Posts Tagged ‘low back pain’

Stretching throughout the workday is essential for good health.

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ASCM Personal Trainer

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’ve been sitting at a computer for an extended period of time.  Did you know that sitting still for a long time can cause serious health damage? OSHA says that maintaining static postures, such as viewing the monitor, for a prolonged period of time without taking a break can fatigue the muscles of the neck and shoulder that support the head. Additionally, OSHA recommends that repetitive tasks or jobs that require long periods of static posture incorporate several, short rest breaks (micro breaks or rest pauses). During these breaks you should stand, stretch, and move around. This provides rest and allows the muscles enough time to recover. Read the excerpt from Susan Seliger”s article “Stretching Exercises at Your Desk: 12 Simple Tips” at WebMD for a few of the stretches you can easily perform in your workplace to keep limber throughout the day.

Stretching Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

  1. Just stand up and sit down — no hands
    • You might have gotten a gold star in preschool for sitting still, but it just goes to show you (best sellers notwithstanding) that not all of us learned everything we need to know in kindergarten. “If you stand up and sit down (over and over) — without using your hands — it can be a challenge,” says Smith. It’s like doing mini-squats!
  2. Substitute exercise for sitting — while you work
    • Get rid of your desk chair and substitute an exercise ball, suggests Smith. “I used it for a while when I was having low-back problems; it was great,” Smith says. “All day you are engaging all the muscles in the back, legs, butt, everything, to stay balanced.”
  3. Shrug your shoulders — to release the neck and shoulders
    • Inhale deeply and shrug your shoulders, lifting them high up to your ears. Hold. Release and drop. Repeat three times.
    • Shake your head slowly, yes and no.
  4. Loosen the hands with air circles
    • Clench both fists, stretching both hands out in front of you.
    • Make circles in the air, first in one direction, to the count of ten.
    • Then reverse the circles.
    • Shake out the hands.
  5. Point your fingers — good for hands, wrist, and forearms
    • Stretch your left hand out in front of you, pointing fingers toward the floor. Use your right hand to increase the stretch, pushing your fingers down and toward the body. Be gentle.
    • Do the same with the other hand.
    • Now stretch your left hand out straight in front, wrist bent, with fingers pointing skyward. Use your right hand to increase the stretch, pulling the fingers back toward your body.
    • Do the same on the other side.
  6. Release the upper body with a torso twist
    • Inhale and as you exhale, turn to the right and grab the back of your chair with your right hand, and grab the arm of the chair with your left.
    • With eyes level, use your grasp on the chair to help twist your torso around as far to the back of the room as possible. Hold the twist and let your eyes continue the stretch — see how far around the room you can peer.
    • Slowly come back to facing forward.
    • Repeat on the other side.
  7. Do leg extensions — work the abs and legs
    • Grab the seat of your chair to brace yourself and extend your legs straight out in front of you so they are parallel to the floor.
    • Flex and point your toes five times. Release.
    • Repeat.
  8. Stretch your back with a “big hug”
    • Hug your body, placing the right hand on your left shoulder and the left hand on your right shoulder.
    • Breathe in and out, releasing the area between your shoulder blades.
  9. Cross your arms — for the shoulders and upper back
    • Extend one arm out straight in front of you. With the other hand, grab the elbow of the outstretched arm and pull it across your chest, stretching your shoulder and upper back muscles.
    • Hold. Release.
    • Stretch out the other arm in front of you — repeat.
  10. Stretch your back and shoulders with a “leg hug”
    • Sit on the edge of your chair (if it has wheels, wedge the chair against the desk or wall to make sure it does not roll). Put your feet together, flat on the floor.
    • Lean over, chest to knees, letting your arms dangle loosely to the floor. Release your neck.
    • Now bring your hands behind your legs, right hand grasping left wrist, forearm (or elbow if you can reach that far), left hand grasping the right. Feel the stretch in your back, shoulders and neck. Hold.
    • Release your hands to the floor again.
    • Repeat three times or as often as it feels good.
  11. Look up to release upper body
    • Sit up tall in your chair, or stand up. Stretch your arms overhead and interlock your fingers.
    • Turn the palms to the ceiling as you lift your chin up, tilt your head back, and gaze up at the ceiling, too.
    • Inhale, exhale, release.
  12. Substitute walks for email — and don’t eat at your desk
    • Instead of emailing a colleague “and copying 25 people who don’t want to be copied anyway,” Smith says, “walk over to the colleague you really want to talk to.”

    Read the rest of the article at WebMD.

    Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Read Full Post »

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Low back pain is a common complaint these days. Most people work at an office or are spending much of their day sitting. This tightens hip flexor muscles (ilopsoas which consists of the Iliacus and Psoas muscles) and can lead to low back tension. One way to help combat low back tension is to strengthen the muscles that are deep to your “core”,”or the muscles that are closest to your actual spine.

Anterior Spine Muscles

Sylvia Marten from Spine-Health.com shares tips on using an exercise ball to strength low back muscles. read this excerpt from her article, “Using an Exercise Ball to Rehab Your Back.”

Spine Strengthening Exercises on the Ball

Low back injuries often restrict movement and lead to the weakening of low back muscles. Exercise balls are a great option for a gentle core-strengthening program that can stabilize the muscles surrounding the spine and help prevent future injury.

One of the simplest ways to incorporate an exercise ball into your routine is just to practice sitting on it.

Sitting on the ball activates the core muscles required to maintain balance. If you are having trouble balancing, deflate the ball a little for added stability. If your balance feels good, try replacing your office chair with an exercise ball or sitting on the ball while watching television. Besides working your core muscles, the ball also reduces stress on the spine.

