feels like, however, so that’s where more “stretchy” type stuff comes in. A really simple technique is to just lie on your back and use your arms to draw your knees up towards your chest. Hold and relax.
      Take caution, however, as sometimes excessive stiffness around a joint (like all the little joints of your lower back) can be a guarding mechanism your body has engaged to prevent you from going into flexion. If you have a history of lower back pain or injury (especially disc bulges or herniations), you’d be best served to see a good physical therapist for a proper assessment first.
      Another thing to note is that some of the intervertebral joints of your back can be stiff while others are lax. It’s quite common from stiffness between two vertebrae to cause another to become loose, since that joint has to do all the bending that the stiff one isn’t. In this case, putting yourself in a stretch position for lumbar flexion would just stretch the lax joint further and have little effect on the stiff ones.
      Don’t be paranoid, but be cautious. If you’re concerned or have pain, definitely get an expert’s opinion before tackling the issue.
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