Quick fix for back pain, hernias, restless legs and more

Summary: a few easy and quick fixes for your back, to prevent injuries, appearing old, as well as make you healthier and more attractive at the same time.

-Arching your back, and rotating your hips.

Length: 1187 words; pretty short (just as your psoases)


 

Sitters are people too

-LOL, as if


Let me guess; you’re a “sitter”.

-meaning you sit down in a chair or couch/sofa for several hours a day, sometimes even stretching single sitting-sessions to over an hour (sic).

If you are one of those lowly, ignorant and generally useless excuses for a human being, here’s a quick fix for you:

(I’m sure you’re looking for quick fixes; I mean, being a sitter and all, it’s pretty obvious you like short-cuts)

  1. Cobra-ups
  2. Hip-3D

“Fix for what?”, you ask.

“Whaddyamean ‘fix for sitting’? Sitting is normal, and not just for ‘hours’ but for double-digit hours per day”

  1. The fixes prevent injuries like disc bulges, hernias and stiff necks – even restless legs
  2. You’ll become a better bench presser through more practice arching
  3. Your posture will naturally straighten from your current slouch
  4. With better posture comes improved hormone levels and immune system

Let’s describe these slippery suckers now. First up: the cobras.


Cobra-ups

During a particularly slouchy period of my life, I developed a disc bulge in my vertebrae. To get rid of it I was prescribed sets of 15 cobra-ups every waking hour, later every second hour, and yet later twice a day.

It took me about 8-9 months to get rid of the pains, sudden powerlosses and tingling in my back, glutes and hamstrings, not to mention restless legs syndrome (link to my article on how to get rid of RLS=WED).

I wish I had sat straighter, sat less or at least done a short set of cobras a couple of times a day, to prevent that disc from bulging in the first place.

-Yeah, yeah, yeah, get to the point already. How do you do the snake-y thingies?

A cobra-up is basically a push-up from the floor without raising the hip from the ground. You simply push off from the ground and arch your back as evenly distributed over the vertebrae’s all discs as possible. Then lower yourself back to lying flat on your stomach. Spend a few seconds on your way up as well as down, but there is no need to stay in either position.

Like this:

Cobra-up

Cobra-up


Hip-3D

If you’ve ever had a hernia or a stiff neck, I’m sure you’re already familiar with this technique. It’s recommended for loosening cramping muscles after throwing your back out.

However, it’s even better as a preventive tool, in effect “teaching” the body beforehand what range of motion is okay without risk of injury (and consequent painful cramping that can last for weeks). I perform the movements pretty quickly standing up before squatting or deadlifting at the gym.

All you have to do is wiggle your hip in three dimensions:

  1. move your hips closer to your ribs on first the left side, then the right, then the left, then the right… Try to increase the range of motion for every repetition. Do 10 on each side. This one can be tricky for men that never dance.
  2. alternate arching and rounding the back, strive for a stretching feeling in the lower back when rounding. Go slowly and deliberately, spend several seconds on the rounding, e.g. Do ten reps of arch+round
  3. turn your hip to the left and to the right without moving your upper body. This can be done pretty quickly. 10 reps to each side.

Sounds weird and difficult? You couldn’t be more wrong (Chandler Bing), but here’s a video to explain it all (in Swedish, but that doesn’t matter): 


 

More stuff

Neck-3D: Just as with the hips and lower back, you can prevent (or remedy) a stiff neck by doing the 3D exercise for the neck as well. Wiggle the head side to side, rotate it left to right, and up and down. There!

You can do them to loosen up a stiff neck, or as a prevention technique when sitting still too much in an air conditioned office (or before exercising – in particular after a day of sitting).

Foam roller: As a complement to the cobras you can lie down on your back on a foam roller. Just make sure to focus on arching and bending the thoracic spine, and not overarching the lumbar region.

foam roller


 

Old stuff – squatting and couching

Cobras and Hipsters are the new lessons for sitters in this article. They are easy enough, can be performed anywhere and in just about any outfit.

Finding a foam roller takes a little more dedication – a level I don’t expect of a sitter. The neck thing, however, I’m sure even you can fit into your hectic day of 5 coffee breaks, 5 toilet breaks and reading the sport news online. 

If you, against all odds, are interested in (almost) fully compensating for your sins (sitting), you want to add the two big ones to your daily routine. Actually “weekly” is enough if done properly, but daily is better.

