Step-by-Step Exercises for a Stronger Back

Step-by-Step Exercises for a Stronger Back

THURSDAY, April 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Are you neglecting or even unaware of the muscles in your back? If so, you’re putting yourself at risk.

The trapezius is the diamond-shaped muscle that runs from neck to middle back and from shoulder to shoulder across the back. The latissimus dorsi — or “lats” — are the large back muscles that run from either side of the spine to your waist.

Here are two strength-training exercises that will help you develop these muscles for better upper body fitness.

Important: Start with a weight that allows you to complete at least eight reps with proper form, perhaps as low as 2-pound dumbbells. Build up to 10 to 15 reps for one complete set, and progress from one to three complete sets before increasing the weight. Never jerk the weights — controlled, steady movement is what brings results.

Standing dumbbell rows target the trapezius muscles as well as the upper arms and shoulders. Stand straight, feet shoulder-width apart, with a weight in each hand. Your elbows should be slightly bent, the dumbbells touching the fronts of your thighs, palms facing your body. As you exhale, use a slow, controlled movement to lift the weights straight up by bending the elbows up and out to bring the weights to shoulder level. Hold for a second, then inhale as you lower your arms to the starting position. Repeat.

Bent-over one-arm rows target the lats as well as the upper arms and shoulders. To work the right side first, stand to the right side of a bench. Place your left knee and left hand on it for support. Your back should be nearly parallel to the floor. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing inward. Using only your upper arm, bend at the elbow to lift the dumbbell straight up to your waist as you exhale. Hold for a second and then lower it with control as you inhale. Complete reps, then switch sides and repeat.

You can also do bent-over rows using both arms at once. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and, bending from the waist, bring your back to nearly parallel with the floor. Keeping arms close to your sides, bend the elbows to lift the weights, bringing them up to waist level. Hold for a second and then lower the weights with control as you inhale. Repeat.

More information

The American Council on Exercise has more on exercises targeting the back muscles.

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Stretches to Strengthen Your Core

Stretches to Strengthen Your Core

THURSDAY, March 21, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Ever had a bad spasm from bending down to pick up your child or tie your shoes?

Keeping your core muscles — the workhorses that stabilize your spine — flexible with a stretching routine can help prevent this common occurrence and protect your back in general.

The Pelvic Tilt targets your lower back and your abdominals. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet about hip-width apart. Flatten and then press your lower back into the floor. You’ll feel your hips tilt forward. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat five times.

The Side Stretch helps your back and sides become more limber. In a standing position, extend your right arm above your head. Put your left hand on your hip. Slowly bend to the left without twisting or jerking. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat five times. Then repeat the sequence on the other side.

The Back Arch stretches hips and shoulders as well as your back. Stand up straight, legs shoulder width apart. Support your lower back with both hands and bend backwards. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat five times.

As a reminder, never bounce when stretching. This can cause muscles to tighten and lead to injury. Ease into every stretch with a slow, steady movement. Stop if any stretch feels uncomfortable. You should feel slight tension, but not pain. And do stretches that you hold only when your body is warm — after a workout is perfect.

More information

Love yoga? The American Council on Exercise details how you can use yoga to work core muscles.

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
One-Third of U.S. Kids Have Back Pain, Study Says

One-Third of U.S. Kids Have Back Pain, Study Says

TUESDAY, March 12, 2019 (HealthDay News) — As American kids pack on the pounds, the number of those with back pain is on the rise.

One in three between the ages of 10 and 18 said they had backaches in the past year, according to a survey of about 3,700 youngsters. The incidence rose along with kids’ age and weight and was higher among those who play competitive sports.

Though many people probably associate back pain with older people, the orthopedic surgeon who led the study was not surprised by his findings.

“We see a lot of kids who have pain from overuse injuries or joint pain from playing sports,” said Dr. Peter Fabricant, who treats pediatric patients at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “Of these kids who had back pain, very few actually required any sort of medical intervention. Most didn’t need treatment at all.”

About 80 percent of adults suffer from lower back pain at some time, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

But this is the first time the extent of back pain among children has been estimated on nationwide scale, the authors said. The youngsters surveyed were equally split by age and gender.

On average, those who reported back pain weighed more and had higher body mass indexes, or BMIs. (BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.)

Back pain was more common among girls than boys (38 percent to 29 percent). And the percentage reporting back pain rose about 4 percent with each year of increasing age, according to the authors. Most often, pain affected the lower back.

Nearly half said they hurt in the evenings and more than 15 percent said back pain interrupted their sleep. Only 41 percent sought treatment, and most who did had physical therapy.

