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.
Spine and joint surgery patients aren’t taking advantage of common pain relievers like Tylenol or Motrin during their recovery, researchers say.
Instead, many are given opioids, such as oxycodone (OxyContin) or hydrocodone (Vicodin). These highly addictive narcotics are potentially deadly when abused. The United States is currently grappling with an ongoing opioid epidemic.
The new study also found that post-surgical patients improperly store and dispose of their unused opioid painkillers.
“It’s clear we need to empower patients to ask their physicians about non-opioid pain management options, as well as call on prescribers to be more thoughtful of their prescribing practices,” said study first author Dr. Mark Bicket. He’s an assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Greater use of non-opioid painkillers means fewer opioids would need to be prescribed, making it less likely that they’d be lost, sold, taken by error or discovered by a child, Bicket said in a university news release.
The researchers found that six months after surgery, more than one-third of patients still had unused opioids at home. And more than 90 percent admitted that they weren’t stored safely.
Three-quarters or more said they had not received instructions on how to store or dispose of the opioids, the study authors noted.
The study included 140 patients, average age 56, who were surveyed two days, two weeks, one month and six months after surgery about their use of non-opioid painkillers. These drugs include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Motrin and Advil, and acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Two days after surgery, 82 percent of patients were not using NSAIDs. Forty-four percent reported not using acetaminophen. Only 5 percent used both NSAIDs and acetaminophen.
One month after surgery, only 6 percent of patients reported use of multiple non-opioid medications.
Also one month after their operation, nearly three-quarters of patients said they had unused opioids. Almost half of these said they had 20 or more unused pills, and 37 percent said they had more than 200 morphine milligram equivalents of opioids. Some experts say that, at this dosage, a patient who has never had narcotic painkillers would overdose.
The vast majority of the study patients reported unsafe storage of opioids a month after surgery and said they had not disposed of unused pills.
The study was published recently in the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on pain control after surgery.
SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University, news release, April 30, 2018
Few people go through life without having episodes of lower back pain.
For some people, though, it’s a daily struggle.
The American Academy of Family Physicians says back pain may be controlled by maintaining proper posture and sitting, lifting, standing and exercising properly.
Others have to seek medical attention for relief. The academy mentions these warning signs that you should see a doctor about your aching lower back:
- If pain radiates down your leg below your knee.
- If your leg, foot or groin feel numb.
- If you have fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain or weakness.
- If you have difficulty going to the bathroom.
- If the pain was caused by an injury.
- If pain is so intense that you can’t move.
- If your pain doesn’t improve or gets worse after two weeks.
- If you notice any muscle atrophy.
Ski season is in full swing — but an injury can put you out of commission until next year’s first snowfall. Here’s how to stay safe on the slopes all winter long.
While many people huddle inside during the winter months, away from “bomb cyclones” and blizzards, a select few know that the best way to beat wintry weather is to embrace it — on the ski slopes, that is!
As any seasoned skier will tell you, however, their beloved sport does come with the risk of injury. Fortunately, taking some simple precautions before you hit the slopes can help you stay in peak condition regardless of how many tumbles you take.
We’ve outlined some of the most common injuries that afflict skiers, and what you can do to prevent them.
A number of injuries can affect the medial collateral ligament (MCL), but the most common by far is an MCL tears. In skiing, MCL tears most often occur when the skier falls while attempting to slow or stop in a snowplow position, in which the tips of the skis are pointed toward each other. To avoid injury in this position, make sure to always keep your weight balanced. In addition, sticking to runs with which you’re comfortable can reduce the need to enter the snowplow position at all.
A variety of falls on the slopes can result in a tear of the anterior cruciante ligament (ACL). It most commonly happens after a forward fall, during which the inner edge of the front of the ski becomes embedded in the snow, trapping the leg in the process. It can also occur when the top of the back of the boot pushes the tibia (the weight-bearing bone in the leg) forward, away from the femur. On other occasions, it arises when the skier leans back on the skis, loses balance, and falls backward. Strengthening the hamstrings, wearing proper bindings, and using shorter skis can all reduce the risk of sustaining an ACL tear.
Like torn ligaments, fractures are most commonly caused by falls while skiing. The wrist and ankles are particularly susceptible to breaks. To help avoid broken bones, always wear adequate protective gear and practice proper techniques for falling. Increasing cardiovascular endurance and developing the surrounding muscles can also be beneficial.
Most shoulder dislocations happen when skiers fall, either directly onto the shoulder or onto an outstretched hand or arm. This injury results in heavy, immediate pain, significantly restricts the shoulder’s range of motion, and can leave it misshapen. Since dislocations are caused by sudden trauma, they can be difficult to anticipate, but strengthening the rotator cuff muscles, especially if you have previously dislocated your shoulder, can lower the risk of a dislocation. As with other common skiing injuries, employing proper form will also minimize the possibility of a dislocation.
