05 June, 2008

Exercise your back

The main reason we suffer from back problems is that we are increasingly becoming sedentary creatures. The upright posture is designed for walking. Today, a high proportion of people spend the better part of their working day sitting at desks, at workstations, or in cars and trucks. These changes in human behavior have had a profound-and largely negative- impact on human physiology.
The most common type of back pain comes from straining the bands of muscles surrounding the spine. Although such strains can occur anywhere along the spine, they happen most often in the curve of the lower back; the next most common place is at the base of the neck. For many years, it was assumed that back pain was the result of spinal degeneration or injury, especially damage to the intervertebral disks. It is now believed that the leading cause of back pain is simple muscle strain. Symptoms may come on suddenly and can be acutely painful; but back pain, in actuality, develops over a long period of time. In most cases, the back pain has an associated psychological component. It could be a deep-seated emotional or stress-related problem.
The factors that contribute to back pain include:
Poor posture
Improper footwear and walking habits
Improper lifting, lifting heavy objects
Straining individual muscles
Calcium deficiency
Slouching when sitting
Prolonged sitting, especially in a chair that does not adequately support the back
Sleeping on a mattress that is too soft
Kidney, bladder, and prostate problems
Female pelvic disorders
Constipation may produce back pain
Bone disease
Abnormal curvature of the spine
An estimated 75 percent of women are wearing the wrong bra, according to industry experts.

Doctors say knowledge is key and women should not make their purchase on looks alone. If it's wrong, as in too big, it won't support the breasts. If it is too tight, it will actually cause a restriction of the lymphatic system as well as the vascular system. The proper fit can make all the difference. Women are very vulnerable to back pain. Childbearing and child rearing put a heavy load on women's backs.
Four out of five adults will experience significant low back pain sometime during their life. Work-related back injuries are the nation's number one occupational hazard, but you could suffer back pain from activities at home and at play, too.
You are most at risk for back pain if:
• Your job requires frequent bending and lifting
• You must twist your body when lifting and carrying an object you must lift and carry in a hurry
• You are overweight
• You do not exercise regularly or do not engage in recreational activities
• You smoke
Whether you are lifting and moving a person or a heavy object, the guidelines are the same.
• Plan ahead what you want to do and don't be in a hurry.
• Spread your feet shoulder-width apart to give yourself a solid base of support.
• Bend your knees.
• Tighten your stomach muscles.
• Position the person or object close to your body before lifting.
• Lift with your leg muscles. Never lift an object by keeping your legs stiff, while bending over it.
• Avoid twisting your body; instead, point your toes in the direction you want to move and pivot in that direction.
• When placing an object on a high shelf, move close to the shelf. Do not stand far away and extend your arms with the object in your hands.
• Maintain the natural curve of your spine; don't bend at your waist.
• When appropriate, use an assistive device such as a transfer belt, sliding board or draw sheet to move a person.
• Do not try to lift by yourself something that is too heavy or an awkward shape. Get help.
• A little discomfort in the low-back area is natural as you get your back in condition, but sharp pain means you're pushing too hard.
• Always warm up before back exercises by walking or doing gentle calisthenics.
• Many people find that applying heat before exercise and ice afterward keeps discomfort to a minimum. (Some people use the reverse order; do what feels best for you).
• Doing the exercises with proper form maximizes benefits and minimizes strain.
• IMPORTANT: Stretches must be gentle: Never push beyond the comfort zone. Hold stretches, don't bounce
Healing through back pain exercise
Active forms of back pain exercise (physical therapy) are typically necessary to rehabilitate the spine and help alleviate back pain. Movement distributes nutrients into the disc space and soft tissues in the spine to keep the discs, muscles, ligaments and joints healthy. And the converse is true too—lack of exercise can worsen back pain by leading to stiffness, weakness, and de-conditioning.
Generally, a patient’s back pain exercise program should encompass a combination of stretching exercises (such as hamstring stretching), strengthening exercises (such as dynamic lumbar stabilization exercise. Depending the patient’s specific diagnosis and level of pain, the back pain exercise and rehabilitation program will be very different, so it is important for patients to see a trainer who is trained to develop an individualized exercise program provide instruction on using the correct form, technique, good posture & right breathing techniques.
The Cobra or Bhujangasana- lie down prone (on your abdomen). Keep hands under the shoulders & lift up. Make sure that both the heels touch each other. Look up. The naval should still be touching the floor in this position. Consult your doctor if you have undergone abdominal surgery or are suffering from hernia or have spinal injury.
Sahaj Pavanmuktasana- Lying supine (on your back), clasp one knee and bring your chin to your knee. Hold this posture for 10-30 seconds. If you have cervical spondylitis, do not raise the chin. This helps to stretch hamstrings and thus prevent lower back pain.
Poorna Pavanmuktasana - Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on floor. Raise your knees toward your chest. Place both hands under your knees and gently pull your knees close to your chest till you feel a gentle stretch in your lower back. Try to bring your chin closer to your knees. Start with five repetitions, several times a day.
Chakrasana or The Bridge- Lying Supine, place your palms under your shoulders with fingers turned towards the feet. Bend your knees. Now raise your hips, arch your back, push the head & upper body as far as you can. This helps to get rid of stiff hip joints
Spinal twist- This is very interesting. Lying supine, bend your knees. Grab both the ankles & place feet on the floor. Now roll both the knees to one side & outstretch the hands by your sides. This controls the sciatica and stretches upper & mid back.
Dhanurasana – Lying prone, fold your knees & grab both ankles. Lift up & arch your back. This helps to strengthen the back but consult your doctor if you have severe lumbar or cervical pain.
Gomukhasana – Place one hand behind your shoulders & reaching behind your back with the other hand interlock the fingers of both hands. Interchange the arms & repeat. This is excellent in the cases of cervical as it opens the shoulder blades. But those with frozen shoulders should not do this.
World over Swiss balls are being used both by trainers & chiropractors. These help in releasing the tensions & giving normal curvature to the spine. These are very safe to be used but should be used under the guidance of a trainer.
Lying prone on the ball, dig your feet firmly in the floor. Slowly raise your upper body. Exhale as you lift up & inhale as you lift down. This helps dramatically in strengthening the back muscles.
Conclude the above exercise with this amazing, miraculous stretch. Place your hands under the shoulders & lift up. Let the back stretch, relax & release all the tensions.
These are therapeutic balls that help in self-massage. These are the being used world over not just for such cervical stretch & massage but also for lower back, shoulders, hamstrings etc. Their effects are felt right after taking first sessions.

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