  1. squat
  2. couch-stretch

Squatting is exactly what it sounds like. Sit down as low as you can go with your back straight (no rounding of the lumbar) and your feet flat on the floor. Vary your stance from broad to narrow. Try to stay in the bottom position for two minutes.

mobility squat The Retarded Hedge Fund Manager

The couch-stretch is tougher. The good thing is that you can do it in front of the TV, in the couch. Spend, e.g., the 2-minute Game Of Thrones intro in the following position

couch psoas

The original couch version

 

If you’re not a TV or couch person, you can always stretch your psoases as a pro:

psoas couch stretch

The real deal psoas stretch

 

Full retard way:

couch stretch b

Severely hungover psoas stretch on stone surface

Never mind Mr S to the left, who’s apparently shitting himself


 

Summary: cobras and hipsters

If you sit down several hours a day, you should try to compensate at least a little bit. One way is to add cobra-ups and some hip wiggle-jiggle in three dimensions to your daily habits. It will make you look better, be healthier and prevent injury. You’ll also familiarize yourself with a great remedy should you or someone close to you get injured anyway.

If you’re looking for something slightly more advanced; add neck-wiggling, foam rolling, squatting and couch stretching as well. However, if you’re that ambitious, my guess is you don’t sit that much to begin with.


 

Share this post with somebody you care about. Sign up for my newsletter if you want more health, wealth, happiness and productivity tips. And don’t miss my free e-book about my time as a celebrated portfolio manager (including plenty of investment tips).

If you want more advanced mobility tips for more than just sitting and back issues, check out this post on an earlier blog I had.

P.S. Remember that short psoases are the reason old people walk, shuffle and stumble like old people

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15 Comments

  1. I have been following this blog religiously,immediately I read about Cobra-up on this blog,I went down straight to perform it,it works well.Infact I noticed that I could stand firmly on my legs,back straight,chest out,Keep feeding us with more stuffs.Thanks

  2. I immediately tried this out and my back fell very strange, the same feeling like I did a workout or so.

    Do you have a recommended routine to implement this into your daily life? I bet once a day can give great results.

    • Once a day would be great, but once a week is better than nothing.

      “just do it” would be the preferred routine ;). Why not right before lunch?

  3. Hey Mike,
    the Cobra-up is also called seal pushups in gymnastic circles.
    from the seal we can do seal rocks, seal pushups or plain old suspended seals.

    Also when you do ‘psoas’ try to get posterior pelvic tilt and squeeze the glutes and not just hang on your connective tissue.
    Would also just do this exercise to strengthen the the hip in the opposite position.
    https://youtu.be/udDZqTA1u2A

    Cheers from Canada

    • Great tips. May aim however is to keep it as simple as possible.

      Most people don’t mobilize at all. If I can get a few of them to spend 2 minutes a week on their psoases, that’s a big leap forward.

      Actually, I’d settle for just a few seals, since the benchmark is nothing at all.

  4. Tried Cobra ups this morning before work. Feels great!
    My posture is better, I feel like someone is pulling me back and keeping me straight.
    Thanks for the advice

  5. Hey Karl-Mikael,

    Thanks for the simple, straightforward article. Great for someone to get started on incorporating mobility exercises into their daily routine.

    Question: do you think it is necessary to warm up prior to doing these exercises, or is it okay to just dive right into them (say, right after waking up in the morning)?

    Thanks,
    Gerhard

    • Dive right in!

      It should feel challenging but not give rise to acute pain. Don’t aim for finishing the work of 10 years in 5 minutes. If you mobilize regularly you’ll get to where you need to be in a few months without much pain.

  6. Mike,
    Great stuff! I am 50 and have been active most of my life, but have suffered from injuries and more “aches and pains” over the last couple years. About 2 years ago started really focusing on mobility. My back feels better than it has in years, my knees feel great (and I run a lot), and overall I feel like I am 25 again-and the key has been some of the simple (though not easy) mobility advice you give here. Your advice is spot on. Some basic movements that focus on the hips, backs and shoulders have produced tremendous results for me. One other helpful item for me, and can help a lot of other deskbound cubicle slaves is to get a stand-up/adjustable desk. The stand up desk allows me to stand and move even when buried in a full workload for the day. And the Full Retard couch stretch photo made me spit my morning coffee all over my monitor! Hilarious!

  7. great stuff i knew about the cobra from yoga but had no idea you have to do it in reps

    feel like a moron now duh :D

    thx”

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