If you ask a person who is new to the exercising what the best method is to keep your spine healthy and supportive, you will probably get the following answer: “You have to ‘pump up’ your back and abdominal muscles.” These people are often overweight, have bellies that flop over their belt, and have not done any form of exercise for their back or abdomen for ten years, (including backing away from the dinner table), but this stereotype has been firmly planted in their consciousness.
This opinion is held even among professionals: doctors, coaches and athletes who try to persuade us that the stronger the “six pack” of the abdominals are, the healthier the spine is. So where do you go to exercise? To the nearest fitness club, of course! And if you go there, you will see a very interesting picture! Those who exercise at most of these gyms can be divided into three categories. The first category is made up of Active Athletes, the AA’s.
These people sit down on training equipment for their abdomen and back with great enthusiasm. They use weights to intensify the effect of their efforts. They raise their legs as high as they can and they do these exercises without fail every time they come to work out.
The second group is made up of the LA’s. They are not all from Los Angeles, these are the Lazy Amateurs. They try to do the same exercises as the active athletes, but it seems to be very hard for them because of their poor physical conditioning and their total lack of motivation. These fans of fitness usually make one attempt at some very light variation on the real thing, but then they give up, complaining of being worn out and exhausted from the very beginning. They seem to believe too, that exercises for the abdomen should be done at the end of training, when you are out of strength.
The third group is those people who never, or almost never, do these exercises at all. They work out on bars, on training devices, and with dumb bells, but consider exercises for the back and abdomen to be a complete waste of time and strength. I call this group the DB’s (short for dumb bells. If you see them, don’t tell them I called them that!)
From the point of view of a doctor, all these trainings are irrational. As you have already seen, if you want your spine to function correctly and be healthy, the first step is to keep your spinal LIGAMENTS healthy. Ligaments are strengthened through regular and correct load on the one hand, and can be damaged and torn because of overload on the other hand.
That’s why the Active Athletes from the first group often complain that they have “stretched” their backs, over-trained, and their backs ache because of it. People from the second group, the Lazy Amateurs, train their spines too weakly and ineffectively; and people from the third group, the Dumb Bells, who do nothing at all to help their spines complain that they suffer from back pain, like the ones from the second group. It’s no wonder, because spinal ligaments become progressively weaker over time, and eventually cannot function correctly. All three categories can be rolled into one: The BPWTH group: BACK PAIN WAITING TO HAPPEN.
Another extreme and common mistake among people who exercise is the way they go about stretching their spine. In my book, “The Stretching Person: Stretching for Spine and Joints,” I write about stretching and offer advice on how to do it correctly. I can tell you here in just a few words: YOUR SPINE IS NOT A RUBBER TOY! That’s why it is not only unnecessary, but also HARMFUL to stretch your spine and develop its flexibility too much.
The thing is, the amount of movement in each of your vertebra is not very big. The usual movements of the spine occur when some middle position takes place. That’s why, if we force our spine to bend or to “unbend” too much, we exert too much stress on it and the spinal ligaments, intervertebral discs, and joints are overloaded. At the moment of maximal stretching of the spine or of its bending, a split in a disc or a ligament can occur. That results in pain, an intervertebral hernia, or other kinds of suffering. Because of this, many types of programs, including yoga, pilates, fitness dancing, and others that cause excessive stretching or bending of the spine can lead to an exacerbation of old spinal diseases or the onset of new ones.
The internet, printed materials, and all kinds of magazines for men and women are full of advice, programs and advertisements aimed directly at you. They try to entice you to visit a new fitness club, enroll in a session of trendy trainings or who knows what else. They promise eternal youth, a gorgeous, beach-befitting figure and all your dreams come true. (Never mind the sign-up fee; they gladly accept your credit card.) It’s hard to make a rational decision with promises like that! No wonder so many of us become confused.
Where is the truth? Is there a safe way to exercise? Where do we start?
These are questions everyone who decides their health is worth fighting for asks. Some even look for answers from a clinical physician who specializes in therapeutic physical training. The thing about these programs is that the programs are so totally boring and uninteresting that the visitor’s desire and willingness to stick with the routine is completely assassinated!
