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  • Daithí Ó Murchú

Stretches, Challenges & Personal Reflection on Spinal Health when Injured - Thoracic Spinal Frac

Having recently fallen awkwardly and consequently fracturing my Thoracic, T8 and T9 spinal vertebrae, I have been seeking out the best, non-invasive, stretching exercises and complimentary 'mindful' techniques to re-build my flexibility and allow me to return to 'active' running as soon as possible.

Little did I realise when I wrote my Blog entry entitled, 'HEALTHY STRATEGIES FOR ATHLETES COPING WITH INJURIES Utilising Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)' in December 2017 that I would be faced with this 'Reality' myself in 2018.

To try and put in perspective, as many of you reading this will certainly empathize - trying to run with T8 and T9 fractures or indeed serious back 'pain' or 'injury' is like moving and feeling a 'javelin' piercing your lungs and spine as they collapse onto your pelvis, with every step you take, like an unbearable weight from above, ... breathing is laboured and becomes virtually impossible and slowly the lack of oxygen and the pain shut you down.

For an athlete this spells functioning of muscles.. No running.... It also spells the opportunity to be 'Present' with the injury, and take time to reflect, adapt, change and overcome...Easy? Nope.!!, but necessary as the alternatives proposed by some experts, are NOT at all pleasant.

I personally believe that we are our own BEST physical, psychological and spiritual healers. Notwithstanding this belief, I have and still am seeking the best 'traditional medical' advice available nationally and globally, having undergone all the necessary 'scans' and having reviewed the results, but I also believe in the healing power of Universal energy and all it brings, in unconditional love. They really 'DO' compliment one another and many specialists today appreciate and encourage these 'healing' synergies and acknowledge their effectiveness and efficacy when holistically combined into a rehabilitation programme towards wellness.

So..What have I found challenging and also useful... apart from consistently ensuring that my daily living, my fitness, my sanity, my well-being, my core and posture, etc., etc., are not being compromised by my injury and my 'thoughts' !!

There are three different types of muscles that work together to support the spine.

Extensors help us to straighten the back and stand, flexors allow us to bend the spine from the front and oblique muscles help the spine to remain stable or rotate.

Using stretching exercises to strengthen these different muscle types can help reduce the strain on the spine, and potentially lessen the symptoms of a collapsed disc.

First Stretches that can increase strength and flexibility without aggravating a collapsed disc include:

Curl stretch.

While on your back, bend your knees and bring them up to your chest, then wrap your arms around your ankles. Hold this position for several seconds and repeat.

Hip extension.

From your hands and knees, alternate lifting each leg up and away from your body until it is parallel with your back.

Hip stretch.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, then take a half step back with your right leg. Keep your right leg straight as you bend your left knee and reach forward. Alternate legs.

Piriformis stretch.

Lie on your back with one leg crossed over the other. Reach down and use your hand to grab your knee and ankle, and gently pull the knee toward your chest. Repeat using each leg.

Pelvic tilt.

Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor and your arms at your side. Gently lift your pelvis off the ground as high as you can, and repeat several times.

According to Here are some other, proven to be effective exercises, which I employ, for Thoracic Spinal issues:

The Butterfly

According to the Schiffert Health Center at Virginia Tech University, the butterfly is a good rehabilitation exercise for those who have thoracic back pain. To start, place the hands on the shoulders with the palms facing down. Then, keep the hands in place on the shoulders and try to bring the elbows as close to each other as possible in front of the body. There should be a stretching feeling in the muscles of the upper back. Hold this position for three breaths and then return to the starting position. Do one to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of this exercise.

Thoracic Stretch

The thoracic stretch begins by sitting on the floor with the legs stretched out straight and feet pointing up. Place the hands on the mid-thigh area to hold then slowly move the head and neck to curl toward the stomach. Hold this curled position for 15 seconds, and then repeat three times. The stretch continues to part two by pointing the right elbow and shoulder forward toward the ground and twisting the upper body to the left. Hold this twisted position for 15 seconds. Repeat the sequence to twist the opposite way with the left elbow pointing forward. Twist each side a total of three times.

Mid-Trap Exercise

The Columbia University Medical Center recommends the mid-trap exercise to rehabilitate upper back pain. Start by lying on the stomach on a firm surface. A pillow may be folded and placed under the chest for additional support and comfort. Take the arms straight out to the sides with the elbows straight, thumbs pointing toward the ceiling. Raise the arms slowly to the ceiling, and squeeze the shoulder blades together. Slowly, lower the arms back to the starting position. Start with three sets of 15 repetitions.

Yoga Shoulder Stretch

Stretching the shoulders is a popular way to help relieve thoracic back pain. Simple yoga poses and stretches can help compliment the exercise program. This stretch requires either a towel or a resistance band or strap. Start by sitting up in a comfortable position on the knees. Hold the towel, band or strap taught in front with both hands. Straighten the arms and move the towel, band or strap over the head on an inhale and then stretch the arms behind on an exhale. Only stretch as far back as the arms can go while remaining straight and without pain. Do the exercise a total of 10 times.

Some Thoracic Roll Stretching Exercises:

More stretches for UPPER Back Pain here.

My GOAL is to eventually get back to full, 'holistic' strength, wellness and flexibility with Core strength at maximum... to that end I keep the following Pictures and Charts in front of me as a reminder and as a 'carrot' for the next steps towards 'healing' and regaining full fitness and 'Running Free'...

And Finally...The 'Physical' & Other Challenges I have had to fully acknowledge, accept and deal with on a daily basis:

My Sanity (First time in over 50 years being unable to run!!) - Breathing exercises, Shamanic Practices and CBT exercises acknowledging and fully accepting 'where' I am right now in the Present moment.

Negative Thoughts - CBT, meditation and what I also engage with in EFT tapping (Emotional Freedom Techniques)

Not Being able to RUN & Seeing others running !! - Design a personal and challenging daily gym programme and/or walking regime, including Pilates and some Yoga positions, to maximise fitness, flexibility and core strength, always conscious of not negatively affecting my injury. I would also swim if I had access to a pool.

Weight gain & desire to eat ! - No daily running meant weight gain for me and muscles mass increase from the daily gym regime. Drink lots of water and Stick to healthy options of fruits, porridge, vegetables, Calcium rich foods, multi-vitamins, etc..and avoid the 'No, Nos and the 'comfort' foods!!'

Postural issues due to the thoracic injury ! - Tighten core, stomach and pelvic floor muscles as often as possible throughout the day. Anywhere, anytime and at every conscious!

Slowing down when moving - Give myself more time to get to and return from places. Turn and twist in more conscious and less abrupt ways. Hasten Slowly....

Core muscle challenges - Gym daily - doing the exercises I know I am safe with to maintain 'fitness' and strengthen the core muscles without affecting the thoracic fractures.

In conclusion...this is what I do for my Thoracic Fractures and conscious well-being. I am not a medical doctor and therefore can only state what IS working for me right now. Adapt, change and overcome... As the saying goes...'What was lost in the fire will be found in the ashes'. Seek advice everywhere you can... Know that the day always follows the night and nothing lasts forever without change. Be that conscious change for yourself! Believe and be well!

#injury #recovery #food #strategies #wellness

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