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Preventing Back Strain -- What I've Learned
Old 07-04-2011, 12:41 PM   #1
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Preventing Back Strain -- What I've Learned

After straining my back every few years, I got obsessive about researching it, and I thought I'd pass on what I've learned. I'm not a doctor, so don't follow what I say in any way.

Note that one meta study found:
There was no strong evidence regarding the efficacy of any interventions aiming to prevent back pain and injury in nurses.
When you pull a muscle in your back

The advice on this is consistent. This is what I'll do next time (hopefully there won't be a next time): Put ice on it immediately, even if it doesn't seem like a big strain. Continue icing on and off for 2 days, and drink a lot of water. Rest for 2 days. Cancel anything that would involve sitting (piano lesson, for example) for a month. Start doing a lot of walking after 2 days of rest, and avoid sitting in a chair or traveling in a car.

Stretching

Once you've recovered start stretching regularly. A problem here is that most research shows that stretching prior to exercise does not help prevent injuries. I'm hoping that regular stretching, however, can be effective.

After a month of twice-per-day stretching I've improved my flexibility significantly, and it would seem that that would decrease the stress on back muscles. Anyway, here are two books I recommend:

This is good for helping you do the stretches just right:

Amazon.com: Stretching Smarter Stretching Healthier eBook: Dr. Jolie Bookspan MEd PhD FAWM: Kindle Store

For example:

stretch.jpg

This one has a list of stretches:

Amazon.com: Stretching for 50+: A Customized Program for Increasing Flexibility, Avoiding Injury, and Enjoying an Active Lifestyle eBook: Karl Knopf: Kindle Store

Youtube is also a good source of stretching info (both good and bad).

Most important thing I learned is that stretching too hard is counterproductive, since the muscles will contract.

Back Exercises

There isn't a consensus on this, but I've concluded that many core-strengthening exercises are bad. Example: crunches, supermans, back extensions. I know that my crunches didn't prevent my latest muscle strain. I figure there are enough other exercises that I can avoid these.

Stop Doing Sit-Ups: Why Crunches Don't Work - Newsweek

http://ezinearticles.com/?Why-Crunch...Back&id=486972

The key with these is that although the exercises seem wimpy, if you hold them long enough they are tough. A side plank, for example, seems like it would only be challenging for old, out of shape sissies, but try hold it for a minute or longer.

One thing you can do, carefully, while recovering, is use your pain to see which exercise will strengthen the particular muscle that you injured.

Here's my current list of back exercises which I do twice per week (Body by Science convinced me that more often that that wouldn't help much).

Back Strength Exercises (import to MobiList)
Reverse Plank
Leg Drop
Neck Raise with Strap
Hip Raise
Press-up
Plank
Side Plank
Standing Leg Raise

I'm also hoping that my Bowflex exercises in which the back is stressed but held rigid (for example, seated lat row) will help here.

Posture

In the past I've pretty much given up on improving my posture. I'd "Sit up straight" and five minutes later, I'd be back to slouching.

I think I'm doing better now in part with the help of this book:

Amazon.com: 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Foot (Remember When It Didn't Hurt) (9780979303609): Esther Gokhale, Susan Adams: Books

Although the author disagrees with some conventional wisdom.

Another help is the stretching of my pectoralis muscles and strengthening of my neck muscles (chin tucks, neck raises). After a month of this, it feels more comfortable to tuck my chin in and align my head properly.

I hope this stuff works!
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Old 07-04-2011, 02:17 PM   #2
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Dr. Bookspan has lots of material on line, too. You can follow web references starting here: Where To Continue with Fitness Fixer During Healthline's Pause for All Bloggers.
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Old 07-04-2011, 02:22 PM   #3
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From personal experience, I found lying on my back and pulling my knees together up towards my chest did a very good job of relieving lower back strain, and also reducing the pain and re-occurrence of lower back strain. Of course, this was when I was in my late teens and adjusting to a more sedentary lifestyle.

I think the absolute best way of relieving and preventing back pain is yoga. My mother had multiple occurrences of pinched nerves in her back, and once she started regularly doing yoga, they went away. For one 3 month period when she stopped because she got busy with work, the back pain returned. I will probably pick it up when doing a simple stretch no longer is enough.
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Old 07-11-2011, 11:00 PM   #4
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As I posted a few days ago, I am still slowly recovering from a severe back sprain caused by helping out with a friend's move. The pain is bad but not extreme.

