by Othon Molina, Ph.d.c, LMT, PhD.
The back is the strongest part of our bodies and yet, it is one of the most common ailments of our civilization. Between 80 to 90% of the people have had some sort of back or neck problem in their lives. Everyone knows someone that has had ruptured a disk, Sciatica, low back syndromes of some type. This is what we deal with, having a body and fighting gravity. It seems we are loosing the battle, considering our aches, pain and the fact that gravity will kick our butts everyday.
The fact that we are a moving structure that lifts, bends, runs, and sometimes, pushes the body beyond the capabilities we have prepared it to do, is why we suffer. When we where hunters and gardeners, we worked in harmony with nature and gravity. Or we at least use time tested methods to strengthen the body by hard work. As we got more and more “Civilized”, we lost touch with nature and the natural laws that govern our bodies.
We grew out of shape and in a struggle not only with nature but with other people as well, have become tight. We have increased the stakes in the game of life with modern business. Stress was born in the caveman times, we didn’t invent it, we just improved it. The fight or flight response is there, no matter what. It is as ancient as our bodies. How we deal with this physically as well as mentally determines the level of health or harmony we live with. So, the modern man has put the body to the test. We see it shown by the high level of executives that realize, to have the edge in business, is just like an athlete in competition. Executives having the sense to use fitness and the right training for the body-mind shows by the level competition in the world. The winners realize it takes tremendous energy and concentration. The key is how much energy your body can produce when you train the whole body. Now add the mind training and you have the holistic approach to training.
High tech high touch, is a term I have used for close to twenty years. Training the body to carry the stress of gravity is affected by our hereditary traits, our work environment/physical activities, sports injuries, or life’s little moments, mental stress and emotional families neurosis, need we go on. To make it short, all of these factors are part of the equation of what is going on with our body and consequently our back is a true reflection of that.
The back is the strongest part of our bodies. It is build of strong bones, ligaments, large muscle groups. Yet through bad posture, lack of muscle tone, improper lifting and just plain ignorance, we constantly do our backs harm. The fact is, about 90% or more of the population has neck or back problems and will continue to do so, until we change everything.
By the time the pain is severe enough to see a doctor, there’s not much most doctors can do. It takes five to 10 years to get in that condition so saying “Doc, fix my back” is like saying “correct my life for the last ten years.” Even if you go to an orthopedic doctor, a chiropractor, or a therapist specializing in backs, it’s going to take time and effort on your part to re-educate your body. It takes a big commitment to heal yourself naturally. Drugs and surgery should be the last resort, and most doctors are very conscientious now.
Doctor Bemard Portner, past Director of Back And Neck Clinic at Straub Clinic, Co-Director of the Sports Medicine Clinic at Straub, and owner of his own very successful clinic is a specialist in Physical Medicine and one of the best back doctors in the state had this to say.
“Most back pain gets better responding to time and proper treatment. If treatments are going to be effective, a noticeable improvement should be seen within a few weeks. If no improvement is seen, question whether the treatment is worth while and seek alternative treatment. The trick is education. Learn to prevent further back problems with correct posture; proper lifting techniques and correct exercises.”
Exercise is the key in preventing back problems and in correcting and re-educating your body. “How long do I have to do these exercises?” is the question many of my clients ask “Forever,” is my answer. Health is an on-going process and constant exercise is essential to maintain it. Just to relieve the daily stress off the body. In order to get and keep your back in prime working condition, you must make the commitment. The right exercises will help correct your posture, keep joints flexible and strengthen the muscles to keep your back in good condition.
Let’s look at posture. You’ve heard from childhood to sit and stand straight. But do you know why? Well, when you slouch, your muscles are pulled out of heir normal working position. If it becomes a habit they grow that way. The muscles no longer provide the proper working system the body needs to be in harmony with gravity. In actuality the bones must hold the body up, with very little muscle action. That improper posture causes stress. The resulting symptoms are aches, pains, and tense muscles working against each other.
Flexibility is the only answer to this muscle tug-of-war, muscles become tense and lose their functionablity. With loss of flexibility, the joints, including those in the neck spine, hips, or lower back become more prone to ongoing stresses and with certain movements “you can throw your back out” as we have hear it called. This is why we need stretching or yoga we need to keep the body stretched out. We have to work the body opposite to how gravity is pulling us to reduce the stress.
But, you don’t just bend over and throw your back out. This is a condition that has been developing for years. A certain movement creates a muscle spasm or pinches a nerve severely enough to temporarily hurt or paralyze you. The most common muscle spasms occur around a nerve and cause a weak or dull ache in the back or neck the culprits to all this pain is the disk. Most pain comes from this soft tissue between the vertebras. When they swell from too much pressure, or tear from a severe strain. They protrude and press on the nerves. This is the major problem, it can be corrected, but it takes time. Your body wasn’t built in a day, and you have been alive how long? The longer the problem or chronic it is the more need for easy work to correct the structure.
Strength is the final element necessary for a healthy back. If you have never exercised and your muscles have no tone, or if you only do certain exercises, you’re probably out of muscular balance. The most common problem is weak abdominal muscles, which put stress on the lower back. Most people only use them in the morning getting out of bed. Exercises to increase abdominal strength are one of the most important components for a healthy back. The problem is many are commonly still done wrong.
The best way to build up your abdominal muscles is by strengthening first; the deep stabilizer muscles in the pelvis. You need to build a foundation for any training (Law of specificity in training). We have to build the ligaments, the deep muscles and then the larger groups. Then for the abdominal muscles proper crunchies need to be done, without pulling on the neck. Straight ahead (rectus), to the side (obliques), then modify from there. As you can see even simple exercises can get complicated. The big problem is some stretches or exercises can help some, yet hurt others.
Building anything takes time and knowledge. To build any body first it must be aligned. My philosophy is this more than anything, if your body is out of balance you can only build the imbalances if you don’t correct the structure first. This takes some knowledge and experience, as well as consistency on your part and a good program to follow.
For any questions please call:
Othon Molina Ph.D. c LMT