One of the most common complaints of new bases (after hamstring flexibility 🙂 ) is lower back pain, especially around the sacrum area. While there are many reasons this could happen, let’s look at two of the most common and easily fixable.
Due to factors such as hamstring and ankle flexibility, and a desire to keep fliers at arm’s reach, newer bases tend to base with their feet too close to their head and sacrum off the ground. When our sacrum loses connection with the ground, all the weight we are bearing on our feet travels down and has to be supported instead by the sacrum and lower back. This is not ideal in any case, and is especially problematic when combined with muscles not used to this load.
To solve this, we want to move our feet back over our hips, and ideally straighten our legs. If flexibility is a limiting factor, simply use a bolster to provide support in that gap such as a wedge or rolled up blanket. However, don’t forget to continue to work on your flexibility so that you can eventually straighten your legs in a stacked position.
Lower back pain is also a common issue in standing acrobatics, often due to neglecting one or more of: a tailbone tuck, a butt squeeze, or ab bracing.
Notice how in the picture on the right, if we trace a line straight down from Fadi’s hands, it ends in his lower back instead of tracing all the way to the ground like the picture on the left. When this happens, the lower back has to bear all the weight in an unstacked manner. Once the hips fully extend, the shoulders open, and the hands move over his hips like the left picture, the tailbone can tuck and the butt can squeeze, removing the arch while stabilizing and protecting the lower back. This isn’t always possible due to shoulder flexibility or hip flexibility, so it is important to work on those. It’s also worth nothing that while Fadi is going for as straight of a line as possible in this photo, it’s also fine (and especially recommended for beginners) to raise the chin to better see the flier, as long as it doesn’t compromise the back position.
Ideally and especially when beginning, we want to find straight, bone-stacked lines as bases and ensure that the weight of the flier is ultimately supported by the ground under their center of mass. We also want to make sure we are working towards being flexible and strong enough to hold these positions with straight legs and arms!
Michael Rooney is an Acro Revolution certified teacher, and a founding board member of Austin Acro Advocates. When not doing acro or training at a Circus Center, you can find him making chocolate or reading on his hammock.