DUCK-DYNASTY-facebookYou might say the executives of the A&E cable network were pleased with the premiere of the 2013 season of Duck Dynasty. Actually, it would be more accurate to say they were happy, happy, happy – to borrow a phrase from the patriarch of the Robertson clan!  As USA Today noted, “Wednesday’s episode, which focused on a surprise wedding-vow renewal ceremony for Phil and Kay Robertson, attracted 11.8 million viewers and 6.3 million advertiser-coveted young adults (18-to-49).” This was no fluke. This episode was up 37% in viewers and 26% in young adults vs. last season’s premiere, which also set records.

So, what gives here? Why would almost 12-million viewers tune in to a reality show based on the often ridiculous exploits of a group of self-avowed, redneck duck hunters?

Dr. Ralph F. Rashbaum, M.DWe asked Texas Back Institute surgeon and avid outdoor sportsman Dr. Ralph Rashbaum that question and his response is consistent with media observers around the world, “It’s simple, really. This show is about family values. All of the hunting, fishing, duck calls and related hijinks are just supporting storylines to this.”

Whether it was intentional or not, Duck Dynasty and the Southern charm of the extended Robertson family has had a positive influence on a large number of people –  both city slickers and country bumpkins – who have developed an interest in hunting and fishing. While the fishing rod, shotgun and camouflage apparel manufacturers are (dare we say it) happy, happy, happy, this will inevitably lead to more people in the fields when the fall hunting season kicks off in September.

Unfortunately, some of these hunters will show up in Dr. Rashbaum’s examining room shortly thereafter. Before getting some advice from him about avoiding back injuries while swinging that shotgun, let’s take a moment to introduce Duck Dynasty to precious few who have not made the acquaintance of the Robertson family of West Monroe, Louisiana.

Meet the Folks who Work for Duck Commander

 

The storylines of the 1950’s situation comedy “I Love Lucy” worked around a one-bedroom apartment in New York City where Lucy and Ricky Ricardo managed to get into hysterical predicaments with the help of their neighbors, Fred and Ethyl Mertz. Similarly, almost every episode of Duck Dynasty incorporates the “Duck Commander” duck call factory. Unlike Lucy and Ricky’s home, this factory actually exists and this very successful company, started by Phil Robertson, has produced highly regarded duck calls for many years.

When Phil retired to hunt ducks, fish for crappie and teach his grandbabies “how to avoid becoming yuppies,” his son Willie took over as CEO of Duck Commander. The other Robertson son, Jase, is an employee of the company and, as the most of the funny premises of the show result from Jase refusing to recognize the authority of his older brother, Willie. He is usually joined in this harassment of his brother by their Uncle Si, Phil’s brother, a Vietnam vet, perpetual ice-tea drinker and full time philosopher, and the rest of the employees at Duck Commander.

Each week, these real-life characters deal with simple issues that are cleverly embellished to become a comedic crisis. In the end, everything gets worked out and the last scene of every episode has the entire family around the dinner table with Phil saying grace.

Duck Dynasty: A Boon for Outdoor Sports

The fun these folks on Duck Dynasty are having is resonating with men and women who have decided to take up the sports of hunting and fishing. Several outdoor sports trade publications have noted that the show has done more for increasing the popularity of these ancient pursuits than anything in the past century.

It’s estimated by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) that more than 20.6 million people in the U.S. hunt each year and this number will likely increase with the popularity of this show and others like it. Two years ago, the NSSF noted that more than 8,000 U.S. hunters annually were injured while enjoying their time in the woods and as more novice hunters get out in the field, this number will likely increase.

As someone who is both an avid outdoor sportsman and highly-regarded spine surgeon, Dr. Ralph Rashbaum is in a unique position to offer some guidance to both novice and seasoned hunters and anglers. “Stamina and flexibility are the two most important factors in avoiding back strains or injuries, but common sense and proper safety precautions are even more important,” he said.

Hochschuler and Rashbaum 03Dr. Rashbaum continued, “I love to bow hunt and many times this is done from a tree stand to avoid the superior sense of smell enjoyed by deer. Climbing up to the stand can cause back strains if the muscles are not properly conditioned. Falling from a tree stand can seriously injure or facture the vertebrae in the spine. This type of accident is very common and it can be avoided with proper precautions.”

Dove season begins in most states in September and many hunters will be donning the camo and swinging their 12 and 20-guage shotguns for hours. What does Dr. Rashbaum suggest for these hunters to avoid back strains and injuries?

