Superman Exercise For Sciatica
Since early in my athletic career I have been plagued with back aches. In high school and college pole vaulting was stressful on my spine and there were times when I would fall outside the landing pit causing a few days of pain or at least soreness. Eventually vaulting gave way to my 4 years of serious gymnastics. I loved beach trampoline and flying ring dismounts onto the sand. Once at 21 years of age I did a front fly-away (flip) from the rings where I over rotated landing directly onto my head from 5 or 6 feet in the air at Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach. That gave me the worst neck pain of my life. In addition to those experiences of injury and pain, construction work for over 20 years has left me with discomfort I must suffer with daily.
Starting in my early thirties I took the advice of therapists, coaches and trainers increasing my efforts to strengthen my abdominal muscles each morning to reduce the back aches. As many exercise freaks do, I typically include abdominal crunches on the floor, bent leg sit-ups and straight leg circling. Those in addition to plenty of stretching have given me a mental lift each morning so I can walk out the door going to work with less aggravation from my daily nagging spinal discomfort.
In my thirties I began to notice sciatica soreness when driving long distances or piloting small planes for extended periods of time. I can’t say I expected the sciatica but it wasn’t long before I self diagnosed the problem and began to sit on a tennis ball or softball under my hamstrings while watching TV. I got considerable relief but only for short periods before the annoying soreness returned so naturally I googled sciatica remedies.
After looking through some of the articles and blog posts I found a writing by someone recommending using the position of lying on ones stomach which I found intriguing. The author suggested raising the right leg and left arm for a short period and then reversing to the left leg and right arm holding again. Next, the exercise was increased in difficulty directing the subject to raise both arms and both legs holding for 1 minute. I’ve had a lot of back pain from work related injuries and I found it excruciating to hold that position with all four limbs off the floor for more than 15 or 20 seconds. Now after over 4 years using this group of positions, I hold the opposite arm and leg positions for 20 seconds each. Then I rest 5 seconds with all limbs on the floor and finish the series holding the full Superman position for 70 seconds.
I have found this exercise medley to be the best relief for back pain I have ever tried. Of course I also do hamstring curls on a bench with a leg lever once per week to maintain strength in the adjacent muscle groups around the lower back and sciatic nerve.
In my early forties I started to experience increased soreness and pain after a few types of recreational exercise and often after work. After some time I began to realize that there were probably exercises I could invent to relieve at least some of the discomfort. Initially I focused on my shoulder pain which took me to a local chiropractor and volleyball friend Dr. Tim Brown. He put heat on my shoulder and then gave me some pleasurable manipulation the effects of which lasted for a day or so. Later on after a few sessions with that heat and manipulation I decided that I’d have to find some new ways to hopefully help myself.
Having competed in athletics for decades, I knew that weight lifting was a good way to increase my ability to perform strength exercises and endurance activities as well. By the time I was 48 yrs old with right shoulder failure (an impingement) I had to retire from beach volleyball competition and focus on my work as a building contractor. Working as a small business owner where I had to hammer, dig, crawl through attics and basements daily was wearing out other joints on my body besides my shoulders. The weight lifting was also hurting so I came up with an idea.
Spending a couple of years in college as a physical education major I learned the difference between dynamic tension and static tension. Realizing that I was having issues with seemingly repetitive motion syndrome, I tried using a combination of dynamic and static exercise. For example let’s take bench press.
I had gotten to the point where my bench presses were hurting during the presses and giving a popping sound near the lowest point while supporting the barbell above my chest. The more repetitions I accomplished the more it hurt during and afterward. I tried a technique I saw used many years before where I would do only one repetition of the bench press. I put on a low weight around 45 lbs and pushed the barbell off the rack and held it at the highest position for about 15 seconds. Then I lowered the weight about 6 inches and again held for the 15 seconds. After several more 6 inch drops I reached the point where I was nearly touching my chest. I had used the hold technique maybe 5 times. Then on the way up I repeated the 15 second hold as closely as possible in reverse like I had done lowering the barbell. A good rule of thumb I discovered after months of using this technique was to make my muscles start to shake while holding in the stopped positions. Now after more than a decade of using this move and hold practice I have found that my right shoulder has improved greatly. The important improvement seems to come from the elimination of the rubbing of tissues like cartilage and tendons that one experiences during the higher numbers of reps a person performs with traditional weight lifting exercises.
More on these arthritis tips in coming posts.