Tag Archive | bad back

Looking after me.

Hands up busy women who don’t have time to look after themselves!

We’ve all sat through the flight safety message that reminds us if the oxygen masks drop down we need to look after ourselves first, then those dependent on us.

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And we all know that when out health fails, we are not able to look after our family at all. But busyness and obligations, both work and family, mean we often put ourselves last, putting off medical appointments, not making the time to exercise, thinking about those needed grooming appointments when we look at our shaggy eyebrows in the mirror.

In term time I am too busy for many things. One of my friends laughs when she asks what I am doing for the term breaks – she already knows the answer: catching up with my medical appointments.

So yesterday I had a treatment for my ongoing bad back. Naughty me: I need to exercise and stretch more. Remember these exercises? I was told off by my therapist: do your homework, your body needs it.

And then I dashed across town. Dashed I tell you! For a dentist appointment. I have a chipped tooth. (Oh, the joy of old age.)

Dash, my dashing. I had arrived for the wrong time. An hour early! But look what that extra hour allowed me: I got to visit a discount pharmacy that I normally don’t have time for and stock up on different toiletries. I haven’t yet got on the band wagon with BB cream, and they’ve already moved onto CC cream! So I got both. I will report back on these later.

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I really need to follow the flight attendant’s advice: look after yourself first. So today I will go for a walk and do my stretches. Oh and restart the exercises from my exercise physiologist. Think I will start from the beginning for two weeks: here are the exercises.

Just a short break

A long weekend away restores me almost as much as a holiday.

I very rarely play hookie from work. In fact haven’t done so since I was a whipper snapper. But there’s always a first.

I read a thread about when people want to retire and one line struck me now I suffer repeated back pain. What’s the point in paying with your health for wealth and then using your wealth to pay for your health? In other words why put so much into your work that your health suffers so that later in life you need to spend all your savings on your health.

My back problems largely stem from work. Stress. Too much sitting. Not enough time to exercise.

And given my idea of a gorgeous life involves being healthy and travelling, I ran away recently.

AND I DIDN’T FEEL GUILTY.

Sorry, just had to shout that out.

Only two days missed from work mind you. And my back was so bad I wouldn’t have been able to work for one of those days anyway. I rarely have a day off work for sickness. In the last three years there’s been one day. Which makes me question why I am such a martyr.

The back pain was particularly bad. So I tried acupuncture and cupping. Don’t know why it worked, don’t know how, but the relief was immense.

So here I am. Watching the desert birds come in for an evening drink in a bird bath.

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Watching the sunset over the West Macdonnell Ranges.

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Going for a swim in a waterhole.

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Bliss.

Just another binge?

I started this latest regime of exercise to protect my back. And it seems to be working. I have had nothing, not even a twinge, for a few weeks.

Now to keep on doing it!

Have a told you before I am more your book reading, TV watching sloth?

In the past I have started an exercise regime, seen results and then, without any notice, just stopped. I seem to be a binge exerciser. All out for a while, and then nothing for a longer while, nothing.

But thus far, I am still exercising! I think keeping the exercise log, and the memory of the back pain, is stopping me stopping!

Here’s the 7 days following on from my last exercise log.

Day 1: 4.2km walk.
Day 2: My set exercises. And 55 minute walk.
Day 3: 30 minute walk and one hour working bee at local school.
Day 4: 30 minute walk.
Day 5: 1 hour Pilates.
Day 6: My set exercises.
Day 7: Nothing! Thursdays seem to be my no exercise day! This was a late day at work, a community meeting and Halloween.

I love silly memes, and here’s one of my new favourites, just to finish off this post.

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Exercise log

The pain buggers off and you can’t remember what a cripple you were, right?

Well something miraculous happened this week since I’ve been back at work.

I kept exercising!

I know, I’m impressed too.

I’ve already posted today how I have resisted most goodies, except the scones. (And I don’t care, I’m no Michelle Bridges and I will call them goodies even though I know they are bad for me, and it sounds like deprivation to say I am not eating goodies.)

My back needs me to strengthen my backside and stomach muscles and I’m not going back there!

So you think my core should be strong because of how long I’ve been doing Pilates once a week? Nah! I talk too much while I’m there and do more old-lady-stretching-and-low-reps style of Pilates.

Behold the record of my continued commitment and ignore my son who exclaimed, “So when did you become all exercisey and fit?”

Day 1: 3.2km walk.
Day 2: My set exercises.
Day 3: 4.2km walk.
Day 4: 3.2km walk and half an hour of Yoga stretches.
Day 5: 1 hour Pilates.
Day 6: My set exercises.
Day 7: Nothing! Had a really bad headache. Just had to lie down.

