|Taking care of your back|
|Thursday, 22 December 2016|
by Karl Lenser
Back injuries, especially injuries to the lower back, are life-limiting and make day-to-day living a chore and a challenge. Research has shown that about 80 percent of the population has, or will have, some sort of back injury at some time during their lifespan.
Back injuries can result from a variety of conditions or incidents such as vehicular accidents, sports injuries, occupational injuries and from lifting objects or twisting a certain way that triggers a neuromuscular response that yields pain and discomfort. Sometimes just a small twist or bending down to tie your shoes or trim your toenails may cause a back muscle to spasm and tighten up.
The risk of back injuries increases when certain conditions exist such as an overall weakness in the core muscular area, inflexibility in certain muscle groups, muscular imbalances, poor posture or ergonomic inefficiencies. A sound and core-specific training program can strengthen these areas and also aid in joint flexibility as well.
In particular, the low back area is dependent on your core region to be strong and flexible. The core region entails the front abdominal area, obliques, erector spinae (low back muscles), glute muscles and hip flexors. All of these muscles have an important role in protecting the back and spine by providing stability and mobility. The key is having strong and flexible muscles within the core group.
Being overweight or obese (greater than 26 percent body fat for men and above 36 percent body fat for women). Having too much body fat places a tremendous strain on ligaments, tendons, joints, the heart, spinal discs and other metabolic systems. Excessive abdominal fat places a great strain on the pelvic area as it forces the pelvis to tip forward and the low back to arch, which results in back pain. The superfluous amount of belly fat forces the back to work much harder than normal and can lead to a significant muscle strain.
Poor lifting techniques and ergonomics. Lifting heavy objects without using the leg muscles is one of the leading causes of back strain. Keeping the back straight and using leg muscles will reduce the risk of a strain. In addition, keep the object you are lifting as close to the body as possible.
Sitting for long periods of time is unhealthy for your back. Gravity pushes down on the spinal column and strains this region. Combat this by taking a walking break as many times throughout the day as possible.
Poor posture is another culprit. Slouching while at a computer or driving a car are some examples of poor posture. Sit with the low back against the chair and try to not lean forward. An upright position is ideal while sitting or walking.
CORE STRENGTHENING/STABILIZATION EXERCISES
Purchase or use a Physioball. They usually come in a 55- or 65-cm size of circumference. Usually around $20, these balls allow you to work the entire core area in addition to the upper body. Search for “Physioball Exercises” on the internet and see how many exercises that you can use for your core area, legs and upper body.
Planks. These isometric/old school exercises are great for core stabilization and strengthening.
Crunches. Performed correctly, these can work your abdominals in an effective and efficient manner. Lie on the ground with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Raise both arms and bring them together in front of the chest. Hands should be pointing up to the ceiling. Raise your head straight up and “reach for the sky” with your hands, bringing your shoulders off the ground. You should feel your abdominals contract as you raise your shoulders off the ground.
Yoga classes are very helpful when it comes to flexibility training.
Stretch every day, especially after a workout is finished as muscles will be more pliable.
A combination of cardio and strength workouts will greatly aid in reducing the risk for a low back injury. Walking, elliptical workouts, running, swimming, etc. are helpful for keeping a healthy back. Cardio and strength workouts are the ideal combination for overall health and fitness.
A Conway resident, Karl Lenser is the employee wellness coordinator at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. An accomplished runner, he can be reached at email@example.com.