Back injuries often plague those who lift weights on a regular basis — but with some proactive adjustments to your routine, you can significantly decrease your risk.
From rows to squats, the back plays a critical role in many weightlifting exercises — and developing strong back muscles can help you push yourself farther at the gym for a wide variety of lifts.
As with any part of your body, it’s impossible to keep your back completely safe from injury while you’re working out, but there are some simple steps you can take to significantly decrease your risk. When the price of a setback is not only losing hard-won progress, but potentially developing more serious health issues, prevention is well worth the effort.
With all of that in mind, here are five tips to prevent common back injuries while you lift.
1. TRAIN YOUR POSTURE
As you probably know, poor form greatly increases your risk of injury in any exercise. If you’re working on your back, you’ll want to keep your vertebrae neatly aligned to avoid placing too much pressure on a particular bone or muscle.
If you’re new to lifting, don’t simply mimic what you see others doing at the gym. Instead, ask a trainer or do some research online in order to better understand how you should position your body. If you’re a more experienced gym-goer, it’s still a good idea to check up on your form every now and then. Protect your body by regularly recalibrating your form and squelching any bad habits before they lead to injury.
2. RECOGNIZE THE RISKS
Any weightlifting exercise that involves flexion (forward bending) or extension (backward bending) of the joints in your back puts those areas at risk. These movements often result in sprains (a tear or rupture of a ligament), but they can lead to more serious injuries as well. Extreme extension, for example, can lead to spondylolysis, or cracks in the vertebrae. Similarly, extreme flexion can lead to a herniated disc.
These risks aren’t limited to exercises that specifically target the back. The most common weightlifting-related cause of herniated discs is the deadlift, which — when done properly — doesn’t depend on back flexion or extension for power, but when done incorrectly, puts a dangerous amount of pressure on the vertebrae. Deadlifts can also exacerbate degenerative disc disease, lumbar spinal stenosis, and other chronic conditions affecting the lower back.
3. KNOW WHEN IT’S TIME TO STOP
That twinge you felt while working out might be gone by tomorrow with a bit of stretching and rest. If you push the compromised area through additional stress, however, it can turn into something worse. Don’t ignore what your body is telling you. The burn of a fatigued muscle feels very different from a pull in your back, and “no pain, no gain” only works when you don’t sabotage the body you’re trying to strengthen. If you’re feeling pain when lifting, it’s time to call it a day — plain and simple.
4. MODIFY YOUR ROUTINE
First off, I recommend that you always wear a weightlifting belt when working out, as it can do wonders to stabilize and protect your back during most exercises. However, if a particular movement causes you problems even with the belt on, consider finding an alternative. For most lifts, there are one or more corresponding exercises that can target similar muscles without causing the same pain.
To learn proper posture is one thing, but to fully put it into practice requires some extra work. As any knowledgeable trainer will tell you, a dedicated stretching routine is the key to sustainable lifting. In order to build a strong and resilient back, consult a fitness trainer or orthopedic specialist you trust and create a stretching regimen to maintain the integrity of your back for future challenges. For maximum benefit, stretch both before and after each lifting session.
With aging often comes worry about falls and the bone fractures they cause. Now, a panel of U.S. experts has new advice on what helps and what doesn’t when it comes to staying upright.
For starters, get off the sofa. And don’t rely on vitamin D to keep you from falling.
In a change from its 2012 recommendations, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is recommending against vitamin D supplements for “community-dwelling” (those living at home) adults over 65 for preventing falls. A review of existing research showed insufficient evidence to recommend a supplement.
So what does help people prevent falls? Exercise, the task force said.
“The strongest evidence is for exercise. If you’re at risk of falling, you should think about exercise,” said the task force’s vice chair, Dr. Alex Krist, from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He added that about 20 percent of Americans over 65 have a fall each year.
The review and recommendations were published April 17 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
An author of an editorial that accompanies the new recommendations agreed exercise can be beneficial.
“These recommendations are suggesting that we need to go beyond popping pills in order to have a major impact in preventing falls and fractures,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“Regular exercise can reduce falls with injury and it can also reduce heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, dementia and some forms of cancer,” Manson said.
“Physical activity is as close to a magic bullet as there is. And it doesn’t take that much — just 30 or 40 minutes three times a week can make a difference,” she added.
Both Krist and Manson advocated for a variety of exercises. They said for someone healthy enough, the general physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week, and strength training twice a week, are a good place to start.
But not everyone over 65 can achieve that goal. Krist said to start with your doctor to get a better idea of what exercise might be right for you. For some people, the supervision that comes with physical therapy is helpful. For others, a class such as tai chi might work best. And for others, more vigorous activity may be fine.
The USPSTF is a volunteer panel of national experts. They develop recommendations for disease and injury prevention after a rigorous review of scientific evidence.
The new recommendations suggest that doctors should selectively offer multifaceted interventions to seniors at a high risk of falling.
These might include: group or individual exercise, psychological therapy, nutrition therapy, education, medication management, urinary incontinence management, environmental modification, and physical or occupational therapy. Social services and referral to specialists such as an ophthalmologist, neurologist or cardiologist are other options.
Referrals can be important because some issues may be reversible. For example, sometimes addressing problems with vision can aid in fall prevention.
“Often, older individuals assume vision loss is inevitable and a normal part of the aging process. Very often, though, problems such as cataracts or glaucoma are treatable,” Manson said.
“Falling is a major concern for older adults, and some are afraid to go outdoors because they’re afraid of falling,” she said. That leads to a double whammy as they stay inside, their muscles may atrophy, they don’t get any sunlight and may develop a vitamin D deficiency, and they’re losing out on important social interactions, Manson explained.
