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Relaxing the muscles in the lower back

yonat
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Relaxing the muscles in the lower back
Hi, Esther,
Of all the great things a learned in your book, the one that most blew me away was the instruction to relax the muscles in the lower back when standing: Before reading it I didn't even realize I was working them all the time!

I still have difficulties with this: It seems that whenever I'm not paying attention they go back to work. I wonder why is that? What are they trying to do? Do you have any tips for making them stay relaxed?

Thanks!
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Possible reasons for tight lower back muscles:
1. Pelvic tucking or retroversion. If you don't have a curve in the right place, one forms up higher.
2. Years of trying to "sit up straight" or "stand up straight." If you tighten muscles chronically, they adjust to  short resting length. Then it takes work to relax / stretch / reset them.
3. Underlying trauma. The brain has only a few ways of trying to protect an area - tightening up muscles in the area is one of them.
4. Emotional tension. The lower back is one area that commonly registers emotional strain. The area between the eyebrows, the neck and the hands are some other areas that seem to tense up when there is emotional strain.

Techniques for relaxing the lower back:
1. Improved posture
2. Awareness - "visiting" the area with your consciousness and willing it to relax.
3. Acupuncture
4. Warm baths
5. Massage
6. Stretching
yonat
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Thanks for the answer. I went over the possible reasons one by one, and it seems they all apply except #2. So first I returned to always stacksitting with a wedge, and also payed extra attention to these muscles when I'm stressed. That helped and the muscles are now mostly relaxed, most of the time.

But the really interesting one was reason #3 - underlying trauma: The tight muscles are exactly where my back used to hurt. So I checked the area with my hand, and even though it doesn't hurt anymore, there is still some sensation there that is between an itch and a tickle. Unlike the pain, this sensation is very finely located, so I could actually trace its outline with my finger.

I went to my anatomy text to see what's there, and discovered that the line I traced is the sacroiliac joint. In retrospect, this is not surprising: a chiropractor told me once that my sacrum moved to one side, probably during my first childbirth. He did treat it, and the pain was gone for a couple of weeks, but that didn't last.

So it seems to me that there is still something my body/brain is trying to protect at my sacroiliac joint. It doesn't hurt anymore, but it probably still not in the right place or not completely healed.

Any advice on how to proceed with this?
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The sacrolliac ligaments, like other ligaments, doesn't get a lot of blood circulation, so injuries there are slow to heal. It sounds like you have a minor degree of "blockage" at this site. In Chinese medicine, we consider ticklishness to reflect a degree of blocked circulation of Qi and Blood that is not as serious as that reflected by pain.

My guess is that as you change your architecture in that area you will re-establish health to this area. You may try helping it along with some self massage (circular rubbing, pinch-pull, lying on the back with your knees bent and rotating the knees around to massage the sacrum, etc). It doesn't sound like you need anything stronger than that.

Best,
Esther
yonat
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I was too quick to announce that these muscles are relaxed most of the time: It took only a few days of being a little more preoccupied  and stressed, and they get right back to their old ways (or rather, I do). It seems I need to stay conscious of my body... what a lesson!

I tried laying on my back and rotating my knees, and feels really good! Thanks for that. It also helps with my sour gluteus muscles (I just started working on glidewalking).
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