Friday, March 05, 2010
I have had one of the busiest days of the year and beyone for me today. It was filled with a partial half-day at work, followed by our appointment in court (dealing with the big financial mess our son's car accident left us with), lunch with my husband, physical therapy in the gym, my youngest son's final elementary school IEP and conference, and dinner out with our family. I walked more than used my wheelchair today (yay) and am pretty physically spent now. I feel good because everything has had a good outcome and has taken many worries off of my mind. My family is in a financial crunch since I ran out of sick leave back in December and now that I am working half days, my pay doesn't amount to much (especially considering that they are taking out full-time deductions out of half time pay). It is nice to have some of this behind us and to be moving in a more manageable set of situations. My husband and I have attended to a lot of important business this week from dental appointments for the kids to completing my report cards to repairs on the house and truck and everything in between. I have neglected calling the doctor about my back and I cannot exactly explain why. I think it is because I do not think there is anything that they can do for me or that I am afraid of what they might say or suggest. I hope that I will get both the time and the nerve to address it tomorrow, and that I'll decide if it should be my back doctor or my pain doctor who I contact. My back doctor may seem like the obvious choice, but he is a bit difficult and arrogant and hard to work with. My pain doctor is kind and caring and will help me in any way that is possible. I do not want an increase in pain meds, because even though that may give me some temporary or minor relief--it will most likely be a permanent increase and I suspect the pain will not become manageable enough to be worth it. My PT suggested that injections in my back might help, but would I sound too chicken to admit that I'm fearful of this entire idea. I am not a candidate for chiropractic care because of the multiple surgeries and the hardware in my back. And I have to honestly admit that I am disappointed that I have not felt relief from this pain as a result of the weight I have lost combined with both my exercises and workouts in the pool. You may feel free to voice your opinions and suggestions to me on this topic, I'd love to get an idea that I haven't considered.
That said, here is part three of the article from bigbackpain.com on back exercises. The third type of exercises are balancing exercises.
Balancing exercises also help to strengthen the core muscles (back. abs, and buttocks), which are used in balancing. Doing a variety of exercises will ensure you target different muscle groups.
Opposite Arm and Leg Extension: balancing / stabilization exercise: Strengthens muscles running down sides of spine, back of shoulders, and buttocks
Begin on all fours, hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Keep the back flat. Keep buttocks and abdomen tight. Lift one arm up and forward that it is parallel to your back. Keeping the arm extended, lift the opposite leg in the same manner. Keep your face down, head aligned with spine. Keep arm, spine, and leg aligned as if they are forming a flat tabletop. Balance yourself for a count of ten, relax, switch sides and repeat. Remember to breathe. Do a couple repetitions.
Exercising Using an Exercise Ball
Exercising with or without equipment is effective, but the exercise ball is often used by physical therapists. Also called the Stability Ball because you have to stabilize or balance yourself on the ball. Stability ball exercises are great for strengthening the back and abs as these core muscles are activated by the act of balancing.
Pick an exercise ball where your legs are parallel to the floor when sitting on it. Exercise balls are over inflated balls. The softer the exercise ball, the easier it is to balance on it. The further the ball is from your body, the harder the exercise. When doing exercises using an exercise ball, keep the abdomen tight.
Doing exercises with an exercise ball activates the muscles than run up and down the spine, and other deep core muscles.
Stabilization Exercises Using An Exercise Ball
The following stabilization exercises are performed while sitting on the exercise ball:
Feet flat on floor with hips and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Tighten abs. Keep back straight.
Raise and lower one heel at a time.
Raise and lower one foot at a time a couple of inches off the floor as if marching.
Raise and lower arm, alternating sides.
Raise and lower arm while lifting opposite heel off floor.
The following stabilization exercises are performed while lying on the exercise ball:
Lie with stomach over ball. Place hands flat on floor. Tighten your abdomen and keep your back straight.
Place hands flat on floor. Walk on hands away from ball until ball is under legs. Walk back to starting position.
Place hands flat on floor. Walk on hands away from ball until ball is under legs. Slowly raise and lower alternating arms.
Place hands flat on floor. Walk on hands away from ball until ball is under legs slowly perform push-ups.
I hope that you find these as useful as the previous two sets that I have shared. I will share the fourth set of back exercises with you tomorrow.
Gentle hugs to you all,
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
I am glad that there are others who found the back exercises information as useful as I did. This is the second part of the article from bigbackpain.com and it includes back strengthening exercises.
