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Thread: Advice on making my back last?

  1. #1

    Default Advice on making my back last?

    So, does anybody have any advice on improving the condition of my back? I'm only 20 years old and I feel like I have the back pains of somebody at least twice my age.

    When I was younger, my dad always told me that there was one thing that you should have when you retire: A healthy back. The reason that he told me this is because it is so easy to mess up your back and become bed ridden for the rest of your life.

    I feel as though I'm starting down a path of chronic back problems and I'd like to avoid that at all costs. When I joined the gym recently, I cited one of my goals as being improving my back. I want to be able to live my day to day life without the pain that I usually suffer from. Even when not doing strenuous activities I sometimes have problems.

    I really don't know what to do. I plan on working in an industrial background when I finish school, and that can only further increase the strain on my back.

    I'm going to make a trip to the doctor sometime in the future to see if I've done any damge to my back or if something is up...

    Any advice in the meantime is welcomed.


  2. #2


    Bearing in mind, of course, that we are not medical professionals, the first piece of advice is to seek the counsel of a doctor.

    From there, do you lift heavy objects often? If so, do you wear a back brace? Do you bend and lift with your knees or with your back?

    Are you overweight? If you're overweight, you will put considerably more strain on your back than if you're in healthy condition. I've put on a few pounds over the course of the semester, and I can notice even that small difference. When I was heavier (I weigh about 195 now; I used to be about 235), my back was quite a lot weaker and more prone to hurting.

    Also, do you work out at all? Do you do any kind of activity that would work the muscles in your back? It's amazing what a difference that can make too. If you're doing a lot of bending/twisting/slouching, try doing some exercises to strengthen your core (abs, back, etc.). That should help mitigate some of that back pain. I see that you've started visiting the gym, so build a day for your core into your routine. Do the lat pull downs and the one that feels like a reverse sit-up and the flab crunches and the one where you twist around and some others.

    Like I said, these are just things I know about that I think might help. If you're having pain on a level where you're needing to take a pain killer to deal with it, or if you're just genuinely concerned, or if working out doesn't seem to help after awhile, definitely go visit a doctor.

  3. #3


    Gold dragon made some really good points that I agree with because there is a lot of info we're missing here.

    I'd say the number one most important thing to do for your back is to stretch it out. You could be mistaking tightness and discomfort in your back for overexertion and chronic pain. Find some good stretches online (it's difficult for me to describe stretches without doing them in person to demonstrate) or ask a physical therapist to recommend some good ones. If you don't have a physical therapist, your doctor should know a few stretches or can recommend a PT for you to talk to.

    Stretching in a very mild manner will work your muscles when done correctly so the working out isn't as important as keeping yourself limber and using your back correctly. However you should NEVER work out without stretching first. And if this is a chronic probelm, then you should never start your day without stretching right after you get out of bed.

  4. #4


    Tense muscles and bad posture can cause (or worsen) back problems. Maybe check your office chair, desk height, etc. Try to become aware of any tenseness in your back/shoulders when sitting and try to relax. Change your posture often and move about. Get a new mattress that supports your back better... Walk with your head up and shoulders back, don't slouch, get a neck/shoulder/back massage. Have a warm bath to release the muscle tension. Don't smoke (it reduces bone density, IIRC), eat plenty (and a wide variety) of fresh vegetables, protein and calcium-rich foods. Try less-intensive exercise where your back is under less stress... like... swimming? Avoid lifting heavy weights, bend at the knees. If you carry a bag, use a backpack and use both shoulder straps and don't carry any anvils. And wear sunscreen.

  5. #5


    Where exactly is the pain? Lower, mid, ...

    All good advice from GoldDragonAurkarm and tiny, so I won't repeat it except to say: Seek professional medical advice straight away! It sounds like you've got the right idea with the exercising, but a doctor's advice and probably some x-rays are needed.

    I have thoracic scoliosis, so my nonsurgical options are fairly limited, unfortunately. Mine's a bit atypical in that my spine is rotated on its axis rather than being abnormally curved, but it still doesn't feel very good! If I suck my tummy in, I can see my lower ribs protruding on one side--a little scary! I've was diagnosed about 7 years ago, but it was a while in the making, I'm sure. Only thing the doctors and my personal trainer have done for me thus far is prescribe back-strengthening exercises to help keep the muscles from wrestling with each other, as muscle pains are a big part of it. The exercises have helped a little, but I'm on a pretty steady diet of ibuprofen too. At some point, unless nerves start to get pinched and demand surgery, I'll probably have to shell out and get a few vertebrae fused. A coworker of mine had a similar issue in his lower back and just underwent a fusion procedure and said the results are amazing. So! We shall see.