“I recommend at least doing strength training inside the home, or getting a treadmill to use at home. Or find a friend or family member that can go out for a walk, or start a walking club in your neighborhood,” she suggested.
The task force also recommended against daily supplementation of 400 international units of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams (mg) or less of calcium to prevent fractures in postmenopausal women living at home.
It wasn’t clear, however, if higher doses might provide a benefit, according to the new USPSTF recommendations. There also wasn’t enough evidence for the task force to determine whether vitamin D and calcium supplements could help men or premenopausal women avoid fractures.
Learn more about preventing falls from the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
SOURCES: Alex Krist, M.D., M.P.H., U.S. Preventive Service Task Force vice chair, and professor, family medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond; JoAnn Manson, M.D., Dr.P.H., professor, medicine, Harvard School of Medicine, and chief, preventive medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston; April 17, 2018, Journal of the American Medical Association
Is arthritis pain getting in the way of your fitness plans? That need not be the case.
In fact, physical activity can be vital to your continued mobility.
Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that affects about 27 million Americans — most often in the knees and hips, but also in the lower back and neck.
Doctors describe it as a degenerative disease — meaning the joint has worn down. Usually that’s from simple wear-and-tear over the years, or from overuse.
This occurs when there’s a breakdown of the cartilage that covers the end of each bone. The cushioning effect is lost. The result is pain, swelling and problems moving the joint that’s been affected. Over time, the bones themselves can be damaged.
What to do? Get moving.
It may be hard, especially at first, but physical activity is key to treating osteoarthritis. Studies have shown that exercise not only helps reduce pain but also improves mobility.
Being active should help with weight loss, too — and excess weight contributes to the pain of osteoarthritis.
Start slow and simple, suggests the Arthritis Foundation. Just walking around the neighborhood can help. So can a fun and easy exercise class.
Adding some strengthening exercises will help build muscle around whatever joint is affected by osteoarthritis. Range-of-motion exercises can help you become more flexible and less stiff. Simply start with gentle stretches that take your joints through their full range of motion.
Yoga and tai chi can help relieve stiffness and improve flexibility, too.
Whatever activity you choose, just make sure it’s easy on your joints. No twisting and pounding. Besides walking, good options are biking, water aerobics, swimming and dancing.
A key to success, though, is to pay attention to how your body tolerates your new activity. And be patient. When you have arthritis, it can take your body longer to adjust to new activity, notes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you haven’t been active, start with just three to five minutes of activity twice a day. Once your body has adjusted, add 10 minutes to your activity time. Then add 10 minutes more, and so on, until you’re as active as you want to be.
For those who have a hard time even walking at first, consider working with a physical therapist. This specialist can create a program tailored to your abilities — and one that can adapt as you get stronger.
One important reminder: Check with your doctor before adding new activity and any time you experience unusual pain or swelling in the joint affected by osteoarthritis.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on physical activity for arthritis.
Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Injuries of the ankle are common among athletes and amateurs in many different sports and exercises. Working out at the gym, enjoying summer jogs, or playing any type of sport are typical ways to injure your ankle. Unfortunately, spraining, rolling, or fracturing your ankle is easy to do and will often occur again without the proper rehabilitation and strengthening of your ankle joint. Strengthening your ankles is also a great way to do thing outside of sports – such as wear high heeled shoes without wobbling!
There are many exercises and stretches you can do to strengthen your ankles, which can help to prevent future injury or help to recover from a previous ankle injury.
Working on your balance strengthens your ankles, as they are the joints that hold your weight steady on your feet. Try holding your weight on one foot, grabbing your opposite ankle behind your back. Work toward increasing the amount of time you balance on each foot. Eventually, work up to catching and throwing a ball while standing on one foot, or doing one-legged squats.
You can purchase the resistance bands you would find at your physical therapy gym for very little cost. Wrap them around the top of one foot and curl your toes to stretch your foot and ankle. Make sure to match the number of repetitions on the other foot. These bands can be used to stretch the foot and ankle is a variety of ways and directions – consult your physical therapist for proper form and technique.
Jumps and Skips
Another way to strengthen your ankles is to do exercises that require jumping or skipping. These work the muscles in your foot and your ankle. They get your ankles used to landing and absorbing that impact, as well as aiding your balance.
You can do jumping squats, scissors kicks, or do skips or bounds if you are exercising in a large area.
Weight loss from dieting can slow the progression of knee arthritis in overweight people, according to a new study.
But losing pounds from exercise alone will not help preserve those aging knees, the researchers found.
Obesity is a major risk factor for painful knee osteoarthritis — degeneration of cartilage caused by wear and tear. Weight loss can slow the disease, but it wasn’t clear until now if the method of weight loss made a difference.
Apparently, it does.
“These results add to the hypothesis that solely exercise as a regimen in order to lose weight in overweight and obese adults may not be as beneficial to the knee joint as weight loss regimens involving diet,” said lead author Dr. Alexandra Gersing.
Gersing made her comments in a news release from the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). She’s with the University of California, San Francisco’s department of radiology and biomedical imaging.
The study included 760 overweight or obese adults who had mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis or were at risk for it. The participants were divided into a “control group” of patients who lost no weight, and a group who lost weight through either a combination of diet and exercise, diet alone, or exercise alone.
After eight years, cartilage degeneration was much lower in the weight-loss group than in the control group. However, that was true only of people who lost weight through diet and exercise, or diet alone, the investigators found.
Study participants who exercised without changing their diet lost as much weight as those who slimmed down through diet plus exercise or diet alone, but there was no significant difference in cartilage degeneration compared to the control group.
The study was scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the annual meeting of the RSNA, in Chicago. Research presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more on knee arthritis.
SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Nov. 28, 2017