Dear Fun and Fit: I have been taking aerobics classes from Alexandra at UCSB for the past few years. This past summer I finally graduated and now I won’t be! Sad. Anyway, the other day at a kickboxing class, I kind of tweaked my back. I didn’t work out for a couple days hoping to let it feel a little better, and so now I think it is OK. But sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night my back kind of hurts. I was wondering, is there a best sleeping position to help with posture and back? Thanks! — Lily
Alexandra: Thanks for the compliments, Lily. I shall be sure to lord it over my sister.
Kickboxing and back pain are sadly a combo about as common as college life and parties (but you graduated so wouldn’t know anything about that!). Way back in 2000 (wow, did they have kickboxing and pain that long ago?) I wrote an article titled “Injury Prevention in Kickboxing Classes” for IDEA Fitness Source (now IDEA Fitness Journal) that showed that injury rates to the back from kicks was as high as 23 percent. Can you believe it? Me neither. I was so young then and am surprised I knew how to do research. Guess I was precocious.
Kymberly: Forget talking about kickboxing, Ms. Precocious Thang. I think Lily’s real question has to do with sleeping position and reducing back pain.
Lily, I do like the part where you pretend to have liked my sister. She is actually a rather nice person deep down. Deep, deep down.
Any-hoo, my suggestion is to lie on your side with your knees slightly bent. Place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips and therefore spine aligned. Read this article on reducing back pain while sleeping, keeping in mind that one goal of the article is to sell the nifty pillow. If you buy it, get me one, too, will you?
A: Here’s my point: In addition to sleeping in a better position, you want to avoid hurting yourself in kickboxing again, I assume. Even though you won’t be in my classes anymore, I can still repeat my nags: Use your core, chamber your moves, no leg flinging and keep your kicks low. If you do everything I say (like that’s ever happened anywhere, anytime), you might avoid pulling your back muscles next time.
K: Let’s also chat a moment about any repeat back tweaks, especially if you want to get back into your kickboxing program and are a little hesitant. If you hurt your back again, take an easy walk or get on cardio equipment for a low-resistance, low-intensity 10-minute walk the day immediately after the tweak. You can see more on how to minimize muscles soreness in our posts, http://funandfit.org/2010/07/my-calves-got-a-stiffy-2/” title=”“My Calves Got a Big Stiffy””>“My Calves Got a Big Stiffy” and “Why Is My Lower Body in Pain After Running or Walking?” (I am assuming “tweak” means “sore muscles,” not something else involving vertebrae or ligaments or suchlike.)
By raising your core temperature and heating your muscles with the cardio activity, you may reduce the nighttime soreness. Unless you work out just before bedtime, in which case you will have insomnia and not be able to sleep anyway, so you won’t have to worry about being woken up by back pain. Problem solved! Feel free to send us your next question about timing exercise so you can get to sleep!
A: I’ll just point out that you wouldn’t have gotten hurt in my class, Miss Lily!
Readers: Have you ever kicked too high or with bad form and ended up with back pain that prevented you from sleeping properly?
— Identical twins and fitness pros Kymberly Williams-Evans and Alexandra Williams have been in the fitness industry since the first aerobics studio opened on the European continent. They teach, write, edit, emcee and present their programs worldwide on land, sea and airwaves. They co-write Fun and Fit: Q and A with K and A. You can currently find them in action leading classes in Santa Barbara and Goleta. Kymberly is the former faculty minor adviser at UCSB for its fitness instruction degree offered through the Department of Exercise & Sport Studies; Alexandra serves as an instructor and master teacher for the program. Fun and Fit answers real questions from real people, so please send your comments and questions to email@example.com.