By: Jean Johnson for Back1
Unseen, perhaps, but oh so vital. The string of vertebrae running down the back is a flexible affair complete with facet joints and superior articular processes and intervertebral discs. Not only is the spine the mainstay on which the rest of the bones in the body attach, it also serves as the conduit for the body’s nervous system network.
|Low back fitness regimes:|
Core strengthening exercises for injured low backs:
Gluteal squeezes from the prone (laying face down) position
Pelvic raises from the supine (laying face up) position
General stretching and bending movements that do not cause pain
The problem is, though, since our spines aren’t all that critical to looking good in our jeans, we tend to take our treasure for granted. Squats, abs, arms and legs might be firmly entrenched in our western-style workouts and helpful to a considerable degree, but oftentimes nurturing aimed directly at the health of our backbones gets relegated to the occasional yoga class or some hasty stretches at the end of a morning shower.
More, instead of sitting up straight behind the wheel, at the desk, the dinner table and in front of the big screen, we tend to find ourselves slouched, letting the work of maintaining our trunks fall on the series of delicate bones in our low backs. This type of neglect combined with contemporary lifestyles is a recipe for disaster that increasingly takes shape as we move through our thirties, forties, and beyond.
Physical therapist and back pain researcher at Wilford Hall Medical in San Antonio, Maj. John Childs M.D. says that after the common cold, low back pain is the reason most people see a physician. With the military paying the bills on the patients he sees, Childs’ mission is to study the situation in all its ramifications.
|Strengthen your core with these exercises to prevent back pain:|
“While back pain’s a problem for the sufferer, it may be a bigger pain for the financial health of the military medical system and the Department of Veterans Affairs,” the major said. “Chronic low back pain is the number one condition that results in a medical board. Lifetime direct compensation costs reach into the billions of dollars. Unfortunately disability related to low back pain does not appear to be improving.”
Whether in the military or in civilian society, part of the explanation for rising costs of managing low back pain is that instead of treating the condition with pain medication and orders to ”take it easy,” health practitioners are taking a more active management approach. Evidence against the benefits of inactivity and prolonged bed rest is mounting and current philosophy focuses on getting and keeping patients mobile. Nothing beats “a well structured physical therapy regime,” said Childs.
Rising rates of low back pain have also prompted medical experts to research preventive approaches to back problems. At the annual meeting of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, rehabilitation specialist Stuart M. Weinstein M.D. of Seattle said core-strengthening is being used by many rehabilitation centers to control chronic low back pain.
“We now realize that the transverses abdominus muscle has a purpose,” Weinstein said. “I think we all accept the fact that core strengthening is probably very good for out athletes, may be good for our blue collar workers, may be good for our children, and may even be good for our grandmothers.” While Weinstein says that research on whether core strengthening can prevent injury is limited, he notes that there is the suggestion these types of exercises are beneficial because patients who have back pain tend to also have weak core muscles.
Whatever the approach, with lifetime prevalence rates of low back pain ranging from 60 to 90 percent of the population and recurrence rates quite high, the medical world is increasingly focused on innovative ways to both prevent and manage low back pain. Now instead of holing up at home with pain killers, sufferers with the motivation can first educate themselves and then adopt activity plans that will help maintain pain-free range of motion and sufficient strength to protect and correct abnormalities in this very fragile part of our anatomy – the low back.
Said Seattle’s Weinstein, “Many of the things we do in musculoskeletal medicine do not stand up to the Cochrane Library review. [Analyses of therapies aimed at restoring function]. Exercise therapy certainly does.”