Many low back injuries occur as a result of improper lifting; squats that use an exercise ball for support (the exercise ball is placed against the wall behind the small of the back) train the back to retain proper posture and train the knees not to extend over the toes.

The muscle action required to remain upright on the ball also helps in finding a neutral spine position, improving posture, increasing low back mobility, and developing overall strength and control of the core muscles—both back and abdominal. As with any exercise program, it is essential to consult your doctor or a licensed physical therapist before beginning.
Read the entire article at Spine-Health here.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Read Full Post »

Injured soldiers find relief through massage and other “alternative therapies.”

By Michael Devitt from Massage Today magazine

Wars have been fought since time immemorial. From simple sticks and rocks to guided missiles and uranium-tipped artillery shells, the methods civilized nations have used to annihilate one another have changed dramatically over the centuries.

Despite the advances in modern warfare, the types and degrees of injury suffered in combat have remained frighteningly constant. Surprisingly, research suggests a major cause of attrition (a reduction in number or strength) among military personnel in recent wars has resulted not from injuries incurred on the battlefield, but, rather to more typical conditions such as accidents and musculoskeletal complaints.

To determine what types of painful conditions affect soldiers during wartime, researchers in the United States and Germany examined 162 soldiers engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom who were evacuated to pain treatment centers outside the theater of combat. Results of the study, published in the journal of Anesthesia & Analgesia, show that many of the injuries suffered by military personnel during conflict are indeed similar to those sustained by people in the civilian sector. Even more important, the use of alternative therapies in the treatment of pain among injured soldiers appears to be growing, with massage the most common alternative therapy used for pain relief.

All of the soldiers included in the study had been injured during OIF between March 2003 and June 2004, and were medically evacuated to one of two treatment facilities: Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Landstuhl Regional Army Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. Most of the injured personnel received “consultations for treatment recommendations to be implemented at military treatment facilities located at the patient’s home duty station.”

Analysis of the complaints showed most soldiers suffered injuries comparable to those that would have been sustained by similarly aged civilians. Not surprisingly, more than half of the pain complaints reported by the soldiers (53 percent) involved the low back. The second most common complaint was “nonradicular extremety pain,” which accounted for 23 percent of the presenting complaints.

The most common diagnosis of injury was lumbar herniated disk which, according to the researchers,” accounted for almost one-quarter of all pain disorders.” Postsurgical pain was the second most common diagnosis, and was experienced by 14 percent of all patients.

More than three dozen treatment modalities were utilized for pain relief; on average, each soldier was treated with 3.5 different therapies. Not surprisingly, drugs were the most popular form of pain relief, beginning with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which were given to 91 service members. Seventy-nine patients received opiods; 66 patients received some kind of neuropathic pain medication.

Drugs and surgical procedures weren’t the only treatment options available, however. According to the study authors, 28 soldiers (17 percent of the study population) were treated with “some type of alternative therapy.” The most common alternative therapy offered was therapeutic massage, which was performed on 13 soldiers, and administered more frequently than chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture and glucosamine/chondroitin supplements combined. More than half of these patients treated with alternative therapies (15) were diagnosed with postsurgical pain or lumbar herniated disk before receiving care. In fact, more than one-third of all military personnel diagnosed with postsurgical pain were treated with massage.

The study pointed out the number of injuries suffered during combat was significantly less than the number of non-combat injuries; in fact, only 17 percent of the patients stated they were injured during battle.

Such nonbattle-related injuries, or NBIs, can take a serious toll on overall troop strength in modern warfare. According to the authors, “Among the 21,655 soldiers admitted to army hospitals in Southwest Asia during the Persian Gulf War, acute NBI comprised 25 percent of all hospitalizations, with musculoskeletal conditions ranking second at 13 percent.”

Presenting Pain Complaints in Soldiers Injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom*
Pain Presentation (n=162) Frequency Percentage
Lumbar radicular pain 49 30.2%
Axial low back pain 37 22.8%
Nonradicular leg pain 24 14.8%
Nonradicular arm pain 16 9.9%
Groin pain 15 9.3%
Thoracic pain 10 6.2%
Neck pain 10 6.2%
Abdominal pain 8 4.9%
Cervical radicular pain 6 3.7%
Headache 6 3.7%
Thoracic radicular pain 2 1.2%
Polyarthralgia 1 0.6%
Facial pain 1 0.6%
* The percentage of pain complaints is based on the number of patients (162), not the number of presenting symptoms (185).

Taking these numbers into account, this would mean that more than 2,800 soldiers were hospitalized due to musculoskeletal complaints during the Gulf War. Given the increasing number of low back and other musculoskeletal injuries that seem to be the norm in modern warfare, and given that these conditions often are seen by massage therapists in the civilian sector, it would appear that massage therapists are just as qualified as other health care providers in helping to ease the pain and suffering of injured military personnel.

For more information, go to the article here.


  1. Cohen SP, Griffith S, Larkin TM, Villena F, Larkin R. Presentation, diagnoses, mechanisms of injury, and treatment of soldiers injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom: An epidemiological study conducted at two military pain management centers. Anesth Analg 2005;101:1098-1103.
  2. Hoeffler DF, Melton LJ. Changes in the distribution of Navy and Marine Corps casualties from World War I through the Vietnam conflict. Mil Med 1981;146:776-9.
  3. Writer JV, DeFraites RF, Keep LW. Non-battle injury casualties during the Persian Gulf War and other deployments. Am J Prev Med 2000;18:64-70.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: