The creator of the MELT Method shares tips and strategies to relieve back pain.
Low back pain is so common that most people just assume it’s a “normal” feeling. Although low back pain can be caused by accidents or injuries, most of the time it has more to do with long-term dehydration of the connective tissue. This chronic issue leaves your back susceptible to "sudden" pain that's actually been building for some time.
Do you ever wake up and your back feels as stiff as the sponge left out overnight on your kitchen counter? Do you get up after sitting and feel like a stiff, old person? This feeling happens to most people — regardless of your age or activity level. If you never do anything about it, that stiffness accumulates like sediment in a river. We call this chronic dehydration "stuck stress" and it plays a key factor in pain as well as posture, performance, and a host of other issues.
The good news is, you can reduce the accumulation of stuck stress and stop it from causing pain. Although drinking water and eating a healthy diet are important, even people who eat right and exercise get low back pain. So what’s missing? We need to learn how to rehydrate this tissue through self-care. Here are some simple tips you can do at home to reduce the accumulation of stuck stress:
MELT Your Feet
Your feet are the foundation of your upright posture. If your feet are full of stuck stress, your body has to work harder to maintain balance, which wreaks havoc on your low back.
We just completed a clinical study that looked at the effects of MELT on people with chronic low back pain. The study found that participants who did MELT for four weeks had remarkable results, including reduced pain, increased flexibility, and changes in the connective tissue, including decreased thickening. The control group (who did not MELT) showed no significant changes. We’re so excited that participants who did MELT for just four weeks had such great results!
In our study, everyone started their self-care by treating their feet. Try this quick and easy MELT Foot Treatment using the large soft ball:
Stand with your feet side-by-side, hip-width apart, arms relaxed at your sides. Close your eyes and, using what I call Body Sense, notice your footprints. Do they feel evenly weighted? Scan up your legs and notice if you are clenching any muscles and see whether you can consciously relax.
Place the ball in front of the heel. Keeping the front of your foot on the floor, slowly move the ball from side to side. Continue gliding the ball from side to side as you work your way to the back of the heel and return to the spot just in front of the heel.
With the ball in front of the heel, use slightly heavier compression to wiggle your foot left to right. The ball should barely move. Then stop, hold the compression, and take 2 or 3 breaths as you let your weight sink into the ball.
Place the ball directly under the big toe knuckle. Apply tolerable compression to that point, then press the ball toward your heel in a continuous motion with tolerable, consistent pressure. Lift your foot to move to the next knuckle. Repeat from each one down to the heel.
Using light, quick, random movements, rub your foot and toes over the ball in a scribble-like motion.
When you finish this self-treatment on one side, close your eyes and use your Body Sense to notice whether you sense any changes in your leg. Repeat all the techniques on the other foot.
Now that you’ve self-treated both feet, close your eyes and use your Body Sense to feel your feet on the floor. Do you feel more stable and grounded?
Treat Low Back Pain By Working Indirectly
When we have low back pain, we often want to rub and massage the area that hurts. But your low back is a victim — it's crying out for your help. Don’t beat it up — help it out by going after the culprits on the front of your hips and thighs.
Try this MELT Move we call the Bent Knee Press. You want to add a firm shhh sound on your exhale as you sense the length on the front of the thigh. This was another key technique in our low back pain study. It uses a soft roller, but you can use a rolled up towel or yoga mat if you don't have one.
Bent Knee Press
- Place the roller under the center of your pelvis. Begin by tucking your pelvis and allowing your ribs to relax and sink into the floor.
- Engage your core. Lift your right leg up and interlace your hands over the shin or around the back of your thigh.
- Keep your left foot firmly on the floor and keep your left knee in line with your hip.
- Make sure your hips remain level on top of the roller, from left to right. Inhale, and on the exhale (shhh!), accentuate the tuck of your pelvis and sense the pull on the front of your left thigh. Hold it there and take a breath.
- Notice if your left leg swings out as you pull your right knee toward your chest. If it does, ease back pressure and reset your left knee so that it points straight ahead.
- Inhale and relax, then exhale (shhh!) and tuck the pelvis as you draw your right knee toward your torso. Keep your pelvis square on top of the roller and think about your left knee reaching over your left foot in the opposite direction. Take a focused breath. Repeat one more time on this side.
- Then switch and repeat on the other side.
It's not how much you drink as how often. Consistent water intake is the secret to keeping your tissues hydrated.
Here's my secret recipe: Add 1 tablespoon of ginger juice, 10 drops of cayenne and cranberry extract drops, and half a lemon to about 16 ounces of water. The spice adds a little kick and will make you sip water more frequently. The ginger, cayenne, cranberry, and lemon give your body a great anti-inflammatory boost.
Remember, you don’t have to let pain stop you from living an active, healthy life. Try these simple techniques every day and live better!
About the MELT Method
The MELT Method is the first self-treatment method that simulates the hands-on techniques that manual therapist Sue Hitzmann uses to eliminate accumulated stress, pain, and dysfunction in her private clients. With easy-to-learn techniques that use her personally developed soft body roller and small balls, this groundbreaking program quickly rehydrates connective tissue, which allows the body to release long-held tension and improve ailments such as chronic pain, joint compression, posture, digestion, sleep problems, stress, and anxiety in as little as 10 minutes a day. Read about MELT in the New York Times here, or on the MELT Method website.