“I’ve been on a 4-day dove hunt in South America, where my son-in-law and I shot more than 2,300 rounds of 12 and 20-gauge shells! Needless to say, we were tired at the end of the day (however, not as tired as the retrievers who brought back the birds!), but because we had conditioned our shoulders, neck and arms and had spent time stretching these muscles before the hunt, we were able to have an amazing experience and very little back pain.”

Fishing is also popular with the Duck Dynasty clan and millions of other outdoor sports enthusiasts. What does Dr. Rashbaum recommend to avoid back strain from a day of casting? “It really depends on the type of fishing you are thinking about. I love to deep-sea fish and also enjoy fly fishing in fresh water. These are two very different experiences and require different conditioning.”

“If you think you might fighting a marlin for two hours on the open sea, you should definitely get to the gym a few weeks before the trip and work on building strength in your back, shoulder and arm muscles. This can be done with weight training as well as such exercises as rowing and pull-downs. On the other hand, the most dangerous part of fly fishing is not from casting but rather from walking on slippery rocks to get near the fish. Having appropriate equipment – waders with boots that don’t slide and using a walking stick – will help with this.”

Life Lessons of Duck Dynasty

It’s interesting that the situations and values portrayed on Duck Dynasty seem to be as relevant to an urban audience as it is to that which is rural. While he lives and practices in the highly-urbanized area, Dr. Rashbaum is a big fan of the show. “The people on Duck Dynasty are the salt of the earth and represent the best of family values. Plus, they’re very funny!”

It appears that life lessons of Phil, his family and friends on Duck Dynasty go beyond frog catching and duck calling. As Uncle Si would say: “That’s a fact, Jack.”

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What is it about the spring and summer that makes us believe our bodies are indestructible? Maybe it’s the warm weather beckoning us to get out of the house after a long, cold winter. Perhaps it’s the traditional warm-weather outdoor activities such as gardening, walking, biking, running or fishing. It could be the horror that comes from glancing at the full-length mirror in the hall and noticing  the winter weight – resulting from all the comfort food and no physical activity – is about to be displayed for the entire world to see the first time a swimsuit or tennis togs are worn.

For these and a myriad of other reasons, many otherwise sane individuals decide  the pleasant chirping of birds and distant hum of a lawn mower should be accompanied by the sounds of running shoes hitting the pavement and the huffing and puffing that comes from someone trying get back into shape. In moderation, this is a worthwhile and even healthy endeavor. However, if it’s overdone or done improperly, it can result in debilitating back pain, excruciating joint pain, herniated discs, sacroiliac joint strains and possible injury to the spine, neck and limbs.

In order to help you avoid this rite of spring, we’ve asked Texas Back Institute occupational and sports medicine specialist, Dr. James Cable, to give us some insights on avoiding the pain while realizing the gain of exercise and activity. Before getting this advice, it’s interesting to review the ways we abuse our bodies, in the hopes of getting into swimsuit shape.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is the U.S. governmental agency charged with a wide range of public health monitoring and management duties and one of its missions involves promoting physical activities and preventing injuries. The agency’s website notes, “Participation in sports, recreation, and exercise is increasingly popular and widespread in American culture. These activities include organized sports (school or club) and unorganized sports (backyard or pick-up), such as basketball, football, and hockey; recreational activities, such as boating, biking, skiing, swimming, and playground activities; and exercise and training activities, such as weight-lifting, aerobics, and jogging.”

The site continues, “Participation in sports, recreation and exercise activities contributes to health-related fitness; however, the risk of injury is inherent in any physical activity.” This is why the CDC is concerned about you or your family members’ participation in organized or individual exercise and recreational activities.

The public health agency references some serious public health data.

  • More than 10,000 people receive treatment in the nation’s emergency departments each day for injuries sustained in (recreational) activities.
  • At least one of every five emergency room visits for an injury results from participation in sports or recreation.
  • 1999, Americans made an estimated 1.5 million ER visits for injuries sustained while playing basketball, baseball, softball, football, or soccer.
  • Approximately 715,000 sports and recreation injuries occur each year in school settings alone.

And here is the most depressing part of these data.

  • Injuries are also a leading reason people stop participating in potentially beneficial physical activity.

The statistical breakdown on sports and recreational injuries is also interesting to contemplate – especially before jumping in to that full-court basketball game without warming up.

