Back To Basics?
just getting out of bed in the morning becoming a painful and stressful
experience? Do you dread going to work due to the dull and nagging
pain in your lower back? Is back ache preventing you from leading
the active life that you desire? 80% of people suffer from some form of
back problems at one time during their life. Your back is critical
in everyday movements so the slightest problem in this area can at best be
frustrating and annoying, and at worst be debilitating.
Back problems come from a combination of either genetic inheritance and
the use & abuse of your back. I myself was diagnosed with a
condition called Scheurmann's disease during my late teens which was
attributed with causing a large number of back complaints that I
encountered during this time. This disease is usually passed down
genetically, so thanks Mum and Dad!
However, the majority of back complaints are caused by the use and abuse
of your back. So what do we mean by use and abuse? The abuse
of your back causing back injuries or complaints can fall into a number of
areas. It might include:
Heavy lifting - forward bending, turning or rotation while carrying
Long hours on your feet - while at work or in another environment.
Sustained Bad Posture - Maintaining a poor posture position for a
prolonged period of time, for example, sitting slouched at a computer all
Working on surfaces with an unconventional height.
The bad news for those of you that may develop a bad back by any of the
above means is that 60% of you will suffer a recurrence within the
following year. However, don't despair as there are a number of
steps that you can take to reduce the likelihood of developing or
reaggravating back problems.
There are a series of predisposing factors to the development of back pain
and by reducing the influence of these factors you can significantly
reduce the probability you will become one of the suffering
majority. So what are the predisposing factors contributing to back
1. Weak Abdominal Muscles.
2. General Muscle Tension.
3. Depression, Emotional Distress.
4. Stress - Emotional and Physical.
5. Excess Weight.
6. Not Enough Exercise.
7. Job Dissatisfaction.
8. Job Ergonomics.
How can you address these issues? There are a large number of ways
that these issues can be addressed. It is easy to say "a balanced
lifestyle" is what you need, however what does that really mean? And
who really does have a "balanced" life? So here are a couple of
recommendations that can reduce the likelihood of back pain.
1. Have a qualified fitness professional design you a fitness
programme. A programme specifically tailored to meet your needs will
assist you in a number of the areas above. It can increase your core
(or abdominal) strength, it will assist in reducing emotional stress and
depression levels, can assist in decreasing your weight as well as
increasing the strength of your back.
2. Analyse Your Diet. Diet can be a large contributing
factor to your weight gain, but also to your psychological state. If
necessary talk to a nutritionist about your current eating habits.
You should aim to eat 5-6 servings or fruit and veges per day, drink
8 glasses of water, and also eat regular small healthy snacks / meals
during the day rather than 2 - 3 large meals. Also, never skip
breakfast! For further information on eating habits refer to our
nutrition articles and meal plans
on this website.
3. Start a Yoga Class, Pilates Class or get a regular massage.
All of these options are a great way to relieve stress and general muscle
tension. Try it, you will be happy you did.
4. Get a new job!! If you really hate your job or it
stresses you out too then perhaps its time to check out the papers for a
However, despite making exercise and healthy living a part of your life as
discussed in our recommendations, sure enough some of your may develop
back pain at some stage in your life. Remember, if pain
persists - see your local Doctor, Physio or Chiropractor!
Ball Training Replacement or Supplement?
If you step into most gyms throughout New
Zealand and Australia you will notice in the corner of the room a bunch of
large inflatable balls that look like they belong down at the beach rather
than in a fitness centre.
Commonly known as "Swiss balls"
after their place of origin, these training apparatus have seen widespread
popularity throughout NZ and Australia and indeed many parts of the world.
However, is the over-use of Swiss balls by trainers potentially short
changing their clients in terms of getting the results that they are
Admittedly Swiss balls are a
fantastic way to train your core musculature (abs and lower back) and
surrounding stabilizer muscles, and they are certainly a novel new
approach to training. They are also very useful when you have
limited access to fitness equipment, such as in your own home or
workplace. In fact most parts of your body can be trained in some
way using these balls. However, many trainers may actually be going
overboard with the use of Swiss balls which can result in reducing the
likelihood of achieving results on your programme.
In some cases trainers give up exercises such as squats, and other more
intensive training methods in favour of some cute Swiss Ball movement that
they have read about in a magazine. It may seem impressive, but are
you going to get the same return on investment with your training, or is
all that time spent balancing your Swiss ball just reducing the training
time (and intensity) you could be completing on more conventional
In fact many trainers even advocate the use of Swiss Balls for simple
exercises such as stretching major body parts. While it may look
clever to your client is it not just complicating their training that
little bit further? For those that are particularly new to exercise
we want to keep it as simple as possible don't we?
Now I am not saying that Swiss Balls are not a good exercise tool,
quite the contrary in fact. I think that they are very good for
working your core strength and stabilizers. I also believe that they
can be a fantastic tool for training other parts of the body at certain
times and locations. However, what I am warning about is fitness
professionals getting carried away with the inclusion of Swiss Ball
exercises in a routine which may detract from the effectiveness of a