Yah me, the exercisey fit thing signing out.

Oh, bugger it. I’m not signing off just yet.

I just have to brag. I can’t finish the post unless I do. I can hold the planks for 40 seconds. Three times. No worries. And I can do the side plank from my toes. And hold each side for 40 seconds too.

Good. I feel better for letting you know bragging about how strong I am becoming.

Latest round of exercises

Oh, she’s a cruel woman, my exercise physiologist.

No actually she is just a young, fit whippersnapper who loves sport and exercise.

And I do feel sorry for her, trying to motivate and push me. Madness, I know, given the pain I suffer with my back and that I pay her to give me exercises, but I do try to bargain down the number and repetitions that I have to do.

She is also a stickler for form. Exercises have to done correctly or the intended muscles won’t be worked. I strongly recommend getting someone who knows the correct form, stance, move to show you and guide you rather than just doing them on your own.

Anyway here’s the update on my next round of exercises:
1. Dead lifts, 3 sets of 12 with 15 kilos. I have trouble with the correct form of these. I tend not to move from the hips but just complete the movement with my shoulders.
2. Lunges, 3 sets of 15 on each side. These are killers! Oh my hip flexors!
3. Step-ups, 3 sets of 15 on each side. I have to watch the stability of my pelvis and knee, hip and angle alignment. I am stepping up two steps on my verandah. On the top I lift my knee up, and then return the foot to the start. This one really makes me sweat.

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4. Side plank from the knee, 3 sets each side with 15 leg lifts. I am only able to do 12 leg lifts this far. But I am building up. Previously I could only do 10 leg lifts.

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5. Plank, 3 lots of 30 to 60 seconds. I am only at 22 seconds at the moment, but I will build up.

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I have also added bicep curls, 2 sets of 8 at 7.5 kg, and triceps, 2 sets of 10 at 4 kilos.

And a range of stretches focusing on my backside, hamstrings, hip flexor, back and side of my body. You can look here for some stretches I do.

Droptober update
Flippin’ ‘eck. That banana bread is delish! I was cursing my husband for bringing it in.

“Don’t you know I am trying to avoid fatty things?”

“Yes, but you can have it for breakfast instead of toast. And you don’t need to put anything on it. You’re looking good. Droptober’s working.”

“I’ve only lost half a kilo.”

“We’ll, the shape of your waist has changed.”

Is there anymore motivation to NOT have that second piece than knowing your husband has noticed your weight loss?

So this far in Day 12, I have only had one “naughty” thing, a slice of the banana bread. Did I tell you it is 40% banana?

Staying strong! Hope it holds for the afternoon and evening.

Exercise log Week 2

Funnily enough, keeping an exercise log has kept me focused and has motivated me. I wouldn’t have thought that it would have made such a difference. But I suppose who wants to have an empty space on one’s log?

It has also helped me keep track of what exercise I have done and when I have done it, so I can see, “Oh, today I have to do some weights.”

So here is my last 7 days:

Day 1: 4.27km walk in 46 minutes. My set exercises. I know I said I would post these but I haven’t got around to it. I have a new set for the next 4 weeks, so will post these soonish.

And I did 30 minutes of yoga stretches, from a DVD for bad backs.

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I borrowed this from the public library. My back was starting to play up again and this really helped improve my mobility. Without this I would have had to take pain killers. It may seem counter-intuitive, but if your back is playing up, generally rest and immobility will only make it worse. This DVD also has some good information on treatments for bad backs. Well worth watching if you suffer recurrent back pain.

Day 2: 40 minute walk. Forgot to wear my GPS watch so don’t have the distance.

Day 3: 3.16km walk in 37 minutes. Slow because my back was stiff. Then some hip, back and hamstring stretches.

Day 4: 3.16km walk in 35 minutes. And 45 minutes of stretching from another DVD borrowed from the library. Stretch and Re-energise. It wasn’t as good as the Mayo Clinic one. But I will do it once more before returning it to the library. I know all the stretches and can do them myself but I find it helps following someone else, especially to ensure I don’t rush them.

Day 5: 1 hour Pilates. I do an equipment class. It really helps with mobility.

Day 6: 3.16km walk. And my weights and set exercises.

Day 7: 3.2km in 35 minutes. And 30 minutes of stretching and some strength and mobility exercises from the Strong Women series. Miriam Nelson has another book Strong Women Strong Backs which I found really useful. Nelson’s books are easy to read and she gives simple exercises to do.

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I also watched this DVD.

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Everyday Basics for a Better Back. Again from my library. It gave good advice on posture, stretching and strengthening your core. Definitely worth another look.