Participation in competitive sports was strongly linked to back pain, with junior varsity and varsity athletes experiencing it more often than younger or recreational players. Most survey participants were active, with basketball the most commonly played sport, followed by dance, baseball, football and soccer.

Another contributor to kids’ back pain is the backpacks they use to tote their stuff, researchers said. Those who used one strap to carry their packs reported significantly more back pain than did those who used both straps.

Those who used rolling backpacks reported back pain the most often. Fabricant said it wasn’t clear whether pain prompted their use of the rolling packs or whether the rolling packs contributed to their pain.

While long-term pain prospects are unclear, Fabricant said “it would certainly stand to reason” that kids who experience backaches would be more likely to do so as adults.

Dr. Henock Wolde-Semait is a pediatric orthopedist at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., who reviewed the findings. He said the results mirror what he sees in his own practice.

“Lots of kids have back pain for various reasons. It seems like it’s on the rise,” he said.

“The majority of them do well [without surgical treatment], which is why in the past this may have been overlooked or taken for granted,” Wolde-Semait added.

Fabricant suggested parents urge their kids to avoid any sport or activity related to their back pain. Physical therapy may help by stretching and strengthening key muscles, he said, and it’s wise to avoid carrying backpacks on only one shoulder.

Wolde-Semait said excessive screen time may also play a role in kids’ back pain. He said youngsters should seek “moderation in every aspect.”

The study is to be presented March 12 at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ annual meeting, in Las Vegas. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

Harvard Health offers tips for a pain-free back.

SOURCES: Peter Fabricant, M.D., M.P.H., pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, N.Y.; Henock Wolde-Semait, M.D., pediatric orthopedist, NYU Winthrop Hospital, Mineola, N.Y.; presentation, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting, Las Vegas, March 12, 2019

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Nerve Zap Might Ease Pain of Herniated Disk

Nerve Zap Might Ease Pain of Herniated Disk

TUESDAY, Nov. 27, 2018 (HealthDay News) –What if a simple zap to the spine could relieve the debilitating lower back and leg pain brought on by a herniated disk?

Such is the promise of “pulse radiofrequency” therapy (pRF), which sends inflammation-reducing pulses of energy to nerve roots in the spine, a new study claims.

The therapy is not new, having first received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in the 1980s.

But recent advances in CT scan technology now enable clinicians to deploy those energy pulses with much more accuracy, experts said. And the new research suggests the treatment could prove a boon to back pain patients for whom standard therapies have failed to do the trick.

“I was amazed with the results of pRF,” said study author Dr. Alessandro Napoli. “Especially having read, as a radiologist, numerous lumbar MRI scans of patients with recurrent hernia after surgery.”

And as a patient himself, Napoli added that “from personal experience I can tell you that the treatment is not painful, and the results are appreciated within days after a single treatment lasting 10 minutes.”

Napoli is a professor of interventional radiology at Sapienza University of Rome in Italy.

He and his colleagues plan to report their findings Tuesday at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting, in Chicago. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Lower disk herniation results when the insulating disks that sit between spinal vertebrae tear open, allowing jelly-like material to protrude and exert pressure on surrounding nerve roots. Beyond lower back pain, the condition often triggers sciatica, a pain that radiates down a patient’s leg.

Standard therapies include over-the-counter pain meds, corticosteroid spinal injections, and/or invasive spine surgery that sometimes involves disk removal and vertebrae fusion.

The problem, said Napoli, is that such options entail risks without assured relief.

“Steroid injections are effective only in portion of the patients, and generally require more sessions,” he noted. And though surgery safety has “largely improved,” Napoli pointed to the risk for bleeding and infection, the need for a minimum two- to three-day hospital stay, the high cost, and the fact that some patients ultimately realize little benefit.

By contrast, pRF is scalpel-free, delivering radio signals directly to affected nerves via a CT scan-guided electrode. The process, said Napoli, requires no hospital stay, is noninvasive, far cheaper and less risky.

“The rationale for using pRF on disk herniation is that we eliminate the inflammation process of the compromised nerve root,” he explained. “Without inflammation the pain fades, and the body starts a self-healing process that allows for complete resolution of the disk herniation in a large proportion of patients.”

For the study, the Italian investigators compared 128 lumbar herniation patients who underwent a single 10-minute round of CT-guided pRF with 120 patients who received one to three rounds of steroid injections.

All the patients had already undergone standard interventions, with poor results.

By the one-year mark following either treatment, a full “perceived” recovery was reported by 95 percent of the pRF patients, compared with just 61 percent of the steroid injection patients.

Dr. Daniel Park, director of minimally invasive orthopedic spine surgery at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., offered some caution on the findings.

He noted that because “the majority of people with back pain improve with time and exercise alone,” it remains an open question as to whether the pRF procedure really cured the condition.