  • Children younger than 15 years account for about 40% of all recreation related emergency room visits.
  • Adolescents and young adults under age 25 have high participation rates in recreational activities and experience almost one third of all recreational-related injuries.
  • The population of older adults is increasing, and little is known about their injury risk during participation in Sports Related Exercise.  In 1996, emergency rooms treated more than 53,000 sports and recreation-related injuries among people 65 and older, a 54% increase from 1990.

This third point suggests even more mayhem as the Baby Boomer generation, which has a well-chronicled interest in feeling and looking healthy, ages. This zest for life and activity combined with the wear and tear on muscles and joints exponentially increases the potential for emergency room visits.

With All of These Fitness Options, Why is Obesity at an All-Time High?

With the popularity of “boot camps” and “cross fit” training along with the proliferation of high-tech workout facilities, spinning classes, treadmills and other fitness equipment, soccer camps, basketball camps, marathon training classes and any number of other sports and recreational opportunities men, women and children have numerous opportunities to get fit. With all of these opportunities, the intriguing question is: Why is the U.S. population – especially children – more obese than it has ever been in history?

The answer may have to do with the fact  pain and injuries discourage adults of all ages and kids from participating in regular fitness activities. This would also explain why the public health experts at the CDC are concerned about sports and recreational injury trends.

Before Undertaking Vigorous Activity – Read This

 Aside from the healthcare expenses, the human misery associated with spring and summer recreational activities are serious considerations.Therefore, before taking off on that 50-mile bike ride with no advance training, or having too much weight on the bench press bar, take a minute to read this advice from Dr. James Cable. He is a specialist in recreational and occupational back injuries at Texas Back Institute.

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What are the most prevalent sports and recreation related injuries  you treat in the spring and summer?

As people get more active – working out or doing yard work – the most common injury is a back sprain. Usually, if someone with a back sprain can take it easy and then slowly get back into gentle activity, they are able to overcome this problem. However, if they’ve given it 2 to 4 weeks to rest and they are still experiencing pain, they should probably get some medical attention. For a normal back sprain, one shouldn’t spend more than a couple of days in bed because any more than this will cause a loss in muscle strength. Conversely, they don’t want to exacerbate the injury. The best approach is to slowly test the water by slowly increasing the activity.

What can a person who has been inactive during the winter do to acclimate themselves to outdoor activities, without becoming injured?

They should use basic athletic training principles of gradual increases in the level of activity. For example, if someone is not accustomed to running, she/he should undertake a walking/jogging approach. This involves alternating three minutes of walking and one minute of jogging for a total of 30 minutes. Gradually, the individual should work to increase the number of minutes jogging, while still alternating with walking for a total of one hour. The key is to slowly ease into the activity. If it’s yard work your undertaking, you don’t want to be lifting 100 pound bags of cement unless you’re used to lifting this weight.

What are the types back injuries  you treat most often for those participating in spring sports and recreation?

The types of back injuries  we see the most of are those that occur from lifting, twisting and bending. These are back muscle strains, herniated discs and sacroiliac joint strains. The pressure from lifting that 100-pound of cement or twisting the body in the course of a pickup basketball game loads the spine in an awkward fashion. Under extreme conditions lifting heavy objects can result in the discs being ruptured.

Common aches and pains will always occur when someone takes part in strenuous activity. However, is there a type of pain or feeling that suggests  medical attention should be sought immediately?

It is very rare but if the person becomes paralyzed or loses control of their bowel and/or bladder, they should go to the Emergency Room immediately. Short of that, if one develops gradual numbness in legs or arms, they need to come in to see us. Neurologic symptoms such as dragging a foot or the extreme symptoms noted above are alarming and very rare, but if they occur after strenuous physical activity, a doctor’s exam is called for.

What is your best advice for someone thinking about getting into shape this spring?

Don’t get out of shape in the first place! The biggest battle involves the couch potato who has not been in shape for years. However, we live in the real world and lots of people are out of shape. Even athletes who fail to maintain a level of physical activity can get out of shape. However, if they have been in good condition before, it’s easier for them to get back into shape. The best advice is to do something; walking, ride a stationary bike just get moving a little. Fortunately, people who are not used to exercising will see benefits a lot faster, because their baseline is lower.

Since Sunday is Mother’s Day, here’s a story about my mom. We had some puppies and I gave my mom one of these little guys. She’s about 5’ 1” and at the time was a little overweight and had health issues associated with this weight problem. This is a lady who got no exercise whatsoever. Well, the puppy wanted to be walked and she started walking him around the block a couple of times each day. The effect of this minimal exercise was pretty amazing. She lost 20 pounds and her blood pressure normalized just by taking her dog out for a walk. If she can get into shape with this small commitment of time, anyone can!


