Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spinal Update

I have written before about my history of back pain and what I was doing in my attempts to improve it. Here is a summary of what I have been doing.

  1. Supplemented with glucosamine/chondroitin for about 15-20 years and changed about 5 years ago to a brand that includes small amounts of hyaluronic acid.
  2. Increased my intake of hyaluronic acid considerably about 4 months ago.
  3. Started hanging from an exercise bar and doing pull-ups (chin-ups) on that bar multiple times each day a few months ago.
  4. Increased my core exercises to strengthen my back and abdominal muscles. Although I am an active person, I don't do enough of this type of exercise when there is a long period without surfing or sailing.
  5. Increased the twisting type of stretch exercises that I do first thing each morning, to make my spine and supporting muscles more supple.
  6. Attempt to sit straight whenever possible, rather than slouched.
  7. Sit less often with legs crossed. When I do cross my legs I make sure to sometimes cross left over right and other times right over left. This was because my spine became distorted by always crossing left over right. To remedy this distortion I crossed right over left for about 2 years, which was uncomfortable until my spine straightened to the point that I now feel no difference either way.
  8. Stand up and walk around as often as possible when working or travelling. I have also gotten into the habit of standing instead of sitting when I have to be in one place for a long time.
  9. Stand squarely on both feet, with my weight evenly distributed and my hips straight. I used to stand with hips cocked and more weight on one foot than the other. This added to my spine alignment problems.
The results of these changes have been excellent. My back now feels stronger than it has for many years.  For the first time in decades I have minimal discomfort when I get out of bed in the morning. That minor discomfort is gone within 2 minutes of standing up. I used to sit on the bed to pull on my socks because of back pain. Now I can stand on one leg, bent over with my other knee against my chest while I pull on socks.

On my way downstairs I stop and do 5 pull-ups on my bar. I do my stretches and exercises before I sit down to work. Almost every time that I go upstairs, maybe 8-10 times each day, I do another 5 pull-ups, including last thing at night before getting into bed. Each time I hear pops in my back as it pulls back into alignment. My back no longer hurts when I stand up after sitting for a long time but I continue the habit of standing and walking as often as possible. Overall, my changes have made a big difference.

My wife also hangs on the bar but less often than I do. She doesn't have the upper body strength to hang for long nor to do pull-ups. Still, it is helping her back problems and sciatica as well, with reduced pain. It may be that older women would benefit more from using an inversion table to stretch the spine if they cannot hang comfortably from an exercise bar.

It is for everyone to experiment for themselves to find what works best for them. What I have done works well for me and may do the same for you.