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What Are The Back Extensors? | Pilates Roll Down Stretch
In large, we are referring to the layers of muscles that run down along the length of each side of the spine, from the cervical or neck vertebrae down to the lumbar or lower back vertebrae and sacrum. There are some very deep muscles here, layered over by other slightly less deep ones, and so on until there is a fifth layer of back muscles sitting over the top.
The extensor keep the spine erect by working in concert with our other muscles, in particular the glutes and big muscles of the legs, and our core muscles which wrap around the trunk.
Back Pain Can Be Caused By Muscles That Are Both Tight And Weak
Poor posture is a position or series of positions we find ourselves in regularly that isn’t the best or most effective way of using ourselves for carrying out the job at hand. Often this is caused by a combination of both weak and tight muscles.
For example, lower back pain can be caused from adopting a poor posture whilst sitting. Rounding the lower back too much during sitting can cause the lumbar and sacral muscles to become elongated and weak and can put pressure on the sacrum and cause lower back pain. Equally, arching the lower back forward too much and exaggerating the natural curve in an effort to sit up straight can cause muscles to become chronically short and inflexible and cause lower back pain.
Your remedial or myotherapist will be able to assist you in determining the cause of your back pain and prescribing postural advice and exercise when necessary. Alexander technique is an excellent way of improving your overall posture and thus reducing the likelihood of back pain.
The Pilates Roll Down Stretch
This is a great stretch to do several times a day to relieve tightness in the back at any level of the spine and to bring an awareness of posture, balance and core control.
Read the instructions before you start, or have someone call them out to you.
This movement is done slowly. The more slowly you go, the greater control and body awareness you will require.
Instructions to roll down:
The roll down begins from standing.
Draw your attention to the top of your spine, which sits higher than you might think, right up between the level of your ears.
From here, roll the head forward, taking care to move one vertebrae at a time.
Allow the arms to be relaxed as you roll forward but not hitched up towards your ears.
Take care not to dive forward from your hips and look instead for controlled segmental movements of the spine.
Tuck your ribs in using your stomach muscles and to encourage your lower back to round and stretch.
Keep going until your fingertips are dangling towards the floor; flexible people will touch the floor, others may end the movement with their hands right around the level of the knees. It doesn’t matter how far you go, the aim is to get segmental movement rather than get to the ground.
Keep your weight balanced and not back in your heels so that you can also get a nice hamstring stretch down the back of your legs.
A tiny microbend of the knees may be necessary if you feel any discomfort behind the knee.
Instructions to roll back up:
Activate your abdominals. The Pilates roll down is an excellent ab exercise if done correctly.
Keeping your legs straight, think of your tailbone gently drawing down and the pelvis rolling backwards. Use your abdominals rather than just squeeze your butt.
Stack the vertebrae up on top of one another, one by one and control this movement with your abdominals throughout.
Take care to prevent the ribs from flaring as you roll up. Watching yourself in a mirror is a good idea.
Allow the arms to gently feed into the back, think gentle width across your collar bones.
Finally unravel one vertebrae at a time through the neck until you are back to standing.
Repeat several times if necessary. For variations, please book in for an Alexander technique lessons where our therapist Cal will be able to guide you through some Pilates exercises to help combat back pain.
Pilates Roll Down Stretch
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