  6. #6


    Echoing what everyone else has said...I have multiple spinal stenosis (constriction of the spinal cord/canal) , premature degenerative disk disease, and many foraminal stenosis (constriction of the main branching nerves/passages out of the vertebrae)...mostly in my upper neck... You need the advice of physicians to determine the proper course. Exercises can work against you, depending on the condition (particularly when done incorrectly)... add Epsom salts to a bath, or warm compresses...alternate cold, and warm compresses, and reduce your caffeine intake. But mostly, until medically instructed otherwise...if what you're doing makes it feel worse...stop doing that. At 20, you should be far too soon for surgical interventions...and, I've heard as much bad, as good for fusions (some start out great, then get much worse than before the surgery) ...probably though, whether taking muscle relaxers/ pain reducers...or whatever makes it feel better...don't go on like you are made of steel! I am a very light/slight stature...I probably wouldn't be in anywhere the same poor condition, if I hadn't been so many years doing all the 'big-boy' stuff. I over compensated, and ruined myself...because I thought I had to prove what a 'man' that I was. See if there is any family history with bone, and spinal may have a genetic predisposition... Are your pains/injuries associated with new activities...i.e. going to the gym?? Best of luck, -Marka

  7. #7


    If you're having any acute pain you should definitely go to a doctor. However, I figure I might as well share the two things that I think have helped with my back.

    The first is yoga. It might take a little while to find a good instructor/class (I'm lucky in that there's a weekly class at work), but I feel better doing weekly yoga, and I think it's helped me figure out what good posture is.

    The second is strength training. I'd don't like using machines, but really like weightlifting with barbells (squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, bench presses, power cleans). While machines are very good at isolating muscles, most of the time you don't want that, unless you're rehabing an injury. Squatting with a barbell requires that you stabilize the load in addition to lifting it, which I think is better overall. Weightlifting actually has two benefits - first, you get stronger (duh), and second, you learn how to pick up heavy things safely. For example, I can deadlift around 300lbs, so if I'm picking up something that's 150lbs, it's both relatively light, and I know what muscles to use to pick it up safely.

    A good resource is the book Starting Strength, by Mark Rippetoe. He also has a website and forum, and is generally helpful as long as you don't ask questions he's already answered in the book. The website is www.startingstrengthDOTcom (not linked so as not to create referers back here - copy and paste it).

    I'm really a fan of starting strength, so I'm happy to answer more questions about it. I was never into weightlifting until earlier this year, but I'm really glad I started it. My squat and deadlift have both gone up about 200lbs in 8 months (and I did it somewhat conservatively), so it definitely works.

    EDIT: I tried doing situps, supermans, planks, etc, before, but always seemed to lose interest. With beginning barbell training the weight is going up every single workout, which is really cool, and made it a lot easier for me to stay motivated.
    Last edited by LittleAcorn; 03-Dec-2012 at 05:10.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Advice on making my back last?

    I am scheduled for a laminectomy on Wednesday. Sadly I have a disc in between L5 and S1 that has slipped into the nerve root running down to my right leg. I'm hoping like hell that it helps cause I've tried EVERYTHING

    Sent from my XT907 using Tapatalk 2

  9. #9


    Quote Originally Posted by Ronbeast View Post
    So, does anybody have any advice on improving the condition of my back? I'm only 20 years old and I feel like I have the back pains of somebody at least twice my age.
    i suggest that you stop going around feeling other people's back pain - it's very rude, y'know?

    oops, seriousnesses: well, first, there's your age. various aches and twinges can be due to 'growing pains' and such pains aren't limited to muscles and connective tissues, but even affect your neurological bits; like, it could be in the nerves or even just in your head (not saying the pain is imagined, although it could be, but more a misinterpretation or exaggeration of the signals).

    the other, and most frequent cause of back pain/injury is simply, your height. this is because the spine evolved in horizontal creatures, not vertical, and the taller and heavier you grow, the weaker the system becomes. because the system is fundamentally flawed, there are acute limitations as to what you do to offset the inherent weaknesses. increasing the muscular strength of the muscles which pull and twist against the spine will only help in a limited way (since they work against the spine), and your best option is probably stretching, to increase flexibility (the techniques of which'll also go some way to providing an immediate solution to muscular issues around the spine and disc issues within).

    other advice, not often told, is not to move from the sedantry to the active too quickly (a lot of wagon drivers get caught out by that, when, after driving for hours, they suddenly have to climb/jump out the cab). relaxed back muscles and compressed discs don't mix well.
    nor do relaxed back muscles and expanded discs. this'll be the case when you first awake, after being lying down for hours (also part of the reason why you're taller at the start of the day than at the end), but can also be when you're chillin' out, watching tv.

    fitnesswise, the body is designed for mobility, so just a good all-round fitness is needed. as long as you can run, jump, climb and push yourself up off the floor, you should be fine. for a clue to that, look to gymnasts and hunter-gathers.
    Last edited by ade; 02-Dec-2012 at 23:33.

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