Back Strengthening Exercises
Many people tend to overdo it when starting strengthening exercises for the back, resulting in back strain. Back pain caused by doing too much too soon sets one back even farther. But the ultimate goal is to be able to do the back strengthening exercises. Strengthening the back can't be rushed. It takes patience but it well worth the effort
Warm-up Exercise before Back Exercises: Be sure to warm up before doing back exercises with five minutes of walking, or using an exercise bike or elliptical trainer, or even marching on the spot. Warm-up exercises prepare your back for strength exercises or stretching exercises by increasing circulation to the muscles.
*Activate the Abs First.
To activate your deep abdominal muscles, cough once (or pull in and tense your stomach). Hold this contraction during the following exercises to give the deep abs and other core muscles a simultaneous workout. Do not overdo the abdominal tensing. It should not be difficult. Do not hold your breath. This is what "tighten abs" in the following exercises refers to.
The Bridge: Strengthens several core muscle groups - buttocks, abs, back
Lie flat on back; bend knees at 90-degree angle, feet flat on floor. Tighten abs. Raise buttocks off floor, keeping abs tight. Shoulder to knees should be in straight line. Hold for a count of five. Slowly lower buttocks to floor. Repeat five times.
The Plank: Strengthening exercise for back, abs and neck (also strengthens arms and legs)
Lay on stomach, place elbows and forearms on floor. In a push-up position, balance on your toes and elbows. Keep your back straight and legs straight. (Like a plank) Tighten abs. Hold position for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat five to ten times. If this exercise is too difficult, use balance on your knees instead of your toes.
The Side Plank: Strengthens the obliques (side abdominal muscles)
Lie on right side. Place right elbow and forearm on floor. Tighten abs. Push up until shoulder is over elbow. Keep your body in a straight line – feet, knees, hips, shoulders, head aligned. Only forearm and side of right foot are on floor (feet are stacked). Hold position for 10 seconds. Relax. Repeat five to ten times. Repeat on left side. If this exercise is too difficult, balance on stacked knees (bend knees and keep feet off floor) instead of feet.
The Wall Squat: Strengthening exercise for back, hips and quads.
Stand with your back against a wall, heels about 18 inches from the wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Tighten abs. Slide slowly down the wall into a crouch with knees bent to about 90 degrees. If this is too difficult, bend knees to 45 degrees and gradually build up from there. Count to five and slide back up the wall. Repeat 5 times.
Leg and arm raises: Strengthening exercise for back and hip muscles.
Lie on stomach, arms reached out past your head with palms and forehead on floor. Tighten abs. Lift one arm (as you raise your head and shoulders) and the opposite leg at the same time, stretching them away from each other. Hold for 10 - 20 seconds. Switch sides.
Leg lifts: Quad Strengthening Exercise
Lie flat on back. Bend left knee at 90-degree angle, keeping foot flat on floor. Tighten abs. Keeping the right leg straight, slowly lift it to the height of the left knee. Hold for a count of 3. Repeat 10 times. Switch sides.
*Safety Tip for Leg lifts:
Lifting both legs at the same time causes excessive stress on your lower back so only lift one leg at a time; the opposite leg should be kept slightly bent with foot on floor.
Basic Crunches: upper abdominal exercise
Lie on back, knees bent. Do not anchor feet. (Anchoring the feet or keeping the legs straight along the floor can strain the lower back). Arms may be folded over chest or kept at sides or hands can be held beside ears with elbows out. Tighten abs. Keep the lower back flat on the floor and neck straight. Keep chin tucked - looking at ceiling helps prevent tilting head up or down. Exhale when raising your torso off the floor and inhale when lowering. Just raise your head and shoulder off the floor - three to six inches is enough. Sitting up all the way is hard on your lower back. Do ten repetitions.
Neck muscles may tire out before the abs. You can use your hands to help support your neck - but be very careful not to pull on your neck or you could overstretch a neck muscle. Keep elbows out to the side to help avoid pulling neck forward. Don't start out doing too many crunches - the number of crunches performed should be increased slowly.
Move slowly when performing crunches- do not rely on momentum.
