#13 How to Cure Your Own Back Stiffness
Sid is a machinist. He works at a lathe in a large shop by day and works in his own shop many evenings. He experiences routine back and neck pains but attributes them to years of hard work and advancing age. A recent MRI found nothing remarkable.
He loves his work but is considering retiring because he can hardly get out of bed each morning. He assumes the early morning stiffness is his back's way of telling him it's time to quit working so hard.
Spine shape assessment revealed Sid's spine is falling forward nine degrees and that he's losing the essential depth and length of his lower back curve. His upper back curve is becoming ever longer and deeper and his neck curve is becoming progressively shorter and deeper. This postural decline is not a good thing (see Blog #2). Sid's joints and discs are being forced to carry ever greater loads and his spine-supporting muscles are being forced to work increasingly harder from altered lengths that leave them progressively weaker.
Since morning is when the spine stiffness is worse, his mattress and sleeping positions are also suspect. Sid's sleeping positions were found to be acceptable but his mattress was found to be terrible. Although it had a 10-year warranty and was only five years old, it had failed him long ago. Using a yardstick and ruler, the depth of the mattress sag was measured to be one and one-half inches. That may not seem like much and wasn't enough to file a warranty claim but it's three times the amount of sag an exhausted spine can reasonably tolerate for eight hours.
The combination of Sid's leaning over a lathe all day, thus working postural muscle fibers to fatigue, his loss of normal spine shape that made postural muscle fibers weaker, combined with a profoundly failed mattress that forced tired, weakened muscles to work all night long, predicts an exhausted spine system come morning that's uptight and spent. Sid may have slept through the night but his muscles didn't!
A corrective strategy was not difficult to devise for Sid. Postural and spine shape improving techniques (see previous blogs), coupled with a new, good quality mattress and an appropriate walking program brought rapid improvement. Pre-arising isometrics while still in bed, along with better skill for safely getting out of bed, also added to Sid's speedy spine improvement and yielded much better mornings and more enjoyable days. With new skills and better support, Sid's plans to retire got shelved.