Droptober review of Day 11: I had 2 pieces of banana bread. Does this count as cake? My darling husband bought it. And it proves my theory, if it is in the house, I will eat it. It is mainly made from banana – 40% in fact. So kinda healthy. It was yummy.

I realised as I ate it that I tend to over-eat when I am eating while doing other things, eg doing a Sudoko. That’s because I don’t notice I am eating. So I decided to eat this piece mindfully. I savoured it and ate slowly and stopped reading the paper. Result: 1 piece was enough.

2 weeks of exercise and 10 days of Droptober, drum roll please …….

I have lost 0.5 kilos.

So I am 69 kilos.

Next weigh-in in 4 weeks time. Hope the half a kilo a fortnight continues. Skip right pass me as I am dreaming now. I might be 68 kilos then!?!

Keep an exercise log.

My exercise physiologist has asked me to keep a log of my exercise for a fortnight.

Well, when you write it down, it is not so easy to fudge what you have or have not done.

The blank row next to a day looks very empty.

It is not enough to do a walk every day. I have to build my core and backside muscles to support my back. While walking helps keep my back subtle, it doesn’t build the muscles where I need building. Also, walking everyday without enough stretches was tightening my quad and hip flexor muscles which added to my lower back problems.

And if you want to lose weight, walking is not enough. Lots of studies have shown that replacing some cardio with strength training burns more calories and builds more muscles which raises your metabolism.

Regular planned exercise or physical activity will also lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol. Which I need to do.

So for strength and weight loss my exercise physiologist has advised me to do weights. At least twice a week. And my hour of Pilates once a week.

There’s no denying the fact that I find the weight exercises very boring. I enjoy my walks. I can dream, think, plan, destress and get some fresh air. Look at this view from one of my walks.

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You have to admit that is more interesting than staying in a room doing exercises?

Anyway, here’s my log for the past week:

Day 1: 4.2km walk in 50 minutes. My set exercises. (I will post these tomorrow.)
Day 2: 9.85km bush walk in 2 hours 20 minutes.
Day 3: 2.66km walk in 28 minutes.
Day 4: NOTHING!!!
Day 5: 1 hour Pilates.
Day 6: 5.24km walk in 56 minutes.
Day 7: Lots of walking/strolling – to the Post Office, to the train station, around the city.

And Droptober review of Day 4? No bikkies or cake or chocolate or pastries. Today should be OK, but I might weaken tomorrow with a special day out with my husband.

Another round of exercises from my exercise physiologist

Went back to the exercise physiologist for my fortnightly review. I passed one test: my backside muscles have switched on! I know, I am so excited.

“Engage your muscle!” she says. Like muscles can be turned on or off! I bend, I move. The muscles that need to do the task, do so. Or not. In the latter case, if the muscles can’t work, I can’t move the desired way.

But apparently one can turn on certain muscles. And apparently other muscles can do the job of those muscles that switch off, so you can move but you are using the wrong muscles.

My exercise goal: to switch on the backside muscles so they do the work that currently the muscles of my quads and lower back are doing. See, it’s that compensation going on again. Compensating for poor action thereby causing further problems.

When I did one particular exercise, “Well, hallo!” Muscles in my backside made themselves known.

This was the exercise:
One leg mini squat

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To help get correct form, ie maintaining level hips and knee moving directly over your foot without collapsing inward, tie a resistance band around your knees and keep the band tight by pushing your knees out. Then bend one leg and lift it a little. Use the back of a chair to keep balance, push your bottom behind, engage your stomach and and squat. Start with only a small movement and make sure your hips stay level, don’t let one drop down. Don’t allow your knee to move forwards past your toes.

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I do three lots of 10.

I have also had another exercise added. Haven’t found it as resulting in as big an impact, and I do have to be careful that I don’t hurt my back. Apparently this one is a functional exercises, mimicking everyday movements. The exercise is:

Dead lift.
Stand with your feet slightly closer than shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, or “soft.” Keep your back straight and your shoulders pulled back. Bend your torso forward slowly, sticking your butt out, like you are about to sit on a chair. Keep your knees slightly bent and your back flat through the entire movement. Squat slowly. Keep your shins straight, so your knees are not moving forward. When down you push up through your heels quickly, so you rise up to the starting position with a bit of power. When you master the move, add some dumb-bell weights.

Again, I am doing three lots of 10 these.
Sort of like this:

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Or this:

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I am still doing 3 lots of 30 of heel taps, from Round 3.

Looking after your back – Sitting right at the office!

My mother use to say, “Don’t sit on your legs. It will give you varicose veins.”

Turns out I was right. It doesn’t. But I wished I’d followed my mother’s advice. My poor sitting technique has contributed to my bad back. And we all know how hard bad habits are to replace, even if you know those habits contribute to pain and illness.

