Preventing Back Pain

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Statistics show that back pain still plagues many of us and remains a leading cause of days off work and long term disability. Many put this down to excessive hours sat at desks and the general lack of quality activity in many of our lives. However, it does not take a huge amount of time to introduce activities that help prevent and manage back problems.

Conventional Approach

In most instances the conventional approach seems to consist of a prescription for pain killers or anti-inflamatories. While these may ease the symptoms they do nothing to prevent the cause or future problems. While a quick visit to your GP is wise to ensure your back pain is not caused by any serious medical condition, research suggests many GPs feel inadequately trained to assess and diagnose back pain[1]

What Causes Back Pain

Our spine is an amazing structure made from 33 small bones called vertebrae, that are separated by discs of a soft jelly like substance and which is supported by series of interconnected muscles that interact with each other to stabilise the spine during movement. The discs absorb shock and allow nerve roots to leave the spine while the muscles hold us upright for all of our working day.

Back pain can be due to a muscle strain or spasm, it can be due to decreased space between the vertebrae or pinching and irritated nerves. Back pain can be the result of injury to the vertebrae or ligaments or the result of disease. Obviously, due to the varying nature of back pain, the first port of call should always be your GP to check that nothing serious is wrong.

Preventing Back Pain

Preventing back ache begins by encouraging strong core muscles. By ensuring the muscles supporting the spine are strong we reduce the risk of injury from activities such as lifting and bending. One of the most effect ways of strengthening these muscles is with a device known as a FLEXI-BAR. Originally designed as a physiotherapists tool, the FLEXI-BAR is a simple, 5ft long, fibre-glass rod with a rubber hand-grip in the centre and 2 fixed end weights that vibrates when shaken. By shaking the flexi-bar, the all of your supporting muscles are made to contract and relax at least 290 times a minute. This results in stronger, more efficient core muscles that keep the back stable. While the exercise in itself can help with pain caused from muscle spasm a strong core reduces the chance of future muscle spasm. The good news is that vibration training with a flexi-bar is so effective that as little as 10 minutes 3 times a week can produce results.

Reducing Back Pain

It is not surprising that back pain is something that often comes with ageing. Not only do our core muscles weaken, but gravity is constantly compressing our spine, making the disc smaller and reducing the space for nerves between the vertebrae. This can be seen by the temporary loss in height experienced daily during our waking hours. Studies show that we may lose between 1.3 and 1.9 cm during the course of average day due to the compressional effects of gravity. This can lead to back pain.

However, studies have shown that being safely and comfortably inverted on an inversion table results in a stretch that elongates the whole back and increases the distance between the vertebrae [2], that in turn reduces the pressure on the nerves and discs in the spine. This reduction in pressure can result in a reduction of back pain.

This is the most effective position for releasing pressure on the discs between vertebrae [3] as even when laying down, there is compression pressure from ligaments in the spinal column acting like rubber bands.

Being inverted for just 10 seconds can result in 35% less back pain. The good news is that this has been found safe and effective for home use [5]

Conclusion

Combining a routine to strengthen core muscles using the FLEXI-BAR and spending a few minutes each day on an inversion table should significantly reduce the risk of back pain associated with ageing and injury. Due to the effective nature of inversion and vibration training this can be done without major lifestyle changes or demands on time.

[1] http://www.elsevier-international.com/e-books/viewbook.cfm?ID=841

[2] Kane, M, et al: Effects of Gravity-facilitated Traction on Intervertebral Dimensions of the Lumbar Spine. Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Phys Ther. 281-288, Mar 85

[3] Nachemson, A and Elfstrom, G: Intravital Dynamic Pressure Measurements in Lumbar Discs. Scandinavian Journal of Rehab Medicine, supplement, 1970.

[4] Nosse, L.: Inverted Spinal Traction. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 59: 367-370, Aug 78.

[5] Meshino, J.: The Role of Spinal Inverted Traction in Chiropractic Practice. ACA Journal of Chiropractic 18:63-68, Feb 84.

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