Maintaining the Lordosis

October 15th, 2005

I write to you this afternoon as a huddled mass yearning to breathe free. Yesterday morning, as I emerged from the shower, I felt the familiar spasmodic clenching of the muscles of my lower back -- a sensation that for the past several years has meant that my back was about to go out.

I don't like it when my back goes out. It usually means that I'm going to be in a lot of pain for at least a few days, and discomfort for at least a few weeks. So for the past year or so I've been doing various exercises and stretches to try to keep it from happening. Also, on the recommendation of someone I met at a party (always a sound scientific approach), I bought a little book called Treat Your Own Back.

According to that book's author, a physical therapist named Robin McKenzie, the key area is your "lordosis" -- the natural inward curve at the bottom of your spine. Modern life, he explains, often bends us unnaturally forward, eliminating the lordosis for long periods of time -- for example, while you're riding in a car, or while you're doing what I'm doing right now: sitting and typing at a computer. This flattening results in the pinching of the nerves that run through the squished area, giving us sciatica and other back-related pains. In order to combat this flattening, he writes, you must do these little exercises that restore and maintain the lordosis.

I've been doing his exercises (among others) for a while. Perhaps that's why this time (so far) my back hasn't gone out completely, as it has in the past. But what I've noticed is that maintaining the lordosis has somehow become kind of a mantra for me. ... Am I feeling on-edge? Perhaps my emotions are becoming too stretched out, and I should maintain the lordosis. ... Does our democracy depend on the flexible give-and-take of respectful disagreement? Then maybe the current infexibility of our polarized public discourse indicates that, as a nation, we need to maintain the lordosis. ...

Anyhow, right now, lordosis or no lordosis, I'm feeling kind of bedraggled. Yesterday, we were out in Menlo Park, shooting a "Wandering Josh" segment, and I stopped in at a restaurant to ask for some ice. They gave me some in a plastic bag, which (to the amusment of the restaurant staff) I gratefully stuck inside the back of my pants. And in retrospect, I think that might have been a pretty good strategy -- if only they'd double-bagged the ice. But at the point when I felt a cold dripping wetness spreading down my butt, I began to sense that perhaps it was time to rethink this particular treatment.

Which, of course, has nothing to do with maintaining the lordosis and everything to do with being very careful about putting ice in your pants.

Hmm ... I think I feel a self-help book coming. ...

Entry Filed under: citizenship,let's digress


  • 1. As Seen On TV  |  October 17th, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for putting things in one’s pants, but it would be nice if it was prompted by a sense of adventure rather than excruciating pain.

    Someone get Josh a Craftmatic. STAT!

  • 2. Admin Worm  |  October 17th, 2005 at 2:06 pm

    Josh, my sympathies on your back woes. I’ve had spine problems for time immemorial, having upper back surgery a few years ago and facing lower back surgery down the road.

    I understand full well the sixth sense that warns you of impending back failure.

    Thanks for persevering despite the pain.

  • 3. Wendy  |  October 18th, 2005 at 1:10 pm

    Josh: I loved Haiku Tunnel. But HEY have you ever tried yoga? Bikram in particular is very healing for the spine. Lordosis, kyphosis, scoliosis–there are reports all around talking about how effective Bikram yoga is in healing these back problems. Check it out; there are Bikram yoga studios all over the Bay Area. Good luck.

  • 4. Josh Kornbluth  |  October 18th, 2005 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks for your comments, all!

    As Seen On TV: I checked out the Craftmatic website. The thing looks like a torture device, or the result of some horrible delivery-van accident. But hey, who knows?

    Admin Worm: My heart goes out to you. What I’ve been dealing with is clearly kid’s play to what you’ve been facing. And isn’t it weird always waiting for — dreading — the slight movement that will trigger an episode? … I’m just grateful that, in my case, stretching and exercise and a very cool chiropractor have reduced the frequency and severity of the attacks. I wish you all the best in your upcoming back-related dealings!

    Wendy: Thanks for the shout-out about “Haiku”! I just got off the phone with my brother Jacob, who collaborated with me on that film. We both get such a kick out of hearing cool feedback like yours. … And yes, yoga has definitely been on my mind as something to try. My main impediment — besides finding a good place to do it, which should be very easy here in Berkeley — is a lack of time. But that website you link to seems very informative (though I worry that the man in the picture possibly isn’t wearing any clothing!). Take care.

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