 

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The National Football League is about 4 months from the opening day kick-off and yet millions of football fans will be riveted to their televisions and computer tablets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Why? The annual NFL draft of amateur players occurs on these nights and for at least 254 players, it’s the most important day in their young lives.

Being chosen in the NFL draft is the first official step to becoming a member of a very elite club. It’s a club which can be very lucrative and one where the membership is short-lived – usually about 6 years. It’s also a business where the occupational hazard often includes debilitating back pain.

Since Texas Back Institute specializes in spine injuries, artificial disc replacement, and treatment of chronic back pain, we thought it might be interesting for players and fans alike to get a glimpse into how these supermen withstand the back pain resulting from playing professional football. For this analysis, we’ve asked Dr. Shawn Henry, whose specialty at Texas Back Institute is spinal surgery, to give us his expert opinion on how these men survive a  physically demanding of team sports. But first, let’s look at this year’s draft.

Who Gets the Top Pick?

For the players who hope to hear their name called from the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, draft day is the next step in a journey which likely started when they were about 8 years old, competing in Pop Warner or Pee Wee football. Through high school and college, these athletes have excelled in a game that requires strength, speed, year-round conditioning and athletic instincts only a tiny percentage of human beings possess.

Using a formula that allows the teams with the worst record in the previous year to get the earliest choices and theoretically the most talented players, the NFL draft has gone from a little observed event, watched by a few hardcore sportswriters in the early days of the league, to a three-day, fan-friendly happening. This year is no exception. The hoopla around the draft is palpable.

While it is always possible for a last-minute “trade” to occur among the teams which can change the order of their drafting position, as it stands now the first five teams in this year’s draft and their likely picks (based on media reports) are:

(1)  Kansas City – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

(2)  Jacksonville – Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

(3)  Oakland – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

(4)  Philadelphia – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

(5)  Detroit – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

For the rest of the draft order, you can click here.

Based on factors too numerous to list, many of the teams have more draft picks than others. For example, San Francisco, which had an excellent year in 2012, has the most number of picks in this year’s draft at 13. Theoretically, this should enhance their status in the upcoming season. Whereas, New England, New Orleans, Chicago and Carolina with the fewest number of picks (5) should be at a disadvantage. However, NFL fans know  having lots of draft picks seldom translates to a winning season.

When the smoke clears on Saturday night, 254 players will realize their dream of playing in the National Football League, assuming they make the team. Unfortunately, not every player drafted makes the cut and others in  this group can  sustain an injury in the summer training camps conducted by every team  prior to the opening of the season and their dream will die.

As noted earlier, a typical NFL career is extremely short – usually about 6 years for a player who is on the opening day roster. The reason for this is obvious when one watches the games each Sunday. The human body –even the superhuman bodies of these highly-conditioned players – has not evolved to the point of sustaining the type of repetitive trauma experienced in a typical season without injuries.

Some of these injuries can be  associated with the neck and back areas of the body and for some insights about these we asked the opinion of an expert, Dr. Shawn Henry an orthopedic spine surgeon at Texas Back Institute.

Henry_MD_web_1Over a typical season, the bodies of professional football players take a tremendous pounding. What is it about these player’s bodies that allows their backs hold up under this abuse?

In order to have attained their position in the NFL, a player has spent his life building muscle mass. This is the most important aspect of his conditioning is what allows the player to withstand the constant trauma of a typical season. This muscle mass gives dynamic support to the spine. Every player in the league has built strong abdominal muscles, quadriceps and other muscles groups and these “load share” the impact of the constant hits to the spinal column.

As fans, we often hear that a player has sustained a “stinger.” What is a stinger and is this a serious injury?

Basically, when someone gets hit hard in the neck and shoulder areas, the impact causes a temporary trauma to the peripheral nervous system. This causes a short-term burning, stinging pain. However, since this does not affect the central nervous system, there is no potential for paralysis and typically goes away in a short time.

The NFL Players’ Association notes the most common back problem among their members is degenerative disc disease, associated with arthritis. What does this mean and how can a player avoid this?

Actually, the most common back problem for every human, not just a professional football player, is degenerative disc disease. The medical term for this arthritic condition is “spondylosis” and it is a condition that is exacerbated by smoking, obesity and trauma. A player is not likely to smoke, but he may have tendencies toward obesity and withstanding physical trauma is a part of the job description. This trauma and weight can cause injury to the disc. For an athlete, good conditioning is the only way to help protect your spine.

