Thursday, July 30, 2009

Newsletter: Back pain, part 1

This will be a multi-part newsletter regarding back pain. It will include injury complexes, diagnosing, the experience of back pain (back pain existentialism), back pain and the physician response, multiple treatment options, physical therapy, and finally, living with back pain and the very practical means you can follow to decrease -or even eliminate- the pain completely! But first:
One morning, you get up out of bed, a little tight but nothing you haven't experienced before, and head to the bathroom. On the way you decide to put your slippers on, but seem to be struggling with one of them, so you bend over to straighten it out. Then it hits you. Wham - an incredible shock wave of searing pain emanating from your lower back and heading down your legs. You cannot move. Even the thought of moving causes more searing pain. You wait for it to subside, and in the meantime, while bent over, you ask yourself,"What did I do to deserve this? How did this happen? I went running, but that was over 4 days ago, and I haven't done anything since!" The pain starts to wane a bit, and you chance a move - one that will get stress off your back. You head to the floor, knees first, then hands. You think you have made it, crouched on all fours on the floor. You figure that if you can at least hold this position, maybe the pain will go away completely because it seems to be getting better (and you remember from some book, infomercial, trainer friend - can't remember the source specifically while concentrating on breathing through the pain - that getting to the floor, flat on your back, may be the best thing for you). And so you try. You begin to lay down on one side of your body and wham -there it is again! An immobilizing, tear producing, searing pain that feels like someone stuck a knife in your lower back and thenattached electical cables to both your legs and plugged you in. Fortunately, you fall over anyway and there you are, on the floor, on your back. It is here -in this position- that you realize that you are not infallible, that you cannot do everything, and that maybe, just maybe, your way of life -the path you have been following - may be the wrong path. You wonder if you will ever get up again. You wonder...what's next?
Elite athlete, weekend warrior, working professional just trying to get in shape, new mom, and more...all have gone through this experience. Some experiences are a little different than others, some more painful than others, but the tearing of lower back (multifidus, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum) muscles, their ensuing seizing, and the compression of lumbar spinal nerves generally can be traced through this experience.
Why did it happen?
Some sort of stressor had to exist, such as a workout, a bad fall, or long days at the office, coupled with the following:
1) overexertion of lumbar muscles
2) tight hamstrings during a stressful workout that includes long strides (sprinting, stairs, etc.)
3) weak lower abdominals
4) tight, or strained, psoas (hip flexor)
5) tight lower back muscles
6) improper technique when lifting, or bending over
7) weak glutes
8) bad posture when sitting at work
9) loose joints resulting from hormonal changes (new moms)
10) poor eating habits (weakens the body)
11) being overweight
12) high stress levels
13) weak, or injured knees
14) tight hips
15) recent ankle injury
16) Other

I've seen one - and in rare cases, even all - of these triggers lead to back pain. It is inevitable if nothing is done to correct the trigger.
What do you do about it? Diagnosing the problem is the first step to recovery, and that will be the topic of the next newsletter.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Wondering whether to get on the elliptical trainer, or go for a hard circuit training session? The elliptical has its purposes (mostly recovery or injury rehab), but if you're looking to change your body, you've got to get the heart rate up! Oh, and keep it up. You've got to go hard to ellicit a physiological response in the body. Athletes do it every day to prepare for competition. Why shouldn't you?
Additionally, the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found another compelling reason to take it up a notch in your training. During a 16 year study of over 2500 men, they found that those who trained hard at least 30 minutes a day were less likely to contract some sort of cancer -mostly gastrointestinal and prostate cancers. The researchers found that the reduced rate of cancer was directly related to a higher rate of oxygen consumption in those that trained hard compared to those that didn't.
You don't have to go hard every day - that's probably asking too much. Three times per week is a healthy goal to shoot for, or if you only train 3 times per week, then two of those workouts should be hard.
What is hard? Try to get your heart rate up above 80% max for a minimum of 30 minutes. Intervals are usually the best vehicle for this type of training. You don't have to use the cardio machine for this either. Mix it up. Run stairs, sprints on the beach, weight or body circuits, bootcamps, etc. - there are all kinds of training routines (hey, if you're a good skier, do a mogul run for 30 minutes or more!).

