In The Younger Next Year Back Book, Chris Crowley writes about what he calls creep: ‘Creep refers to the fact that your body can actually become deformed (his emphasis) in a surprisingly short time.’ Yikes! Can the body’s strength, balancing skills, flexibility and cardiovascular health diminish so quickly, if left as is? Yes!
You Got Yourself into This Mess, and Only You Can Get Yourself Out
The Younger Next Year Back Book is the latest in Crowley’s very popular Younger Next Year series and it is co-authored with chiropractor Jeremy James. They write alternating chapters to build a case for the alarming fact that the body’s slide toward creep can be quick, very quick, especially as we age. But Crowley and James have come up with a whole-body plan ‘to get off the slippery slope’ and manage back pain at the same time. Their book is humorous and easy to read. It’s also full of suggestions and essential exercises based on scientific evidence, as well as useful illustrations.
Back pain is the ‘ogre under the bed.’
Back pain, quips Crowley, is the ogre under the bed. The ogre that lands you in bed. The book’s premise, in a nutshell: changes in behaviour can have a profound effect on the quality, even quantity of your years. And they can save your back. But to change takes effort. You have to work at it every day.
Pain, as Crowley and James point out, is the way the back protects itself and lets you know that something is not working as it should. They explain in clear, simple language the physical structure of the spinal column and all the things that can go wrong. There are back muscles and core muscles that support the spine and there are ligaments (connecting bone to bone) and tendons (connecting bone to muscle) that can become sprained, deformed even torn. One of the common things that can go wrong, especially as we age, is that the discs – the spongy ‘washers’ between each small spinal bone – can dry out and/or compress and lose their ability to be efficient shock absorbers, as was the case with my student Laura who I wrote about in my 13th and 20th January blogs. Sometimes changes in the discs can cause the outer layer of the disc to bulge out: a bulging disc. Something more serious, a herniated disc, is when the outer covering of the disc has developed a hole or tear. A burst disc often hits a nerve root that will cause intense pain, radiating down the legs and/or into the buttock.
People often spend exorbitant amounts of money on treatments and/or medications to deal with their pain, and who can blame them. But back pain is often a behaviour problem that only you can fix. Pain management only masks the problem and back surgery should be the absolute last resort.
The best approach is a whole-body solution. Back pain in all its myriad forms must be monitored by a physio and by you. The first step is to determine what in your daily activities, or even in your fitness routine, may be causing or contributing to your back pain. Then an exercise program must be designed and stuck to, in order to strengthen and build endurance in the core muscles and stabilize the problematic segments of the low back; and alleviate the pain. Self-education is crucial, as is attending classes that specialize in core strengthening and developing good or better posture.
I am happy to report that Laura is now doing much better. She had a zoom cast read of her upcoming film project and is excited to get back to work. She is sleeping without discomfort and enjoys doing the video I made for her and can do most of it pain-free. How did she do it? By working at her recovery every day.
I’m reposting Laura’s 25-minute video. It is a restorative workout designed for people with disc issues, mild sciatica, and mild lower back pain. But please note: the information and exercises in the video should not be a substitute for medical advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your unique situation. Make sure you are out of the acute stage of pain before you attempt the workout.