14 June 2009

Take care of the BACK and the BONES!

Our bones are very important if you simply consider that beneath the skin and flesh is your strong but delicate skeletal system. As you give thought to taking care of your body and health on the whole, you should also put an emphasis on what you do to care for your bones.

This morning as I was dressing, I bothered to hear the vocals of that Sally Field commercial where she talks about taking Boniva (ibandronate) for osteoporosis. She starts out saying that though she did all the right things to make sure her bones were getting calcium and Vitamin D, she still got osteoporosis.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, there are 5 things you should do to prevent getting osteoporosis, and they advise that doing just ONE will not prevent you from getting it.

1. Eat right
2. Exercise
3. Avoid smoking, and excessive alcohol
4. Talk to your healthcare person about bone health
5. Get a bone density test

Your doctor may have you starting bone density tests from when you are 50, depending on your state of health and any issues you may have. So the key is to keep those bones strong until then!

My story
I realize years ago I wanted to make sure I had a strong healthy back after watching my mother being afflicted with back pain for days and weeks at a time. They were muscle problems, but it still motivated me to put an emphasis on including back strengthening exercises in my regular program. I have had a few very serious accidents that could have resulted in major back issues today, but because I made certain to do my exercises, I healed very quickly.

There was one incident in the gym a few years ago when I was doing squats on the Smith machine, about 225 lbs of weight, and I thought someone was spotting me. Just as I started my squat, the person walked away and my focus quickly moved from being careful about the exercise, to watching (in disbelief) him walk off. Next thing you know the entire bar and weight came falling down with me going down with it and I used my back to brace it down by leaning forward as I was falling. It all happened in a flash. Luckily with the Smith machine the weight could not go all the way to the floor, so I was able to ease from under the bar. As I went to stand up, I realized I couldn't. The tears started to fall because I quickly realized that I was hurt pretty bad. I couldn't bend, I was limping, and I was in shock that the whole thing happened. At the time, I was about 130 lbs, so imagine what 225 lbs rushing down on my back felt like?

I remember it being a Sunday, and I remember just crying -- crying when I could barely figure out how to get into my car to drive home. I could hardly function the entire day. I should have gone to the emergency room, but I was feeling too sorry for myself and did not go. The next day I was still in a lot of pain and unable to move much, so I made an appointment with an Orthopedic specialist. They took lots of Xrays and determined that I had pretty bad muscle strain but that I was amazingly lucky that it was not worse. He examined my back completely with his hands and he said that I probably lucked out because it was very apparent that I had a very strong, muscular back. I told him that watching my mother just lose "time" with her aching back was my motivation, and he encouraged me to stick with my program. Withing a couple weeks, I was back to my normal workout routine. People who witnessed this accident in the gym were amazed at my speedy recovery.

This story, and other stories clearly explain why strengthening the back and the bones is imperative. Some people will think, well my story is a bit intense. But people hurt their backs worse than I did, doing a lot less stressful activity. That is a fact. And while hurting their backs so easily, they endure weeks and even months of agony and discomfort which require NSAIDS and other medication. I did not have to resort to those things, and I hope that people can realize that you do have the power to strengthen your back and avoid these issues. Back pains and aches afflict a huge amount of people. I know I come across at least one person a week who shares that they are suffering with some back ailment.

Men get osteoporosis too!
Many people have this belief that only women are afflicted with osteoporosis and that is very wrong. 1 in 8 men are afflicted with some sort of osteoporosis. Bones do in fact deteriorate. Bones can be strengthened. Exercise does strengthen bones. The time to start keeping your bones healthy is when you are a child and you are to continue to do so throughout your ENTIRE lifetime. Though back pains are often "muscle" related afflictions, it can still be beneficial preventative medicine to keep back strengthening exercises, and bone building exercises as part of EVERYONE's lifetime routine.

No one should wait until they FEEL something is not right. You can't just drink milk or pop Calcium pills and think you will be ok. You don't wait until you are 50 or 60 to start because you may find out that you already have a problem. The proper protocol is to address it as a priority now.

We all think it is so cute when we see grandparents or elderly folks who appear to be "shrinking," and we put our arms around them with endearment. They have indeed "shrunk" and that is because the bones are deteriorating. Just because you may be approaching 50, 60, or even 70, does not mean you should just expect to start shrinking.

Weight bearing exercise
Last year, I added an amazing accessory to my exercise repertoire. In some respects I don't even consider it to be exercise related, but more so of a "therapeutic" necessity. A weighted vest! I am not suggesting that anyone go out and buy the 40lb vest that I purchased, but they do come in lighter weights (and fully adjustable by 1 lb increments) such as 5 lbs, 7 lbs, 10 lbs, etc.

Instead of waiting to hear that your doctor may eventually prescribe osteoporosis medication to you (because it runs in your family), consider what you can do to keep your body strong and off of drugs.

Sometimes I run with my vest on (only with about 5-10lbs of weight), or I do a P90X workout with it on, or I walk on the treadmill with it on (sometimes with as much as 30lbs), or I do house work with it on for a few hours. One just has to be careful about the weight, start off light and gradually over time you can increase. This must be done so that you don't hurt yourself, especially your knees (or back :)!

I can say that my back is as strong as ever! If ever I have an incident where I could have hurt my back, it seems to recuperate very quickly or plain and simply, nothing happens. I cherish this.

We all know how stressful life can be. Stress and the fast pace of life can wreak havoc on our bodies. It's important to strengthen it so that it can withstand anything at anytime!


The find out more about how weight bearing exercises and how a weighted vest helps with bone building, go to: http://www.weightvest4osteoporosis.com/osteoinfo.htm

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