The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) has developed a simple exercise that could be a breakthrough for people suffering from chronic back pain. Called the 90/90 position, the exercise was designed to provide instant relief from pain for discomfort.
It is perhaps the least physically demanding exercise possible. All patients have to do is lie on their back with legs elevated on an ottoman, chair, couch, futon, or coffee table. The key is to keep the legs bent at a 90-degree angle at the hip and knee joints. The knees and the ankles should be aligned with the hips. Once in the correct position, gravity goes to work.
The 90/90 position reduces the pressure off the lower back that may be causing neck, shoulder, or leg pain. This is particularly common with people who sit at a desk all day. It’s considered a passive spinal realignment that relaxes the body, and restores proper posture. It is not uncommon for people to slouch when sitting at their desks. Over weeks, months, and years the bad posture results in wear and tear that manifests as neck pain, shoulder pain, and chronic lower back pain.
Bad posture can create a variety of discomfort. Many people who feel stress or tension at the back of the neck, for example, assume it is simply sore neck muscles. But the actual cause of the problem could a misalignment of the spine cause by chronic bad posture.
Gravity can make back and joint pain worse because the force of gravity is what keeps us planted on the ground. We sleep lying down, our bodies and spine are perpendicular to gravity, which causes spinal disks to decompress and rehydrate. It’s one reason why people are taller first thing in the morning than they are at the end of the day.
Exercises that call for repeatedly squeezing the shoulder blades together may provide temporary relief for a sore neck or shoulders. However, the 90/90 position puts the body back in proper posture by repositioning the hip joints and putting the back in a neutral position. Once in the 90/90 position, extend the arms out, palms up, to reposition the shoulder joints; a counterbalance to sitting hunched in an office chair all day.
Another exercise is to slide the arms up along the floor until they are at a 45-degree angle from the body. Keeping the elbows straight, rotate the shoulders so thumbs are on the ground, and then press your fists into the ground and release.
The position of the legs in the 90/90 minimizes the effect of gravity and in a way re-teaches the body what proper alignment feels like. However, your body won’t stay realigned once the exercise is over without a conscious effort to maintain proper posture and doing exercises that strengthen the muscles around the joints to keep them correctly positioned in their sockets.