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home : health : health April 28, 2016

11/8/2011 1:04:00 PM
Oh, your aching back!
By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

Back problems can make chores like shoveling snow (it's coming, just you wait!) and everyday actions like getting in and out of the car difficult or impossible. Sitting at your computer is getting torturous. Forget about skiing.

Injuries and chronic pain and misalignment are common problems in the Sisters Country - and everywhere else.

"It's all over the board," says massage therapist Sabrina Gustat. Neck, back, upper back, sciatic. A lot of it is injuries."

Gustat, who works with chiropractor Dr. Robert Jeffrey, says many injuries can be attributed to a lack of flexibility and repetitive motion.

"A lot of it is self-care," she says. "People need to stretch."

Dr. Jeffrey notes that repetitive motion -in your work or even in your healthful physical activities - can cause problems "even for athletes who are doing the same sort of exercise day-in and day-out."

Dr. Jeffrey says, "You need to have a variety of different motions that you do within your exercise program."

Imbalances in strength and flexibility can cause chronic back problems.

Jim Boraas knows that firsthand. Between old injuries, a significant strength imbalance, and the strains of work, his back was constantly wracked up.

"My hamstrings were stronger than my quads," he explains. "A lot of people don't know that your legs have a lot to do with your back."

Boraas used CORE strength training to isolate and work on his back and to develop more quad strength. As his strength came into balance and his body mechanics improved, his back pain, which had been ever-present for two decades and more, essentially disappeared. The change was so revolutionary that he now manages a CORE facility in Sisters to impart its benefits to others.

Gary Keown and Tom Harrer of Therapeutic Associates in Sisters can vouch for the importance of body mechanics. Sometimes back problems have a root cause that's far from the spine. A problem with a foot or ankle can set up improper movement that works its way up the chain and leads to back pain.

An old injury can manifest itself years down the line in a "bad back."

An evaluation by a physical therapist can let you know where you are vulnerable and how to correct that vulnerability.

"The way to prevent it is really to have a professional look at it," says Harrer.

Keown notes that "every exercise class out there says "check with your doctor.' Nobody does."

Yet an evaluation can not only identify problems, it can help you find a program that will help you rather than injuring you.

"We see patients who overtrain at the gym all the time," says Keown.

Yoga and Pilates can be great programs for people with back problems. Keown just cautions people to start slow.

Many back problems can be caused or worsened by the nature of the modern lifestyle.

"One of the things we see a lot now is problems with sitting," says Greg Zadow of GreenRidge Physical Therapy

& Wellness in Sisters. "We've become a society of sitters."

Glutes get weak, hip flexors get tight and pretty soon you're in a world of hurt.

Zadow notes that it's not the sitting itself that is the problem so much as the posture it creates, which leaves us vulnerable to injury.

"The ergonomics of sitting can definitely be something to look at," he said.

Adjusting chair height and using a lumbar roll can be helpful. So can getting up and moving around and stretching.

Zadow also emphasizes the importance of hydration to keeping discs and muscles in good condition. He also recommends supplements such as glucosamine, which can have beneficial effects for joints. He cites the Backpack package created by Metabolic Maintenance as a good supplement for those dealing with back issues.

Backpack was created by Metabolic Maintenance founder Ed Fitzjarrel because

his own back pain was inhibiting his ability to enjoy activities such as golf. The supplement contains glucosamine sulfate, fish oil, borage oil and vitamin E. Fitzjarrel reports that he was able to resume his golf, cycling and swimming regimen.

Diet, too, can play a part in preventing or coping with back problems.

"Diet is a big part of back pain, too," said Gustat. "Most processed foods can cause inflammation. It's going to come out somewhere and it's usually your weakest part."

If you're suffering from back problems, seek professional guidance to determine what's really going on. Then find a diet and exercise program to get you back on track so you can enjoy all the activities the Sisters Country offers.

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