Still, Park noted that diagnostic uncertainty can undermine the ability of surgery to get at the true source of a patient’s pain, given that “the problem with low back pain is that there are many causes of it, and physicians have trouble identifying the cause of pain.”

Nevertheless, he remains unsure if pRF is truly ready for prime time.

“Best case, I think [pRF] could be an option for people if they [have already] failed therapy and medication,” said Park. “It may be a similar option for people if they do not or cannot have steroid injections, but they need more treatment. I think this is experimental, and should not be first-line.”

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers more information on herniated disks.

SOURCES: Alessandro Napoli, M.D., Ph.D., interventional radiologist and professor, interventional radiology, department of radiological, oncological and pathological science, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy; Daniel Park, M.D., orthopedic spine surgeon, associate professor, orthopedic spine surgery, and director, Minimally Invasive Orthopedic Spine Surgery, William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Mich.; Nov. 27, 2018, Radiological Society of North America annual meeting, Chicago

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
An Expert’s Guide to Avoiding Back Pain

An Expert’s Guide to Avoiding Back Pain

THURSDAY, Oct. 25, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Back pain is a common problem in the United States, but there are ways to protect yourself, an expert says.

“The back is a complex structure with many delicate parts, but with good judgment and healthy lifestyle habits — including proper lifting, good posture and exercise — it’s possible to avoid common back pain caused by strained muscles,” said Dr. Lawrence Lenke. He is director of spinal deformity surgery at the Spine Hospital at New York-Presbyterian in New York City.

For more complicated spinal problems such as scoliosis, stenosis, fractures or injuries, medical intervention is usually necessary, Lenke said.

“But each person with or without spinal problems can benefit from adopting healthier lifestyle habits to keep your spine as strong as possible,” he said.

Lenke offered this advice:

  • Maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke, do stretching and strengthening exercises that increase back and abdomen flexibility, and get regular cardiovascular exercise. If your job involves a lot of sitting, get up and walk around every 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Maintain good posture even while sitting. Don’t slouch or hold your head too far forward. Be sure your feet are supported, hips are level with or slightly above the knees and your spine is slightly reclined. There should be a small arch in the lower back.
  • When sitting at a computer, your shoulders should be relaxed and away from the ears. Your elbows should be at the sides, bent to about 90 degrees, and your wrists should be neutral — not bent up, down or away from each other. Your head should face ahead without being too far forward.
  • When using a mobile device for non-voice activities, hold it up instead of bending your neck to look down. At just 45 degrees, the work your neck muscles are doing is equal to lifting a 50-pound bag of potatoes.
  • When lifting, make sure objects are properly balanced and packed correctly so weight won’t shift. Keep the weight close to your body. And take your time. Bend at the hips and knees and use your legs to lift. Maintain proper posture with your back straight and head up.

More information

The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has more on preventing back pain.

SOURCE: New York-Presbyterian Hospital, news release, Oct. 16, 2018

Three New Genes Linked to Chronic Back Pain

Three New Genes Linked to Chronic Back Pain

New research pinpoints three genes responsible for skeletal development that appear to be connected to chronic back pain.

The study authors said their findings could shed new light on the biological factors involved in the development of the condition and lead to new treatments for back pain, which is the leading cause of disability around the world.

For the study, an international team of researchers conducted a genome-wide association to search for gene variants associated with back pain. The study involved 158,000 adults of European ancestry. Of these participants, more than 29,000 suffered from chronic back pain.

The scientists identified three new genetic variants linked to chronic back pain. The SOX5 gene, which is involved in nearly all phases of embryonic development, had the strongest link to the condition.

Previous animal studies have shown that deactivation of this variant is linked to defects in cartilage and skeleton formation in mice.

The study also showed that another gene, which has been associated with intervertebral disc herniation (commonly called a slipped disc), was also linked to back pain. The researchers also identified a third gene involved in spinal cord development, which could affect the risk for back pain due to its influence on pain sensation.

The findings were published Sept. 27 in the journal PLOS Genetics.

“The results of our genome-wide association study point to multiple pathways that may influence risk for chronic back pain,” said study leader Dr. Pradeep Suri, of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Seattle.

“Chronic back pain is linked to changes in mood, and the role of the central nervous system in the transition from acute to chronic back pain is well-recognized,” he said in a journal news release.

“However, the top two genetic variants we identified suggest causes implicating the peripheral structures, such as the spine,” Suri added. “We expect that further large-scale genetic studies will reveal the importance of both peripheral and central contributors to the complex experience of chronic back pain.”

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases provides more information on chronic back pain.

SOURCE: PLOS Genetics, news release, Sept. 27, 2018

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