With each holiday season, the average person gains five or ten pounds.
The extra pounds add stress to the back and increase the risk of a disc
injury. Our new year’s resolutions often include getting into better shape
or losing a little weight.
Fitness actually has three components: cardiovascular fitness,
flexibility/tone and strength. Cardiovascular fitness includes the
“aerobic” exercises that strengthen the heart. Flexibility and toning
involves stretching activities that keep the body supple. Strength is
improved by lifting weights, doing sit-ups or doing other mat exercises.
Flexibility and strength are both important to protect the back from
Stretching improves flexibility and reduces the chance of back injury.
A half dozen simple stretches should be done once or twice daily.
Remember, don’t bounce, let gravity do the work, breathe with each stretch
and then hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)
The most important strengthening involves the muscles around the spine,
the trunk, and the abdominals. If you plan to join a gym, consider one
with a pool. Swimming and aquatherapy are excellent. McKenzie exercises,
Pilates exercises and most physical therapy programs emphasize core
strength (the trunk and abdominals). Don’t do straight leg sit-ups or toe
touches, they strain the low back. Lift with the legs, not the back.
Not all exercise has to be boring, painful, or done at
the gym. Walk to local stores instead of driving. Use the stairs instead
of the elevator, when going up one floor or down two floors at work. Use
some kind of exercise equipment when watching television. A stationary
bike or a treadmill is good. An elliptical trainer is probably best.
Twenty minutes of exercise three times a week will improve your heart
health and let you drop those extra pounds. Starting slowly (maybe just
five or ten minutes), and stopping, if you have pain, makes sense.
If you already have back or leg pain, you will want to see your doctor
chiropractor before starting any exercise program. You should exercise
and there are simple ways to make it safer if you have a weak back.
If you have back and severe leg pain,
blocks, and other shots can sometimes relieve symptoms within hours. Most
pain injections do not involve addictive or dangerous drugs. They are
safe, fast, and nearly painless.
Disc surgery is recommended only when everything else fails. Discs can
now be repaired using minimally-invasive or laser techniques. The
operation is often a thirty-minute outpatient procedure and you may be off
work just a few weeks. Disc replacement surgery, with bone or an
artificial disc, is only for severe midline back pain from fractures,
degenerative disease, or instability. Disc replacement is reserved for
very severe injuries.
Neurosurgeons are doctors who specialize in the spine and brain. They
have completed medical school, internship, six years of residency and
often additional fellowship training. They care for most back problems.
IF YOU HAVE BACK PROBLEMS SEE A NEUROSURGEON
There are also
good sources for information on the internet. The National Library of Medicine site, www.nlm.nih.gov, provides comprehensive information on almost every