Aside from protecting the spinal cord, the spine ensures the strength and stability of the back. It is made up of various bony segments called vertebrae separated by pieces of fibrocartilaginous tissue called intervertebral discs, any of which can be injured while skiing. Some ways to avoid spinal injuries include using spine protectors, sticking to trails on which you are comfortable, using proper equipment, and learning the technique for “safe” falls.
While some ski injuries are immediately apparent, others can be more subtle, slowly progressing with time. Fortunately, the talented team of specialists at New York Bone and Joint has extensive experience working in sports medicine and can quickly diagnose and treat any of these common problems. If you think you may have suffered an injury during your latest trip to the mountain, call us today to schedule a consultation, or if the injury has been recent, stop in to our Orthopedic Urgent Care!
Cortisone shots can potentially provide long-lasting relief from pain and inflammation in the joints.
Many injections can greatly reduce pain and inflammation caused by musculoskeletal injuries or chronic conditions such as arthritis, significantly shortening recovery timelines and providing lasting relief. One shot we particularly recommend to patients entails an injection of cortisone into a damaged joint. We’ll tell you what you need to know about this tried-and-true treatment for pain and inflammation in the joints.
What Is a Cortisone Shot?
A cortisone shot is an injection composed of a corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic. Used to relieve pain and inflammation, it’s most commonly injected into a joint, often in the shoulder, hip, or knee. These shots are often one option in a comprehensive treatment plan for chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, tendinitis, or rotator cuff impingements or tears.
How Long Does a Cortisone Shot Last?
A cortisone shot’s effectiveness depends on the severity of the patient’s condition. In most cases, pain and inflammation will marginally increase for about 48 hours following the injection, and will decrease precipitously thereafter. In some cases, a single injection can provide relief for as long as several months.
Generally, cortisone shots should only be given two times per joint per year. Repeated cortisone injections can damage the cartilage in the joint.
What Are the Side Effects of a Cortisone Shot?
Cortisone shots are typically safe in moderation, but since they infrequently lead to serious complications, they should be taken under a doctor’s supervision. Be sure to let your doctor know if you suffer from diabetes or other any other conditions affecting your blood sugar levels, as well as any medications that you are currently taking.
Most cortisone shots have some minor side effects, including a temporary uptick in pain and inflammation in and around the joint, and a thinning and lightening of the skin around the site of the injection. In some cases, however, they can result in a sudden spike in blood sugar if you’re diabetic and have poorly controlled blood sugar levels. .
What If the Cortisone Shot Doesn’t Work?
Cortisone shots provide a source of temporary relief from inflammation and pain. They will not solve the underlying problem, and pain may gradually return as the shot’s effectiveness subsides. As a result, cortisone shots should be administered as part of a more comprehensive treatment plan that may include physical therapy or surgery.
Fortunately, our team of orthopedic specialists at Comprehensive Orthopaedics has several years of experience in treating joint problems. Regardless of your specific condition, we’ll work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that provides lasting relief from your symptoms.
The onset of back pain among runners may stem from a general weakness in their deep core muscles, new research indicates.
Such deep muscles are located well below the more superficial muscles typified by the classic six-pack abs of fitness magazine fame, the researchers noted.
Using computer simulations, they found that runners with relatively weak deep core muscles end up relying more and more on their superficial muscles to keep on running. The result is a higher risk for back pain.
“We measured the dimensions of runners’ bodies and how they moved to create a computer model that’s specific to that person,” said study lead author Ajit Chaudhari. “That allows us to examine how every bone moves and how much pressure is put on each joint.”
Chaudhari is an associate professor of physical therapy and biomedical engineering at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
The investigators found that “when your deep core is weak, your body is able to compensate in a way that allows you to essentially run the same way,” Chaudhari said in a medical center news release, “but that increases the load on your spine in a way that may lead to low back pain.”
The study team said it’s not uncommon to find avid athletes who fail to put sufficient focus on their deep core strength, perhaps because superficial muscle maintenance tends to get a lot more public attention.
However, Chaudhari said, “working on a six-pack and trying to become a better runner is definitely not the same thing.
“If you look at great runners, they don’t typically have a six-pack, but their muscles are very fit,” he said. “Static exercises that force you to fire your core and hold your body in place are what’s really going to make you a better runner.”
The study was published online recently in the Journal of Biomechanics.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has information on low back pain.
SOURCE: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, news release, Jan. 3, 2018