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Rude Fit

Get back

If you have back pain you may think you cannot exercise, but there are options out there that should actually help. Rude Health talks to the experts

The gym expert

Carl Cautley of Fitness Together in Ranelagh, Dublin 6: “The back is made up of 29 bones called vertebrae plus the coccyx. Each vertebra in your spine is separated and cushioned by an intervertebral disc – this keeps the bones from rubbing together. The spine has three natural curves that form an S- shape. It allows us to absorb shock and move in different ways. However, the skeletal system is supported by a strong muscular system. The stronger and better balanced the muscular system, the less chance of injury or chronic pain.

“If you have any form of injury to the back it is best to get professional advice before starting any exercise programme. If for example you have pain that radiates from your lower back, down your buttocks and into the back of your leg you may have a bulging disc which causes pain known as sciatica.

“Do these two stretching exercises back to back, once or twice a day and after any training. It is important to do them in this order.

1. Lie on your back. Pull your knees up to your chest. Wrap your arms around your knees and squeeze. Hold for 10 seconds then raise your head towards your knees. Do three times.

2. Lie on your stomach. Put your hands under your shoulders. Raise your upper body off the floor but ensure your hips remain in contact with the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Do three times.

These stretching exercises will put the natural curves back into your spine and help with posture. If after a few days pain still persists you must see your healthcare practitioner.”

The yoga expert

Dave Brocklebank is founder of the Burren Yoga Retreats and has been practicing yoga since 1978: “There are many different types of back problems, many different causes, and many different techniques that can help. Some people make the mistake of lumping all back problems together as if they were the one condition.

“The first thing an experienced yoga teacher needs to do is talk to the person to try to determine what type of back problem they are suffering from, how it is affecting them, what produces pain and what alleviates it, then come up with a set of postures and practices for that individual. They will also determine whether the back problem the person presents with is part of a bigger health issue.

“What complicates things is that there are many different forms of yoga ranging from gentle Viniyoga, to Hatha yoga, Iyengar, Vinyasa flow, Kundalini to Ashtanga. Some are very useful for people for particular back problems, while some forms can actually cause damage.

“It really boils down to going to a very experienced yoga teacher in order to get a one-to-one class where the teacher can spend the time doing investigation before actually recommending practices and postures, as well as recommending certain movements to avoid.

“If you have back problems and want to do yoga I would advise seeking out a yoga teacher who has a lot of experience in dealing with back problems and go to them for a one-to-one session. If the yoga teacher advises you to just join a class of 15 other people, then this is not the yoga teacher for you.”

Did you know?

Water can support a bad back or other aching parts of your body, so swimming is an exercise you can do without straining an already sore back. Try aqua aerobics, swimming classes or just walking in water

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