There will likely be a great many young athletes watching the NFL Draft this weekend thinking they might get a chance to perform in the Big Show in the future. What can a young football player focus on in order to strengthen his back muscles?

The key is to build core, isometric spine stabilization. Weak core muscles cause injuries. They should also work on flexibility and increasing a range of motion in their muscle groups, their cervical spine and their lumbar spine areas. They should also make certain the correct equipment – helmets, pads, collars – are used in practice and game situations.

In your practice, what is the most common back injury  you see in younger athletes?

The most common ailment in high school and college athletes is a herniated disc in the neck and a pars fracture in the lower back. This is most commonly seen among interior linemen because they extend their spine by arching their back when they come off the line to block. With repetitive trauma a fracture can occur. Interestingly, because of the tendency to extend the spine, this condition also occurs with some regularity among equestrian competitors and ballet dancers.

What is the NFL doing to help control the number of spinal injuries among players?

Because of the potential for long-term neurological disorders, the league is researching the effects and prevention of concussions among players. There is no correlation between concussions – which affect the central nervous system – and back injuries. As for the league’s efforts in helping to reduce back injuries, there have been many advances in helmets, facemasks and neck wraps. Plus, a few years ago the NFL  introduced rules which prohibit “spearing” and this has probably resulted in fewer incidences of spine and back injuries.

Injuries Are a Part of the Game

Based on viewer ratings, the National Football League has become the most popular spectator sport in the United States. The athletes in this game are big, strong and fast and when they collide, injuries will inevitably happen. As every NFL coach says a few times every season: “injuries are a part of the game.” Hopefully, with better conditioning and high-tech equipment, these spine injuries will be limited in the future.

Now that the school year is off to a good start and football season is in full swing many may think the safest place for athletes is on the sidelines, however, studies show this isn’t necessarily the safest place for athletes anymore.  In the 29th Annual CATASTROPHIC SPORTS INJURY RESEARCH report high school cheerleading is accounted for 64.8% of injuries to female athletes and 70.6% at the college level.  Many attribute this high injury rate with an increase in gymnastic type stunts.  Though injuries may never be completely preventable, there are some tips cheerleaders can follow-up help decrease the likelihood of injury.

According to The University of North Caroline National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research the following are a list of sample guidelines that may help prevent cheerleading injuries:

1. Cheerleaders should have medical examinations before they are allowed to participate.  This would include a complete medical history.

2. Cheerleaders should be trained by a qualified coach with training in gymnastics and partner stunting. This person should also be trained in the proper methods for spotting and other safety factors.

3. Cheerleaders should be exposed to proper conditioning programs and trained in proper spotting techniques.

4. Cheerleaders should receive proper training before attempting gymnastic and partner type stunts and should not attempt stunts they are not capable of completing.  A qualification system demonstrating mastery of stunts is recommended.

5. Coaches should supervise all practice sessions in a safe facility.

6. Mini-trampolines and flips or falls off of pyramids and shoulders should be prohibited.

7. Pyramids over two high should not be performed.  Two high pyramids should not be performed without mats and other safety precautions.

8. If it is not possible to have a physician or certified athletic trainer at games and practice sessions, emergency procedures must be provided.  The emergency procedure should be in writing and available to all staff and athletes.

9. There should be continued research concerning safety in cheerleading.

10. Cheerleading coaches should follow the concussion policy and guidelines published by the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations).

11. Cheerleading coaches should have some type of safety certification.

12. The NFHS should make cheerleading a sport, which will place cheerleading under the same restrictions and safety rules as all other high school sports (physical exams, qualified coaches, safe facility, athletic trainers, practice limits, and starting and ending dates for practice and games or competitions). The NCAA should follow this same recommendation.

A cheerleader has been defined as someone who calls for and directs organized cheering, but more recently cheerleading involves much more than this.  It’s important everyone involved in cheerleading is taking an active approach to keeping our cheerleaders safe.

Do you love cheerleading?  Tell us what’s your favorite thing about cheerleading below!

Jason Brewton, Director of Physical Therapy at Texas Back Institute, shares 5 tips for protecting your back!

1)  The 20:20 rule:  For every 20 minutes you sit get up for and move around for 20 seconds.  

 2)  Flex the hips and knees not the low back when doing functional activities like:  brushing teeth, sweeping, vacuuming,  or washing dishes.

3)  Lift with your legs not your back, squat or kneel to pick up low items. Don’t use your back like a crane.

