Beginning in adolescence, my back began to bother me. I noticed that the discomfort and pain increased in my college years. Finally in my late twenties, after too many pain-induced sleepless nights, I asked my doctor about it.
She’s a no-nonsense kind of physician. Looking at me over the top of her glasses, she sized me up and said, “Look here–I’m going to refer you to a physical therapist, but you will have to do exercises for the rest of your life.”
I was OK with that. After all, in my mind a nagging cold can turn into pneumonia in the blink of an eye. I was afraid she’d mention back surgery. Fortunately for me, my doctor is practical and prefers to seek to the least-invasive treatment possible.
Walking in to the physical therapist’s clinic, she evaluated me, and then pronounced me to have weak ab muscles. No surprise there.
But then she went on to explain that she gets plenty of young guys with six-pack abs who get the same diagnosis–and understandably take offense. Apparently the muscles she was looking for are often overlooked.
She gave me a series of exercises, which worked wonders. After a few weeks, I was able to fall asleep without any trouble, which hasn’t happened in years.
However, when my therapist examined me, she also found that my hamstrings were exceptionally tight. (We all want to be exceptional in something, right?)
Now, when I’ve fallen off my exercise wagon and haven’t done those daily exercises on a regular basis (and the discomfort invariably creeps back), this is the exercise that makes everything OK again.
When I can’t sleep, I’ve found that if I get out of bed and do this one stretch, 90% of the time I’m able to fall asleep within 2 minutes.
If it worked for me, it’s bound to work for someone else!
- Sit up nice and tall, one leg extended in front of you, the other with the foot resting on the side of the straight thigh. Raise your hands in the air . . .
2) Then bend over the straight leg, trying to touch your toes. (Or grasp your foot, if you’re that flexible. It took me months to be able to get a grip on my foot, so don’t get frustrated if you can’t.) The point is to get a good stretch in your leg (which will benefit your back, too). Hold for 30 seconds.
3. Straighten up and do it again on the other leg. Repeat for both legs.
We’re now a good deal more likely to get a good night’s sleep!
(Keep in mind, I’m no physical therapist or physician. For some, this will help to relieve back pain. For others, you might need more intervention. I can’t imagine that this stretch would hurt anyone, so give it a whirl for a couple of weeks. I’m not promising any wonder-cures, but in most cases, I bet it will help. Unless you’re exceptional, too! If that’s the case, seek professional help–and don’t overlook those physical therapists!)