Low Back Pain
Concepts such as the ‘core’ and ‘core training’ to many people, are like algebra to me. I know of it but have no idea about any of the specifics or what the hell it does in the real world. I hope this article can elucidate what the core is, but I know I may also cloudy the water a little further, which is typically my way.
So what is the core?
The core is basically a ‘team’ of muscles and connective tissue located around the pelvis, lower back and abdominals. The primary functions of this team are:
- To provide stability and protection for the lower back, and the all important spinal cord which is housed inside the spine.
- Connect the lower body to the upper body to allow us to move in the complex, coordinated fashion that we do.
Who are the big players in this team? Continue reading
One of my previous blogs, ‘Pain? It’s all in your head’ certainly caused quite a stir. I attribute this mostly to the tabloid-style title I gave it, which may have paled the complexity of our experience of pain. So I thought a little clarification was in order to help broaden our understanding of the physiology of pain, and also how our perception can influence our experience of pain, here goes.
(advertising) only feeds our society’s often skewed perspective on pain. This does nothing to empower us to change, in fact it intentionally intends to disempower us. Continue reading
After discussing our last post on spring related aches and pains on radio last week (ABC 891 ‘Drive’ with Grant Cameron – wednesdays at 5.45pm) we’ve been told by a lot of people that they felt challenged to get out and get more active, which is fantastic!
However some of the approaches and concepts that people mentioned have needed a bit of guidance, so here are the top 5 typical fitness misconceptions that we often hear. Hopefully this will help you stay on a better, more informed path towards health and fitness!
- Spot fat reduction – we cannot target a specific body region for fat loss. eg. Situps to reduce abdominal fat. The body burns fat as a result of diatary modifications and/or exercise generally, and not from specific targeted areas. While some areas do lose fat quicker than others, this is hormonally and genetically predetermined. For more information on this check out an earlier post on doing sit ups to get a flat stomach
- Situps to strengthen the lower back – while abdominal strength is crucial for low back strength, the muscles that need to develop are those deep muscles of the abdominal region, typically known as the ‘core’. This does not include the rectus abdominis (RA) (or ‘six-pack muscle). The 6-pack is a superficial power muscle with little endurance and capacity for prolonged spine stability. In addition, the tuypical way of working it, crunches and sit ups, is a repetitive bending of the spine under load. Exactly the same movement that tends to hurt the back in the first place! stay tuned for a future post developing this argument further. In the mean time, if your abdominals need greater strength to protect your spine please see a quality exercise professional for guidance, as this is an area that if worked incorrectly, could hurt more than benefit form badly performed exercises.
- Weights bulk you up -of course doing resistance training (weights) correctly will increase muscle size strength and improve shape. However the progress is at best slow and requires significant effort. The most significant factors determining the speed and amount of muscle growth are the type of training you do, your nutrition, and hormonal levels. This last fact disadvantages females significantly due to their lower levels of testosterone and growth hormone. Interestingly we most often hear this concern from women! Body Buiders adhere to training routines similar to those of professional athletes (and many of them are just that), including 10+hrs in the gym weekly, very strict nutritional plans and hundreds of dollars on nutritional supplements and other ‘aids’. Unless you are willing to subject yourself to such a routine, you are in little danger of bulking up out of control!
- Pushing through pain & exercising when sick – have you ever exercised to ‘sweat out’ an illness/cold? firstly, pain beyond that normally experienced muscle soreness 24-36 hrs post exercise, is often a warning signal of a developing injury. training ‘through’ that will only increase the chances of you developing an injury. We recommend that you stop the activity that causes the pain and see a trusted health professional to rehab that weak ‘link’. We start all of our clients with what we call ‘foundation exercises’, which are designed to improve the function of postural and stabilising muscles and thus strengthen those ‘weak links’. In as far as ‘sweating out’ a cold: we know that long term, exercise improves immune function, but exercise has a short and acute supressing effect on the immune system. Exercise places a large energy demand on the body, which during a sickness, should be directed towards fighting that sickness. Exercise, then, while ill, palces a greater load on an already stressed immune system. the best thing would be to keep fluid intake high, eat a natural and colourful diet, and rest!
- All I have to do is exercise to lose weight – check out a previous post that goes into good depth about this argument/belief. To add to that information it is interesting to note how much exercise actually needs to be performed to ‘burn’ some common indulgences:
- 1 SLICE OF MUD CAKE IS 1200 kj & WILL TAKE YOU
55 MINS OF WALKING TO BURN OFF OR 27 MINS OF MODERATE CARDIO (JOGGING)
- 2 GLASSES OF WINE are 850 kj & WILL TAKE YOU
38.3 MINS OF WALKING TO BURN OFF OR 18.8 MINS OF MODERATE CARDIO (JOGGING)
- 1 GLASS OF BEER IS 570 kj & WILL TAKE YOU
25.9 MINS OF WALKING TO BURN OFF OR 12.7 MINS OF MODERATE CARDIO (JOGGING)
- 1x 55gm CHOC BAR IS 1200 kj & WILL TAKE YOU
54.5 MINS OF WALKING TO BURN OFF OR 26.7 MINS OF MODERATE CARDIO (JOGGING)
- 1 50gm PACKET OF CRISPS IS 1100 kj & WILL TAKE YOU
50 MINS OF WALKING TO BURN OFF OR 24.4 MINS OF MODERATE CARDIO (JOGGING)
hmmm, food for thought!
Here’s some scary stats for you:
- 80% of the Australian population has suffered from low back pain at some stage in their life.
- 25% is suffering from it right NOW!! – there’s a good chance that this may be you as you read this. And one in four people that you walk past tomorrow will be suffering from low back pain… wow… maybe we can understand the serious face!
- A recent study by the Chiropractors Association of Australia (CAA) recently found that more than a third of Australian retirees suffer from daily low back pain. that is not how I hope to spend my retirement.
Now here’s the really scary part: 45% of Australians will chose to take a painkiller to deal with their pain (knowing that the painkiller will have no long term effect on the condition) over trying to find a sustainable approach to improving their condition. This can be successfully achieved by finding and improving the cause of the problem.
The study indicated that we can reduce the chance of suffering from frequent back pain by 18% by exercising for atleast 30 minutes a day. Also, reducing stress, and dietary changes can have a significant effects on low back pain. For more on this particular factor, please refer to our previous post on Omega 3s (http://informhealth.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/green-vs-brown-carbs-the-omega-argument/)
Here’s some more good news (depending on your perspective!): a study by Hendrickson (2002) indicates that of those people suffering from frequent low back pain, 98% of cases are due to mechanical and functional issues, and not due to true pathologies (such as arthritis, disc damage, muscle/tendon/ligament tears, etc). This is great news because functional issues are relatively easy to address! these issues would include having some muscles that are not working to their correct level, while others are compensating for this and becoming overly tight.
Such dysfunctions are successfully treated on a daily basis by quality Physiotherapists, chiropractors, exercise physiologists and personal trainers.
So please, don’t just pop a pill to deal with the pain!! there’s simple ways to address the causes of low back pain in most cases, which will make you feel better in a number of different ways, beyond just taking your pain away.