Motivation plays a special and crucial role in training. On the one side, there are people like my patients who have had spinal surgery. They have already taken a really hard knock! They know it’s impossible to achieve good results without physical exercise, even after having a perfect operation on their spine. On the other side are healthy people. They understand that exercise is necessary, but they have not experienced this personally. Every day all of us struggle with our inner Self: that part of us that strives only for one thing – rest. That’s why, if starting to train in a fitness club or a session of work-outs coincides with an exacerbation of current pain or the appearance of new pain, it’s just like hitting a wall. The weakest motivation and desire to train, that has just barely started to glimmer inside, will totally disappear. As the saying goes, “a good beginning makes for a good ending!” But if the beginning of training is accompanied by pain, the trainee will give up doing exercises and never come back to them. And hasn’t everyone promised themselves “to make a fresh start on Monday!”
The problem with this of course, is that Monday never comes!
I can’t count the number of people who are employed in manual labor (builders, loaders, cooks) who come to me for help! Many of them are convinced their jobs are incompatible with any additional form of exercise. To their way of thinking, gymnastics and training are totally unnecessary for them. They’re sure they work their bodies hard enough over the course of their working day. Their objections can be understood, but can they be justified?
Think about the usual activities involved in manual labor jobs. The same kinds of loads are placed repetitively on the same joints. Someone who is employed as a driver primarily has their lumbar joints and discs loaded. A cook’s knee joints and back are under constant strain.
Even a bookkeeper or a systems administrator who sits at a desk or at a computer suffers wear and tear on the cervical and lumbar discs. Monotonous load is usually overload, and as a result, the cartilaginous tissue of movable joints becomes thinner and ligaments become much weaker. Even though manual labor may be hard work, it doesn’t benefit the spine because there is an absence of safe and regular load on most of the body’s muscles and joints.
Many of my patients had suffered from serious problems with their backs even before they came to me as a spinal neurosurgeon and a back specialist. One of them had spinal surgery. He is now trying to rehabilitate himself and restore his health so he never again has to experience the terrible symptoms of his disease. Another one of my patients did not reach the stage of disease when surgery became necessary. He understood that he could defeat his disease by changing his habits and his way of life. He started to STRENGTHEN his spine gradually and correctly.
The informational avalanche that assaults us from every direction leaves us with the distinct impression that if you want to participate in an exercise program you must already have, not only good health, but also already be in good physical condition.
Woe be unto you if you are elderly, weak or in some other way a “less-than” or “hope-to-become” or “not-as-perfect-as” who hopes to improve your health by exercise! You must already have cleared the hurdles in order to join the race! It’s sad to realize that if a patient with arthrosis or a herniated disc follows the wrong advice or training program, an increase in pain or the progression of a disease process are sure to follow. These patients end up refusing any and all exercise programs. They become sedentary. They gain weight, and it soon becomes all but impossible to solve their problem. The cycle of pain and disease is complete.
Like everything in our lives, harm and benefit, joy and sorrow, use and abuse exist are side by side. That’s why the effect of physical training depends on its dose. You need to be aware that fitness and physical training are remedies that have a correct dose, indications, and contraindications. “Do no harm!” is an ancient saying you have to keep in mind when starting exercises for your back.
We must, and we can, include gymnastics in our usual working rhythm. Industrial exercise is a thing of the past. We now have long, long, long! days, evenings and nights of working in offices. It’s not unusual for employees to be constantly sitting in a chair for 6 to 8 HOURS!!! It is necessary to adapt gymnastics both for children and for the elderly. Exercise can and must be used while working and while traveling. Even a very lazy person can be persuaded that he or she must train.
ISOMETRIC POSITION-STATIC GYMNASTICS takes into account all these factors, contraindications, and requirements. This book will not only help you understand and learn isometric static gymnastics for the spine, it will also help you choose the right path in modern medical and sporting information.
We wish you success and a healthy spine and joints!
Read about Healthy Spine Curvature Here.