...is Latin for "root cause."
Well, maybe not. But I do think it has been the root cause of much of my back pain.
Over the last few weeks I've been at it again, trying to strengthen my core and stretch anything I can think of to stretch, getting to know various yoga propositions (they're not positions, as there's no way I'll ever reach them). And while noticing strength improvements, I've not really been gaining much in the old-man-flexibility index, which has been hovering around .001 for the last 4-5 years.
Until another set of searches for lithe young yoga practitioners spewing self-spiritu-harmonious advice while tying their legs and arms behind their necks in positions that would confound a salty sailor's knowledge of knots brought me to some videos with diagrams and musculo-skeletal aparatus with very largely bicepped and tricepped men standing beside them talking very seriously with big medical-physio terms and the dos and don'ts of muscle development and gain without the wrong kind of pain.
I'd tried this last year and was convinced of the need to strengthen my Tiger-Woods-style de-activated glutes of maximus, medius and even minimus varieties to the point that I was strong right up until the whole house of cards collapsed and I spent a month barely able to walk, much less laugh or swing a golf club. Which was bad, because it was May.
Well, these very large men who apparently like to pick things up and put them down an awful lot then proceeded to sit on the floor and demonstrate by stretching to an extent to make Mary Lou Retton blush.
What's this Quadratus Lumborum then?
These are the muscles of the lower back that connect from the top of your hip bones to your last rib. Check. They said these are the ones that like to zing and grab. Check. They said if you sleep on your side, one hip is hiked up for long periods of time, and these relaxed Q.L. muscles are happy to shrink up and bind. Check. Oh, and if you're the type of person who often sits in a chair with one leg underneath a hip... Check mate.
They said not to stretch, just yet, but rather to do deep-tissue activation, which they demonstrated by lying on the floor and shoving a tennis ball under their backs at the location of these muscles, and then rolling around on it, doing what to me looked like tenderizing the meat before putting it on the grill. I'm sure you could pay a Helga good money to inflict this type of pain upon you in what is known as a massage. Then they instructed stretches in a couple of ways that were similar to my yoga ladies' propositions, but were frankly obscene to be seen from a large man. Men can't stretch like that!
So I got out a tennis ball and tenderized my Q.L.s what I hoped would prove sufficiently, then folded my legs at the hips and knees this way and that, and began to stretch. Chunk, chunk, chunk! Chiropractic spine cracks rang out in the most satisfying way, and I was able to lean what seemed a good way forward and just rest into the stretch. For a while. It's taken me years to understand that stretching isn't so much about the pressure you put on the muscle, it's about letting the muscle relax once you get it to a stretched position. I unfolded and refolded myself in the opposite direction and gave that a go. Chunk, chunk, ah....
And then I stood up.
I have not been that loose in the hips for twenty years. Elvis' pelvis had nothing on me. I mean, the whole lower back wasn't being held rigid by some tight pressure; I could move. I'd demonstrate, but no one really wants to see that. Not even Mrs. Toadroller. Apparently especially not Mrs. Toadroller. Suffice it to say the change was dramatic and immediate.
And just the beginning.
Over the last two days (in addition to about 5 hours of waltzing my snow blower through 20 inches of snow), I've tenderized and stretched and been able to lean more and more. This has allowed my other muscles to get back to their fundamental responsibilities and stop helping the Q.L.s out.