More Movement for Back Pain

More Movement for Back Pain

Most of us in this confused and brutal world try to carve out a private life of our own, a life in which we can be happy and peaceful and yet live with the things of this world…When you look a little more closely, not only at your own life but also at the world, you will see that what you are—your daily life, what you think, what you feel—is the external world, the world about you.

Talks with American Students, J. Krishnamurti

In my last newsletter I discussed the curves of the spine and mentioned how the backward curving Thoracic region contains important structures that are in constant motion (heart, lungs and greater vessels) allowing for great dynamism and mobility, however this region often suffers immobility. To discover your range of motion, to connect with space, connect your interior physical and emotional landscape to our external world I offer you these explorations.


Thoracic mobility: What is yours?


Our 12 ribs connect to each vertebrae wrapping around to connect to the sternum in the front, either directly or though cartilage. Imagine holding a light in the centre of your chest in front and in back (let your elbows drop along your rib cage). Shine a beam of light from this chest light to the right side, and then to the left, you will be doing pure spinal rotation. How much movement do you experience?


Lift your chest and shine the beam of light towards the ceiling. Then focus on the back light and shine the beam of light to the floor. In both cases you will be doing spinal extension from the thoracic region. Try spinal extension by shining the beam from both front and back lights, where do the beams go on the ceiling and floor? This may be a very small action. What are your sensations? 


Shine the beam of light from your chest in front towards the floor. Can you feel the beam of light in the back of your chest shining towards the ceiling? You are doing spinal flexion from your thoracic region. It may not be a large movement, we are looking for what is your range of movement.

Lateral Flexion

Keeping your elbows along your rib cage, sequence rolling sideways from your head and then shoulders and ribs, your thoracic region, to the right and to the left. Allow the beam of light to shine in front and in back of you. Do you tilt and roll the same amount each side?

Do you notice sensations above your thoracic spine into your cervical spine and your occiput? What about below your thoracic spine into your lumbar and sacral spine? What happens to your legs and feet in any of these sequences? Do you notice the spirals of movement through you? Do you notice where movement and breath do not move through you?

Meeting yourself where you are informs you of places of holding. Asking what does the holding want for you is a step towards transformation.

Motion is Lotion

My sister is fond of quoting this phrase so I thought I would share it with you here. The heart is the pump for blood to move through your body, and movement is the pump for lymph fluid and synovial fluid. So to lubricate your joints, movement is the key.

As mentioned, the rib cage of your thoracic region protects your heart, lungs and greater vessels. It also acts as the supportive structure for the yoke of our scapula and arms. Involving our arms in our movement increases the range of motion available to our thoracic spine as well as connects us to our environment.

In Certified Movement Analyst training, we learn of the palm/scapula connection. That is the experience of the kinetic (moving) chain from our hands/palms up to our scapula (shoulder blade). This experience can be felt when we press into our palms. What I discovered from many explorations is how our hands are connected to our shoulder blades when not pressing, and how the initiation with our hands flows into our thoracic area.

Figure of 8’s

In Graduate school, I first explored moving figure of 8’s in space with Dianne Woodruff. We moved through the horizontal plane, the vertical plane and the sagittal plane. It was fun and invigorating to feel the rolling in and out, up and down, and forward and backward spiraling action of our arms riding space.

We would allow the twisting motion of our arms to move into our torso and add weight shifting, then it felt as if we were riding a roller coaster. At any one time we were riding space, this outer connection, we joyously were experiencing the inner spirals in and through our bodies.

Discover your Reach Spaces.

In this way we discovered our Kinesphere – our personal bubble of space around us. We played making the figures close to us (our near reach space) then with our elbows leading the action (our mid reach space,) then with our hands and fingertips leading the way taking us way out into our far reach space.

What is your preference?

Keeping your elbow near your ribs, try making a figure of eight motion of your forearm moving towards your midline and away. This is your near to mid reach space (if you are unable to move this much, try keeping your forearm near your ribs and just moving from fingertips to wrist, your near reach space). Can you feel the action in your shoulder? Allowing your elbow to move more through your space is mid reach, and leading with fingertips with your arms extending softly through your elbows is your far reach space.

Dianne had us get more specific with the action by initiating with out thumbs. She would ask us what did this feel like? Try it – you might feel a strong downward, gliding, sliding feel. I experienced a sense of the earth and the support of gravity available to me.

You can do this in your near, mid, and far reach spaces. If you have shoulder issues, what reach space works for you without pain? This is a good place to meet yourself, to connect with the downward areas of your space around you.

Next Dianne had us explore initiating the action from our pinky fingers. Again we played in each of our reach spaces to find which was most satisfying. Moving figure of eights in my near reach space with my pinky fingers created a sensuous, containing, pulsing sensation. Investigating my mid reach space using my elbows, gave me a waltzy rhythmic feeling. The figure of eight action initiating with my pinky fingers in my far reach space, created a light, upward, and outward, feeling “Wheee” I loved it. I found my awareness of the sky peaked as I flew along these figure of eights in my far space.

Another value of this figure of eight action through the planes is that it facilitates the motility of our heart, lungs and greater vessels moving fluid around our bodies. When we listened to our hearts and lungs and felt our fluids flowing as we rode space we had an embodying experience.

I have used this exploration for years as a warm up with people to encourage a three-dimensional spirilic feel of our bodies moving and connecting with space, and also to discover the spirilic comfort level in our global joints and spine.

Another layer of information: Meridians

What is of interest is that the acupuncture meridians for the heart and lungs run along the out and inside of the arms. The lung meridian goes from your thumb up to your shoulder, and the heart meridian goes up the pinky side of your arm to your armpit. Your energy system from your organs through to your arms is supported with the playing of figure of eights.

Your heart is responsible for all emotions, but this meridian supports laughter and enthusiasm. Lungs house the body’s seven emotions (anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise) and are responsible for self-protection and self-preservation.

If you are experiencing such negative attributes as disappointment, sadness, grief, despair, anxiety, shame and sorrow, moving yourself through figure of eights initiating with your thumb may ease these feelings and create a sense of strength where you did not have any. If you need a lift in spirits, or to lighten your mood try moving from your baby finger. The gliding or free-flying action in any of your reach spaces may shift your mood by connecting your inner landscape to the external world, and give perspective to your situation at hand.