Rotational Crunch: obliques exercise (sides of the abdomen)
Rotational crunch is a slight variation of the regular crunch. (The variation - the direction you raise your head and shoulders off floor is diagonal). Lie flat on back, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Do not anchor feet. Tighten abs. Keep the lower back flat on the floor and neck straight. Rotate your body so that the weight rests on left shoulder. Then, keeping chin tucked, bring your head and shoulders upward and raise your right shoulder higher than the left. Move slowly.
Reverse Crunch: lower abdominal exercise
Lie flat on back, feet in the air. Bend knees 90 degrees. Place hands under buttocks for support and make sure your lower back remains flat on the floor. Tightening your lower abdomen, lift your buttocks a few inches off your hands. Hold for a moment and lower back down. Do 5 to 15 repetitions.
Leg Lifts: lower abdominal exercise
Lie flat on back. Bend left knee at 90-degree angle, keeping foot flat on floor. Tighten abs. Keep right leg straight, and slowly lift to about 45 degrees. Pause. Slowly lower leg to floor. Repeat 10 times. Switch sides.
Backward Leg Swing: Gluteal exercise (The muscles of the buttocks help support the spine)
Stand, holding onto the back of a chair for support. Tighten abs. Swing leg back at a diagonal until you feel your buttocks tighten. Tense muscles as much as you can and swing leg back a couple more inches. Return leg to floor. Repeat 10 times. Switch sides.
I am not able to do all of these, maybe someday--but this is such a good article that I didn't want to leave anything out for anyone else either. I am trying to help myself by doing all things that are good for me. I'll post more of this tomorrow.
Also l have this all together on an email and if you'd like the entire piece for ease of copying, email me at my regular email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll send it on to you.
Treat those fragile backs with care!
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
I have been doing a bit of research about back pain, exercises and physical therapy--and I ran into an article that is worth sharing. It's a bit long so I'll share it over a few days here.
This inforamtion is from bigbackpain.com:
Muscles are the spine's main defense against gravity. Strengthening the muscles that support the spine with exercises, can prevent, reduce and even eliminate back pain.
Strong abdominal muscles (especially the deep abs) are as crucial as strong back muscles for supporting the lower back and preventing lower back pain. Strong quadriceps (front of thigh muscles) is important to prevent back injuries when lifting. Proper lifting techniques involve using your legs and if your legs are weak, you may end up using your back.
Shortened Muscles Cause Back Pain
Shortened muscles can throw the spine out of alignment and cause back pain. Stretching exercises lengthen shortened muscles and relieve back pain. Tight back muscles, tight buttocks muscles, and even tight hamstrings (back of thigh muscles) or quadriceps (front of thigh muscles), can affect the alignment of the spine. Stretching the back with stretching exercises also increases mobility of the joints of the spine.
Strong and flexible muscles help maintain Proper Posture and prevent Back Strain.
Back Exercise Samples
Back Stretching Exercises
Back Strengthening Exercises
Low Impact Aerobics
Stretching exercises may be done daily. Strengthening exercises should be done three or four times per week - the days off give your body a chance to recover. It may take 6 week to 8 weeks to notice results.
To prevent back pain, keep your back fit by doing the following exercises.
(Start with five repetitions of each exercise. If you can handle five repetitions without post exercise pain, then slowly add a couple of repetitions each week until you reach 15 repetitions).
*If you are experiencing back pain or suffer from a back condition, ask your doctor if the following exercises are appropriate for you to do.
Back Stretching Exercises
Warm-up Exercise before Stretching Exercises
Always warm up before stretching exercises. Five minutes of walking, or exercise bike, elliptical trainer, or even marching on the spot is enough. Not warming up before stretching leaves your back susceptible to injuries causing back pain. Warm muscles are more flexible than cold muscles and are less likely to tear.
Check with your physician before doing exercises that involve twisting or arching the back if you have a back condition.
Pelvic Tilt: lower back stretching exercise (also strengthens abs)
Lie on back, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Tighten buttocks and abdomen, flattening small of back against the floor. Hold for a count of five. Slowly relax. Repeat five - fifteen times.
Knee to Chest: Gluteal stretching exercise
Lie on back, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Grasp left leg behind the knee/back of thigh and pull knee towards left shoulder. Hold for a count of five. Switch sides. Repeat 5 times.
Piriformis Stretch: (Stretches Muscles that lie beneath gluteal muscles)
Sit on chair
Place your left ankle over your right leg, just above the knee and lean forward.
Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on other side.
Basic Twist: lower back stretching exercise.
Lie on back, arms stretched out to the sides.
