Getting Back on Track

By Joshua Trentine, OVELOAD Fitness

Low back pain is the most common musculoskeletal ailment we see in people. Nearly everyone at some point has back pain that interferes with their daily routine such as work, recreation or activities. Much of this is a result of our behaviors in modern day society. The majority of us spend too much time sitting at inadequately ergonomic work stations with poor postures. Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain, the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work. Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the United States — only headache is more common.

The causes of most cases of chronic and acute low back pain are usually mechanical in nature; meaning the muscles that protect and move the spine are weak, imbalanced, neurologically inhibited (we sometimes say “turned off”) or stuck in spasm. These issues are often a result of the postural issues mentioned above. When we sit or stand with poor posture, some muscles are left in a position that results in stretch weakness and others can become overburdened. And, of course, direct trauma can cause or exacerbate a back condition. We see a number of these cases this time of year as people slip and fall on the ice, get in car accidents, and participate in one of the best activities to irritate your back…snow shoveling!

The end result is often low back sprain/strain and often disc related pathology that can cause radiating pain into the lower extremity. The lumbar vertebral discs are unique structures. The vertebral discs are the only tissue in the human body that does not possess their own independent blood and nutrition supply. Even your hair, nails, and teeth have a nutrition supply, but the vertebral discs do not. They obtain nutrition and fluid while eliminating waste by imbibing. This bit of information is key when determining the best treatment for acute and chronic disc related low back pain. Imbibing means that when the individual spinal segments flex, extend, side bend and rotate they are drawing in nutrition and fluid. In order for the vertebral disc to maintain their height, function optimally and remain healthy, we must encourage activation of the muscles that produce movement about the spine. Disc height can vary up to 5mm depending on time of day, postures, activity, and direct exercise to the area. Exercise has the most profound and sustained effect.

Safe, controlled, slow and intense exercise is the key for dealing with lumbar spine pathology. Many people resort to a variety of treatments to alleviate their symptoms, but the only way to optimize back function is through exercise.

Exercise to the muscles that support the spine will pump blood, oxygen and nutrition into injured and spasmodic muscle tissue aiding in the healing of the affected area and breaking spasm. As mentioned above the imbibing of fluid to the vertebral disc can open up disc space and relieve back pain and radicular symptoms in the lower extremity.

Proper exercise will improve posture, lessening the burden on involved musculature and can even help slow or even reverse age related height loss. This phenomenon is not something that we have to wait to see. Often my clients will remark that after the performance of just one, three minute, set of exercise on our machines that they feel taller, stand up straighter and many times have immediate reduction of symptoms.

Back pain is one of the most debilitating issues we can have and will affect most people at some time or another. These incidents can be reduced or eliminated if we participate in a lumbar specific strength exercise program just one time per week. In addition to protecting the low back, you will see enhanced functional ability. The muscles that protect the back do function to flex, extend, rotate and side bend the spine, but in sport and recreation they also transmit force from the ground up, through the lower extremity, trunk and out through the upper extremity. So not only will your low back benefit, but so will your golf swing, your ability to walk, run, climb, jump or lift your children.

If you are interested in the functional and protective effects of back strengthening and a FREE initial consultation and demo workout, contact an exercise specialist at OVERLOAD FITNESS www.overloadfitness.com

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