Monday, July 27, 2009


Check out the youtube video of a Slovenian Acapella group singing Toto's "Africa." Better than the original?
Just goes to show you that our talents are many; we just need someone to help us reveal them.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Wondering whether those mulitvitamins actually do anything for you? There's been many discussions amongst clinicians, nutritionists, and athletes regarding the use of multivitamins and their benefits. My theory: if you cannot ingest them with healthy eating habits, then take the multivitamin.
Here's an excerpt from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that may offer you another way of thinking about multivitamins:

1. Multivitamins May Tap Fountain of Youth
Taking multivitamins might make your cells biologically younger, according to a study appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The study compared the length of DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes, called “telomeres,” of those who took multivitamins and those who did not. The length of the telomeres of those who took multivitamins was longer, which is thought to mean they were biologically younger than those of non-users.
The lifespan of cells is linked directly to telomeres, which act to limit the number of times a cell can divide. The telomeres ensure that cells keep their programmed arrangement and do not vary — any such variation can lead to cancer. Every time a cell replicates itself, the telomeres shorten, and once the telomeres are used up, the cell destroys itself.
Researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that the telomeres of those who take multivitamins every day seem to be about 5 percent longer than those who do not.
As their database, the researchers used telomere and vitamin statistics of 586 participants in the Sister Study, which is a national, long-term tracking study of women ages 35-74 who have never had breast cancer but who have a biological sister with the disease.
“Regular multivitamin users tend to follow a healthy lifestyle and have a higher intake of micronutrients, which sometimes makes it difficult to interpret epidemiologic observations on multivitamin use," research leader Dr. Honglei Chen wrote in the study report. "Further investigations would be needed to understand the role of multivitamin use and telomere length and its implication in the etiology of chronic diseases.”
About 35 percent of all adults in the United States take multivitamins regularly, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Like to run? Knees hurt? Back hurt? Hit the sand -and not the hard sand, either. Soft sand only. Do your running in the soft sand and these three things will happen: 1) you'll give your joints (knees, ankles, lower back) a rest from the pounding of hard ground while still working your aerobic system, 2) you'll find that you will have to work up to three times as hard to cover the same ground, in the same amount of time as you would on hard surfaces, and 3) you'll use more muscle fibers running in soft sand-especially core muscle fibers- due to the slight instability you'll experience when the sand "gives" every time you take a step.

It's hard on your aerobic system, so be prepared to slow down to find your pace. I use it to train quick motions in my elite athletes as well. It forces them to work harder to change directions quickly, so that when they do hit the hard surface, more muscle is firing at each point of impact. It's a great workout as well! (brutal, in fact, if you're doing a bootcamp style workout in the soft sand). It will triple those elliptical machine calories in the same amount of time.

Give it a shot, and let me know what you think. Of course, you'll need a beach. And wear your old beate running shoes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Friends and clients, I will be posting my newsletters on this site for the next few months. I am hooked up with a number of medical journals and health resources, all in an effort to provide you with the most up to date, and REALISTIC, information about improving your health and performance.
By the way, there is an ad on the Yahoo main page that makes the assertion that you can lose 42 pounds in 8 weeks. This is utterly ridiculuous, unless, of course, you cut off parts of your body. Over 3 pounds per week of weight loss (2.5lbs is even at the outer edge of safe) means you are dehydrating yourself, which is very unsafe. Dehydration can lead to blackouts and seizures, not to mention cramping, headaches, joint stiffness, constipation, etc. Lose fat, not weight.
More to come....and check out the website - it's fun to look at, and, I think, you'll even learn something you may not have known before, which is a good thing!
Test, test. OK, I'm blogging. Now what? I need to get this blog linked to my web page so that you can visit my web page, click on the "blog" link, and see my newsletters. Any ideas?