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Taking Care of Your Back

Sharon Leake

It can be difficult to regain momentum after you've been out of the game for a while. Whether due to injury, surgery, or other extraneous circumstances, getting back into a fitness routine after a prolonged break should be done gradually. Your doctor or physiotherapist can help guide you.

Talk to your doctor about low-impact exercises that can accelerate your recovery, or your return to a healthy & active lifestyle. Using a stationary bike, swimming, brisk-walking or using the elliptical are great low-impact ways to exercise and to keep your body fluid.

Yoga & P ilate's (two of my favorite's) are fantastic core strengthening and lengthening exercises. Pilates and yoga can increase endurance & range of motion while alleviating stress. Research shows that yoga can significantly reduce low back pain, which is the most common complaint in the U.S. Choose your yoga class wisely, there are many variations. Hatha level 1, or beginners yoga, would be a great start for flexibility and strengthening of the spine; remember to start slow and ease your way into it.

Posture is another important way to keep your back healthy. Your mother was oh-so-right when she told you to quit slouching. The lower back supports your weight more easily when curvature is reduced. Keep your weight balanced between your feet when standing.

Proper ergonomics is also important. Make sure work surfaces are at a comfortable height and watch your body mechanics. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes. I prefer working bear-foot, but unfortunately that's not always an option. Make sure your chair has lumbar support and keep your shoulders back.  You may need to elevate your feet using a small stool or blocks. Always lift from the knees and tighten your abdominals and make sure your back is straight. Do not attempt to lift objects that are too heavy. Don't twist while lifting and be sure to hold the object close to the body.

A medium-firm mattress is now being shown as better for your back than the once recommended firm mattress. Dr. Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, says "the mattress needs to support your body in a neutral position, one in which your spine has a nice curvature and your buttocks, heels, shoulders, and head are supported in proper alignment. If the mattress is too firm, it will push on those main pressure points and take you out of alignment, if it's too soft, those pressure points won't be properly supported, so your whole body flops back.  Both of these scenarios can lead to an achy morning."

Proper nutrition is very important for your overall health, including your back. Calcium, vitamin D & phosphorus help promote bone health. Vitamin C is also important for the absorption of these minerals and also with collagen production. Weight around the waist line is especially taxing on your lower back. Diet and exercise are important key-factors for controlling your weight and overall health.

We all know that smoking is bad for us. Smoking reduces blood flow to the spine and contributes to disc degeneration. Smoking also increases your risk of osteoporosis and impedes the healing process of a herniated intervertebral disc. Coughing, as a result of smoking, also creates more intervertebral disc pressure and contributes to low-back-pain.

Disc degeneration is a common cause of low-back-pain and surgery is quite often ineffective. Stem cell research and therapies are showing great promise for accelerating disc regeneration. Spinal decompression allows the return of oxygen and nutrients to the discs, thus allowing healing to take place. The VerteCore Lift offers pain-relieving, spinal decompression on the go. It is the only mobile decompression/traction device that actually works, from my own experience.

Massage & Bodywork therapy and  chiropractic/osteopathic manipulation are great therapies to help manage and ease back pain. Massage is good for your soft tissue health, circulation, immune functioning and stress management; you don't need to be in pain to reap the benefits of bodywork and massage. Often hypertonic muscles can pull the spine out of alignment and cause subluxations. Trigger points can develop causing ischemia and pain. Massage therapy and LLLT are two great ways to relieve pain from myofascial trigger points, which often refer pain to other areas of the body, making it difficult for some physicians to diagnose the cause properly. Make sure you select a practitioner that understands pain-referral patterns, so that the proper muscles will be addressed during treatment.

Preventive measures and proper self-care is important for your health. With back pain being so prevalent and a major cause of disability, taking care of your back should always be a priority.


Sharon modeling the VerteCore Lift at the beautiful Vidalia, LA river front .


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