Friday, June 23, 2006

Back on it

Fitness Guru Connie Aronson

Connie Aronson


Connie Aronson is an American College of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and IDEA Elite personal trainer, located at Koth Sports Physical Therapy in Ketchum.

Seven minutes, tops. That was my dinner hour, longer than I cared for. Not that the company, or the food, wasn't great, but that was my back, then. Sitting hurt. Getting up hurt. All I cared for was getting off my feet, and not hurting. Fast forward seven months, post-surgery, and all my back problems are behind me.

The lower back can handle impressive loads, but with enough bending, twisting, pushing, pulling, lifting, reaching, even standing, any of these movements can be the last micro-trauma that can eventually lead to macro-trauma. Eight out of 10 people will experience an aching back.

Ninety-nine percent of back injuries are soft tissue and the recovery is usually within three to six days. Michael Bracko, an exercise physiologist in Calgary, Canada, has looked at the literature as to what contributes to back injuries. Stress, chronic lack of sleep, smoking, repetitive movements, too much or too little exercise, poor muscle endurance and poor muscle stabilization, excessive weight, and poor ergonomics at the office are all factors.

Stuart McGill, a researcher who likes to poke and probe cadavers to find answers, explains the integration of back strength integrity as this: Place a fishing rod, turned upside down, so the butt is on the ground, and press down on the top of it. The rod buckles. Now set up some guy wires all-around the rod, supporting it from all angles, press down on it again, and the rod is stable at many levels. The same is true of our backs. Training these approximately 140 muscles to brace and have good muscular endurance creates a strong core. Maintaining good hip-joint flexibility is also important for a healthy spine.

The static position of sitting is demanding and if you have a desk job, your habitual posture could contribute to poor alignment that can cause a lot of stress on your back. Try to sit so that your ankles, hips, and elbows are at 90 degree angle. Because disk herniation increases with too sedentary a job, McGill proposes a 50-minute sitting limit in an office. Exercise—walking, yoga, swimming and biking—is crucial, as well as reminding yourself to keep a neutral, braced spine.

In my case, I was in the group of 1 to 5 percent of people with a chronic situation. Disc degeneration, a fracture, a slip and a nasty stenosis (narrowing) in my low back were the culprits, and surgery was the final answer.

But enough about me. Your goal is to take care of your back by staying strong and practicing good posture so you can continue to do the things you love.

I have nothing to complain about anymore. Dinner time can now stretch as long as we need it to!

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