Thursday, June 18, 2009

Back Pain and core strength

This week the New York Times had an excellent article about dealing with low back pain with exercise. I got a nice bit of smugness reading it, because it said the same things I've been telling clients.

The reason though isn't how bright I am, but that I've read both of the books published by the medical scientist they quote. This gentleman, Stuart McGill, does laboratory research on what actually happens to the spine and spinal muscles in different exercises.

I won't rehash the entire article, but the main point is that contemporary exercise practice over-emphasizes abdominal strength compared to back strength. There is a good video showing proper ab and back exercises.

Read the article here: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/core-myths

Another tip from McGill not mentioned in the article is the value of walking for low back pain. Keeping the spine gently moving keeps it from seizing up and promotes healing. The key is to walk with the arms and body loose. A rigid walk, with the arms and shoulders held in place, will exacerbate the problem.

Low back pain is a problem where I have great sympathy with my clients. I have had debilitating back pain myself. I know how much the smallest movement can hurt, and the dread feeling of the muscles about to go into another painful spasm. I got to practice what I preach, and confirmed that, yes, constant gentle movement does help. Receiving massage from a couple of therapist friends was also a great relief.

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