As each episode of back pain returns, it is lasting longer. And I am taking longer to recover. So here is what I am doing to help avoid back pain. Hope it helps someone.

The thing that is having the biggest impact is changing how I sit, especially at work. I have had a Work, Health and Safety Officer evaluate my chair, desk and work practices. I would have laughed a few years ago (What you need someone to tell you how to sit? Oh the arrogance of youth!) but the advice has been fantastic. OK, OK, it’s the same thing as my osteopath and my chiropractor and my massage therapist and my mother have said. And stuff I knew anyway, but now I am prepared to listen to, and heed, the advice.

1. No tucking your legs under yourself. Turns out this twists your body and because you tend to do it in one direction, you cause all sorts of tension and compensation!

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2. No sitting for extended time. This is a biggie. Do whatever you can to ensure you move at least every 20 minutes: Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to get up. Install a widget on your work computer that pops up little reminders during the day. You can get it here: Sit Right. It says things like “Walk to your office door” or “How about doing some stretches.” Stand when talking on the phone. Ask people if they mind if you walk together somewhere, eg the office kitchen or just down the corridor, while you talk.

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3. Adjust your work station so you can sit up “straight” (like your mother told you).
OK, this is a continuation of the first point. But that first point was a particular problem with me. I thought it was comfortable. Turns out is was causing discomfort and I had to return to the legs under position to ease the asymmetry I had caused in my hips by sitting like that. So what is sitting up straight? It is not hunching! And not leaning forward! And not having your hips and knees at angles less than 90°!

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My WHS Officer moved my mouse forward, raised my monitor, moved my phone closer. All only slight adjustments, but they made a big impact on how I had to reach and the stress put on my back. But the biggest change was having the chair at the right height. I now know to raise and lower my chair for computer use or desk use, so that I can sit up straight and not be hunched. For years I have kept the chair at the one height! I thought leaning forward was how you worked when reading and writing. Here’s a good checklist:

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Good thing about that Sit Right widget is, it also offers reminders about the way you sit! “Are your hips, knees and elbows at open angles? Adjust them now.”

4. Let the chair do its job. I really love this bit of advice! Do you perch on the front edge of chair, because you “know” you have to hop up shortly? But then that shortly turns into a long time. Do you sit in the chair but don’t use the back rest? Well, your back shouldn’t be doing all this work. Adjust the chair so the back rest supports your lower back, and the seat is st the right height. Then sit into it and let the chair hug you. You will feel your back release when you let the chair do its job of supporting you.

5. Don’t cradle the phone in your neck. Come on! Enough said.

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6. Don’t twist. When I had people to see, but they needed information that I had on my computer, I would face them but twist to read my monitor. Now I say, “Sorry, I have to look at the monitor.” And move my whole body to face the monitor. Same with the phone. I would answer it and twist my body to view the monitor. Dreadfully multi-tasking!

If you’re young, you probably haven’t kept reading until here. You probably thought, “Old age, not me, nag, nag, stuff and junk and this and things”. But if you have a sedentary job, don’t wait until pain forces you to sit right. And if you suffer from a back pain and work in an office, I hope some of this helps. It is helping me.

Sources/disclaimer: I am not a chiropractor and am not sponsored by a chiropractor. The Sit Right widget was recommended by the chiropractic practice I attend. The widget and all the images I have used on this post come from this site of the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia.

Round 2 Exercise Physiologist

So, apparently my bum muscles are still not cooperating. And, together with a weak core, my back is not being supported. The aim is to strengthen both my butt and my core so my back doesn’t have another flare up.

I am continuing with these exercises from my last visit to the exercise physiologist. Two lots of thirty.

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And now I have to add heel taps. Three lots of thirty, on each leg. Start in table top (for non Pilates people, that is on your back, with both legs in the air but with your knees bent, so your calves are parallel to the floor, hence the table top analogy.). Engage your core. Keeping your knees at right angles, lower one leg down so your heel taps the floor while keeping the other leg at table top. Don’t let your pelvis move! Three lots of thirty. On each leg!!!

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And I am adding bridging with a knee lift. Again on your back with knees at about right angle, feet flat on the floor. Roll your spine up until until your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. It looks like this:

20130722-195402.jpg While in the bridge position lift one knee and then the other. Lifting both sides counts as one. I have to do three lots of ten.

I am meant to do these three exercises every day. They are quite boring and, while I am trying to think of them as medicine or treatment for my back, I have to admit I have not been as conscientious with this round of exercises. Mainly because I am back at work.

Still I hope some of these exercises help someone else.

I’m off to do today’s lot.