Many Floridians will trek to snow country during the winter months to participate in active winter sports. Whether you charge down a mountain while strapped to a pair of skis or sled down a slope, you should be cautious of the risks to your spine. To enjoy a successful trip and reduce the risk of injury, preparation is key.
The easiest way to prepare for many winter activities or even a change in the climate weather is to incorporate exercises that promote core strength for flexibility and agility.
Yoga poses provide plenty of strength, balance and focus while toning the entire leg, quadriceps, inner thighs, feet and core. To help protect your spine, develop body awareness and deliberate movement patterns to strengthen your core and tone your skills.
Have fun this winter season and stay safe with a healthy spine!
Breathing and moving about efficiently is so important with respect to posture. Breathing deeply is essential to good posture and good posture allows us to breathe deeply and fully. Deep breathing is the art of relaxation and provides an efficient air exchange, quiets tension, improves oxygenation of the blood and strengthens abdominal muscles.
Developing and using core strength rather than holding our position with superficial musculature is the center of training for Pilates. Using the deep core muscles of the powerhouse – the abdominals, back and pelvic floor to support our posture allows the shoulders to relax, the neck and head to move freely and relieves stress on the hips, legs and feet which ultimately improves our respiratory flow.
Poor alignment leads to poor posture, shallow breathing and chronic pain. Your breathing apparatus, the lungs and diaphragm muscle need space to expand fully and function properly. The focus of Yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi is breathing deeply and natural posture with anatomically correct spine alignment.
When all of the weight of your bag or purse is carried on one shoulder, your natural gait is knocked out of balance. Proper gait is swinging your arms naturally in time with the opposite leg to keep your body balanced.
A large handbag on one shoulder hinders that arm from swinging properly making the other arm swing more and significantly interferes with a proper gait.
The unbalanced shift in posture that takes place to carry a weighted purse on the shoulder upsets the natural movement of the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the spine to compensate for the weight which can lead to headaches and neck and low back pain. This overcompensation can also affect your lower back and sacrum. As a result, muscles in your shoulder and neck become stiff, tight and spasm.
These simple adjustments may help you avoid injury:
- Reduce the weight of your bag or consider switching to a smaller purse.
- Switch sides every few minutes to alleviate overworked muscles and corrupt posture.
- Keep your abs engaged and your weight centered over your feet, shoulder blades down and back.
The other day I was speaking with a patient during her office visit. During that visit the patient stated that Advil just wasn’t taking care of her pain any more. I then proceeded to ask how many she was taking and she said “six”. I then clarified, 600mg, she said “no 6 pills at a time up to 4 times a day. I couldn’t believe she had not had any severe side effects, and immediately instructed her to stop her Advil routine.
Advil belongs to a group of pain relievers called Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs aka “NSAID”. NSAIDs have been around for a very long time, they are very good for arthritic inflammatory pain. They come in many names, the most common are Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Ibuprofen, Mobic, Naprosyn to name a few. As with any medication there are side effects. The most common side effect is stomach upset, gastric ulcers, and changes in hearing. These complications can be serious or even fatal if the recommended dose is exceeded. NSAIDs also have an effect on blood clotting, making bleeding easier and more prolonged if injured.
I often instruct patient’s to take NSAIDs as directed by my prescription, or as instructed by their primary care physician. Many times back pain is limited; time, rest, along with NSAIDs will go a long way to providing back pain relief. If you find that you have been taking a NSAID for chronic back pain or any pain for longer than 2 weeks, or more than 4 times a day for 1 week you should contact your PCP or spinal surgeon for an examination.
Remember that pain is not a bad thing sometimes. It is our body’s communication to the brain that it is not functioning at full capacity, and needs attention. When you give your body part that attention check with your PCP or spine surgeon first if NSAIDs are right for you.
According to the research of Dr. Jon Tobias, a professor of rheumatology at the University of Bristol, U.K., on the effects of high-impact exercise on bone mineral density, studies indicate that high impact exercises such as sprinting, hopping or jumping four times a week is the most effective way to improve bone health and add density.
The individuals in this research were women ages 25-50 and the study concluded that individuals who did high impact exercises increased the density in their hip bones, but interestingly individuals who did high impact exercises and also lifted weights improved the density of their spine. Weight training on its own was not as effective for bone density.
If you need to moderate your activities to reduce the degree of stress to the spine and joints, brisk walking or pool therapy exercises may be as sufficient. Exercising that increases flexibility, builds strength and provides low impact aerobic conditioning will deliver substantial benefits. Just do it!
Seek the advice of your medical practitioner before assuming a high-impact exercising program.
When should you see a spine specialist? Almost everyone will experience back pain in their lifetime, but most often neck and back pain are due to benign functional or postural causes. To determine the source of your spinal problem and need for further treatment, it is important to get a spinal check-up.
An evaluation to include a full history report, comprehensive examination and diagnostic testing is essential for a spine specialist to give you an accurate diagnosis and treatment options. Taking positive action by getting a spinal check-up today may prevent a serious spine condition in the future. Most treatment options begin with non-operative methods that are most beneficial for the individual patient.