10 Ways to Beat Back Pain (Men’s Health Mag)– My Take

In their article here, they lay out 10 recommendations. Here they are and what I have to say about each of them:

1) Do Crunches Everyday- No!
Oh boy. I hate being negative right off the bat, but… neither the recommendation nor the reasoning provided are appropriate.  Abdominal strength is vital for spine health, BUT it’s the kind of abdominal strength that matters. Abs stabilize your spine when they tighten to form a stiff ring or corset around your mid-section, not by bending you forward. So strenghtening them by flexing the front six-pack muscle does little for back stability.  In fact, it increases the pressure on your spinal discs making them prone to herniation and other injury. So the best ab exercises to improve spine stability are those that require you to keep your midsection tight and controlled while you move your limbs– bird-dogs, planks on a swiss ball using elbows to roll ball around under you, etc.

2) Change Your Posture Frequently-  Yes!
And not just your sitting posture, but changing from sitting to standing (at least once per hour), and when standing, try elongating your body by reaching your arms up towards the ceiling a few times.  All of this will reduce the pressure on your spinal discs and help them get some more blood flow and nutrients.

3) Prevent Injury/Squeeze Your Butt While Lifting- Yes!
Even better is to make sure you push down through your heels, which will automatically make your butt do the work! How about them apples?

4) Leave Work on Time- Depends!
Presumably, the point they’re making is that working extended hours = excessive stress on your back.  Obviously that depends to some extent on what you do at work– assembly line worker or real estate agent? The important points regarding this are: that you have to condition your body for whatever you’re going to ask it to do (not just strength but also endurance), and two, you have to allow your body adequate rest and recovery time.

5) Sit on a Swiss Ball-  Yes…but!
In general, a good idea–especially in small bouts as they recommend– but the specifics make all the difference. The ball needs to be properly inflated so it’s firm and you have to sit on the top of it so that you’re properly positioned on your sit bones.  If the ball’s too soft so that you sink in, not only will you lose the benefit to your core but it forces your pelvis and spine out of position, which actually puts more stress on the spine and discs. Same thing if you let your butt/pelvis roll towards the back of the ball.

6) Drink Milk- Yes!
Not much more to say.  Vitamin D and Calcium=good.

7) Adjust Your Car Seat- Yes!
Not to mention that the strained neck position can cause a problem for your lower back as well. Would also adjust the lumbar support on the seat if available.

8) Readjust your pillows- Yes!
All very well said.

9) Lose the Wallet- Yes!
Plus, it forces your pelvis/spine into poor alignment which will increase the stress on them and cause problems over time.

10) See Your Tailor- Yes..uh, sort of!
Generally, a leg length difference of more than 2 cm’s is considered significant.  A simple heel lift generally does the trick but you should be measured by a medical provider (doctor, physical therapist, orthotist) not a tailor for that to ensure the appropriate correction and avoid a worsening of the problem.

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