Bend knees and bring knees up close to your chest
Take a deep breath
Exhale as you slowly lower knees (keep knees together) to floor to the right or as close to the floor as is comfortable.
Inhale as you slowly return your knees to chest.
Exhale as you slowly lower knees to left side
Inhale as you return your knees to chest.
Repeat about 5 times.
The Cat: back stretching exercise
Begin on all fours, hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.
Inhale as you drop tummy towards the floor and look up over your head.
Exhale as you bring your tummy back up, rounding your back as you tuck your chin in and tuck your tailbone in.
Move slowly back and forth between these two positions pausing on each pose.
Repeat about 5 times.
The Cobra: back and chest stretching exercise
Lay flat on stomach, forehead to ground, with arms bent and palms down on the ground under the shoulders.
Push downward with arms as you raise your upper torso and arch your back.
Hold for 3 full breaths before slowly bringing the upper torso back down to the ground.
Shoulder, Back, Arms Stretch:
Stand with knees slightly bent. Interlace fingers, extend arms forward at shoulder level. Turn palms out and reach your arms further until you feel a stretch. Hold 10 - 20 seconds. Repeat.
Stand with knees slightly bent. Hands behind the back, fingers interlaced. Turn palms up extend arms backward. Do not arch the back. Hold 10 - 20 seconds.
Sides, Waist Stretch:
Stand with knees slightly flexed. (Can also be done sitting down) Place your right hand behind your head. Grab your right elbow with your left hand and pull gently. Bend slowly to the left until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold 10 - 20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat.
Shortened hamstrings can contribute to sway back
Hamstring (back of thigh) Stretch:
Sitting on floor, extend right leg, place left foot against right knee. Lean forward (keeping back straight), reaching for foot until you feel a slight pull on you hamstring. Hold for 10 - 20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat
Hamstring (back of thigh) Stretch:
Lying flat on back. Raise left leg up. Grab leg and pull up further until you feel a gentle pull in the hamstring Hold for 10 - 20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat.
Shortened quadriceps can contribute to sway back
Quadriceps (front of thigh) Stretch:
Stand up. Bend your knee behind you, grab your ankle and gently pull your heel toward you buttocks until you feel a gentle pull on the front of your thigh. Hold for 10 - 20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat.
Wall Back Stretch: back / neck stretching exercise
Stand up with your back against the wall. Try to press the small of your back and the back of your neck toward the wall. Hold for 10 - 30 seconds. Do not overstretch!
Neck Roll:To loosen up the neck, where many people carry their stress: Stand or sit up straight with the bottom of your spine turned under. (Do not arch your back) Let your head fall forward, keeping the neck and shoulders relaxed. Slowly roll your head to one side, then let it drop and roll to the other side. Be careful not to overstretch. Do not roll the neck backwards.
Stretching using an Inversion Table
Inversion therapy has been around for a couple of thousand years. Your feet are securely supported as your body hangs upside down - and the spine is stretched by the weight of your body.
I'll share more back exercises with you all tomorrow. For those of you dealing with pain and back issues as I am, I hope this will be as useful to you as it is to me.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
I have found myself a bit down since Thursday--even that doggone headache couldn't cause that. I had Pt and my therapist wanted me to do some of my shoulder activities standing up and my back really complained. It hurt all night and I can attest to the fact that it didn't seem like that should have happened. Then, to add insult to injury, on Friday, I moved the shelf my principal had complained about. (I finished purging my file cabinets and was able to empty this small chest of drawers where I stored stickers and awards into a now-empty file drawer. That gave me a new space for the small wooden bookcase.) It was something I did and seemed reasonable, but it has caused me outrageous pain and even my PT told me that I needed to contact my doctor.
I have been working myself silly trying to lose weight and gain fitness to comfort my backl. I have lost 75 some pounds and got in 490 minutes of exercise this week, which is a conscientious effort on my part. I am trying and yet, now I am crying over the same pain and same problems. I am afraid of what doctors tell me and what they want to do with my back. It is a nuisance. I wish I'd have left the shelf alone and let her move it herself, but I don't work that way.
I have work to do--this weekend, I am taking things easy. If my back is still sensitive or all out aching on Monday, I am going to file an accident report. I will call my doctors and then I will research carefully any ideas they have before I consider them. In the meantime, I will stick with the warm pool, it has been my friend and I am counting on it.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
As I continue to battle a headache that has bugged me since last Friday, I still find myself considering all of the ways that I feel blessed. I think SP owns part of my feelings--not this dumb headache. It is playing with my vision a bit and I am wondering if it is getting time for an eye exam. Maybe it is vision causing the headache. Oh my, I'll certainly solve this and the nausea that it is causing, but it is my blessings that I want to talk about.