Today, I heard about a product called the CERAGEM massage bed. Supposedly, it uses some type of infra red technology to massage and soothe muscles, and the person who told me about it is a long and trusted family friend so I have absolutely no reason to disbelieve her - she owns one and has used it.

Unfortunately, she lives 150 miles from me, in the Southern SF bay Area, but I am planning to go down to try it out, and if it appears effective, to consider purchasing one myself.

Has anyone in this forum any experience with this product? Would appreciate your take on it.
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Old 07-12-2011, 01:05 PM   #5
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T-Al, thanks for posting this. Like you, I have very occasional back strain problems that can leave me incapacitated for a week, with a month of having to be very careful.

It's really tough to know what's helping or not when the events are so sporadic. I think the stretching and strengthening help, but who knows? I feel much more confident in saying that stretching and strengthening helps my knees. I was getting to feel like I had the knees of a much older man, it was effort to get up off the floor, or kneel in an awkward position. And with simple lunges even just a few times a week, my knees are much, much better. I think the theory is that the muscle develops and supports the bones better so they don't rub?


Quote:
Originally Posted by plex View Post
From personal experience, I found lying on my back and pulling my knees together up towards my chest did a very good job of relieving lower back strain, and also reducing the pain and re-occurrence of lower back strain.
I'm going by memory here, but when I looked through the different back exercise books & articles, I eliminated anything that anyone said could have a risk of straining the back. IIRC, pulling up BOTH knees at once was considered risky by some. I do one knee at a time, and I agree, that this at least feels like it does a lot of good. When I'm recovering, a few stretches like that can take me from barely being able to walk, to getting around carefully for the next hour.


Quote:
I think the absolute best way of relieving and preventing back pain is yoga.
I should try this. I have a DVD but I didn't keep up with it. The slow, holding, stretching does seem to do a lot of strengthening and straightening that could be helpful. I think you sub-consciously learn how to support your body against a weird movement that might normally trigger a problem.



Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
When you pull a muscle in your back

The advice on this is consistent.

This is what I'll do next time (hopefully there won't be a next time): Put ice on it immediately, even if it doesn't seem like a big strain. Continue icing on and off for 2 days, and drink a lot of water. Rest for 2 days. Cancel anything that would involve sitting (piano lesson, for example) for a month. Start doing a lot of walking after 2 days of rest, and avoid sitting in a chair or traveling in a car.
I've heard the ice thing consistently also, though I've never done it (I did avoid heat the first 2 days though).

I'm surprised at the rest for 2 days though. For me, if I don't move around and stretch and try to keep loose, I think I'd just lock up in a ball and never be able to get up. Obviously, no strain, but by rest, do they mean don't move? The worst thing for me is getting through the night - being in one position for more than a few hours leaves me in the worst shape.

Avoid sitting for a month! Wow, sitting does seem to be a problem (I stretch before/after when I'm having trouble). It's tough not to sit when you are not strong enough to be active doing other things - what do you do? Lay down when you would normally sit?

What a pain - well, at least the last two times, I can attribute it to something that I could have avoided - I lifted something heavy to/from the floor, in such a way that I had to use my back, not my legs. Stupid! Previously, I've had an event triggered by seemingly nothing - reach out, and feel a tightening, and it just keeps getting worse and worse over the next minute until I'mm all tightened up. I have not had an event like that for many years, so maybe the little bit of stretches and strengthening I've been doing really is helping?

Good luck in fighting this.

-ERD50
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Old 07-15-2011, 07:00 AM   #6
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I too occasionally get a sore lower back for no apparent reason. I'm quite willing to quit crunches since I don't like them anyway. Glad to see planks are OK. I will look up some of those other exercises. But I have one question: you say to rest for 2 days but don't sit (or at least not for long). Are you suggesting lying down most of the time or standing? How about day to day, avoid sitting for long periods? I guess I could read standing up but...
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Old 07-15-2011, 08:48 AM   #7
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I spent a lot of time lying flat on my back with the iPod touch, posting, reading and listening to music. But it's true that it's hard to avoid sitting.

The Gokhale stretch-sitting technique is also a good tool here.

I'm reading the mckenzie book now (7 steps to...). It recommends some exercises (eg touching toes) that other books warn against.
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Old 07-15-2011, 10:04 AM   #8
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Thanks. I recently sprained my back carrying a bunch of construction debris to the dumpster. I worsen my back problem by spending too much time reclining in my sofa. I saw your ice advice, and it helped immediately! For one if I am icing my back, I have to lie flat on my back, so that also helped with the posture.
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