Blessings...what an awesome gift. I want to start out with my family. They can drive me crazy, especially when they are in their lackadasical moods and won't help me with household chores--or won't put much effort into them if they try. The blessings come from what they do. They do help me with so many things--it is important for me to explain that I cannot navigate our house very well, even when I'm at my best because our house is small and my walker gets hung up on things and in corners, etc... That means I need help getting things and getting around--and lots of help with showers. I get frustrated when I have to repeat my requests, but on the other hand, they do help me out with the very mundane which includes putting on my socks because I cannot bend enough to do so. I have several people who are willing to help me, especially my 25 year old son--who takes me to work, assembles my wheelchair, packs my walker, takes me to the pool and to therapy, and runs errands that I need. I am blessed.
The arthritis that has caused a major part of my trouble haunts me regularly. Fibromyalgia takes up where the arthritis stops. I have pain in my knees (which are the result of 3 total replacements), my left shoulder, my thumbs and wrists, my hips, legs, and the biggest issue of all, my back. However, I decided that the way to get relief would come from losing weight and exercise. I am in physical therapy--3 times a week in the warm pool and twice a week in the gym. I left the gym today feeling pretty beat up, but I did over half of my exercises STANDING UP!! My back got pretty testy, but my PT let me sit down and rest when I needed to--and I did them. I can tell that I am getting better in so many ways, and even though I am not able to do what my friends and colleagues and family can do--I am getting better each day. I cannot think of a time in my life when I was so aware of getting better at anything.
I have had a tough time at work this entire year, but after the last big meeting, things have been very calm. I made a good decision to cut back my case load to one more manageable and I am seeing some good things happening for some kids who deserve it. I have also had the time available to make parent contacts that wasn't available when I was seeing over twice the number I am now. Things are better--I am only working half days, but I have a job that I have always loved and the big issues are not on the front burner right now. I get to help give kids the power of reading and I love doing that. I am blessed.
I have had time to spend on things I like as well. I get to read daily. I started crocheting again, after reading about crafts that several of my SparkFriends are involved in. I had to quit crocheting when I had the first surgery on my left wrist...and then I had the two big surgeries on my wrists where the doctor removed a bone, pinned the remaining parts, casted me for what seemed like forever, and then treated me with physical therapy. Doing my left arm first and then my right arm, that took away most things I could do with my hands for the best part of a year. My friends gave me the idea and I ran with it and am working on a great blue, gold and cream afghan that will be given to one of my kids. I've learned how to do SuDoKu, although I am not fast with the difficult levels--it is a fun way to keep my brain on top of things. I am blessed.
I also have my church and that has been a constant for me. I am so lucky to belong to a very active church that cares for members, the community, and the needy everywhere. I have had training in working on social justice issues ad have many good friends who are like-minded. With the Lenten Season upon us, I am really focused on what I have and what I can share with others. Giving the gift of time and caring to others is so important and it comes back to me a thousandfold. For those of you who read my late January blog with my devotional story, the book has been published and I am using it daily to reflect on who I am and who I want to be. I am so glad to be a part of something this powerful. I am blessed.
SPARK PEOPLE...So amny of the blessings that I am thankful for right now come right back here. I learned a lot about the value of goals by reading "The Spark" and I keep them in my daily focus. My biggest goals right now are to improve my health through weight loss and increased fitness. I am now averaging over an hour a day on exercise activities, and even though I end up tired, it is a good feeling and I am getting stronger. I have lost over 75 pounds now and am expecting to reach my goal by August. I am expecting these changes to impact the problems in my body and give me a break in pain levels. I am currently off of all but two of the twenty some prescritpions I used to take and my blood pressure and heart seem to be in working in "normal and expected" ways. Most of all, I have so much support and positive feedback here. If something is a bit off in any area, I have so many good friends who are there to help me get back on my feet. When I am successful, I have the best cheerleaders in the whole world. I have good friends who notice my fitness minutes and weight loss and everything. I cannot imagine having the kind of success I have been having without all of the caring people I have in my corner here. SparkFriends are awesome. I am blessed.
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