4)  Avoid slouching when sitting, use a low back support or rolled towel to support lumbar spine (even on couch).

If you look like this when you are sitting, you could be doing more harm to your back than good!

 

5)  If sedentary, walking daily may make a difference in your back health. Park a little further away at the mall or walk over to your co-workers office rather than calling them on the phone.

Making little changes in your daily activities can help you maintain a healthy back. 

Tell us what you do to protect your back!

 

***If your back pain last longer than 1-2 weeks you should see a Texas Back Institute physician to determine if you are candidate for physical therapy to address deficits in:  flexibility, soft tissue dysfunction, range of motion, posture and trunk and core strength.****

Tressa Scott, a teenager in Allen, Texas, couldn’t stand up straight for more than a year — until the summer of 2010 following a complex spinal surgery performed by Dr. Isador Lieberman. 

 Before her surgery, Tressa had a 60 degree curve in her lower back and a 35 degree curve in her upper back. Now, the curves are balanced at just over 12 degrees each. “It’s remarkable how much difference there is just a day after surgery,” said Tressa’s mother, Norma Scott. “Her back is so nice and flush.”

Tressa’s X-Rays prior to surgery.

Scott said she first noticed that her daughter’s scoliosis had worsened in the summer of 2009 after Tressa hit a growth spurt. “She was standing up in the kitchen and I said, ‘Tress, why can’t you stand up straight?’ And she said, ‘I am standing up straight,’” Scott said. “I went over to her, and even though her legs were straight, her shoulders were off and her shoulder blade was protruding. It didn’t look right.”

 Scott took Tressa to a Plano physician who referred her to Dr. Lieberman at the Scoliosis & Spine Tumor Center, a practice established by Texas Back Institute and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano. The center provides the most appropriate and least invasive treatment, support and coping strategies for adolescents and adults suffering from spinal deformities and tumors.

 Dr. Lieberman performed surgery on Tressa using the SpineAssist® surgical robot, a technology he innovated. At the time, the robot used for Tressa’s surgery was one of only three robots in the United States and the only one in Texas. Accurate to less than half a millimeter, the surgical robot enables surgeons to plan the optimal surgery ahead of time using a computed tomography (CT)-based 3D simulation of the patient’s spine.

“Like a pilot in a flight simulator, I can map out the patient’s spinal anatomy and perform the entire procedure before the patient even arrives for surgery,” said Dr. Lieberman. “The robot doesn’t do the surgery, but it allows me to be more efficient and more precise, and to anticipate potential complications before they occur.”

 After her surgery, Tressa was able to be a normal teen again. She gained a dramatically straighter spine – and also her self-confidence.

Tressa’s X-Rays after surgery.

 “It’s amazing to see how much straighter my back is now,” said Tressa. “I’m standing up straighter, not leaning over to the side. The surgery gave me a new kind of confidence.”

All of us are likely to experience back pain sometime during our lives. Here’s our Top 5 list of things women should do – or not do – to have a healthier back and neck:

Click your high heels less often. Yes, high heels make your legs look great, but they also unnaturally position your heels above your toes. This throws your entire body out of alignment. Over a long period of time, over-wearing high heels can cause severe low back and leg pain. Whether you’re traveling, at work or on the way to a cocktail party, wear comfortable flats, then make the switcheroo to heels when the time comes for the high-heel look.

Watch your cals. Try to shed a few pounds for the good of your back and overall health. Every pound you gain can add additional stress to the ligaments and muscles in your back. Extra weight in the tummy area pulls the pelvis forward and strains the lower back, which can create low back pain. Additionally, if you become quickly tired or have trouble breathing during exercise, it becomes harder for you to get the exercise you need that helps keep the pounds off. And if you’re carrying extra weight and wear high heels, you’ll greatly increase the odds for developing low back pain.

Find out if osteoporosis runs in your family:  You’re young and in great shape, so why should you worry about osteoporosis now?  It is estimated that about 75% of an individual’s peak bone mass is influenced by genetics. If you are genetically predisposed to osteoporosis, tell you doctor!  Also know that exercise, diet and regular testing are critically important for you to build up bone mass while you’re young and more able to do so. Young women should perform 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 to 4 times weekly to increase bone mass.

Bask in the glow of exercise while you’re pregnant.  Pregnancy is certainly one of the leading causes of back pain in women. If you’re pregnant, you should do stretching and strengthening exercises for your back before and during your pregnancy – always under the supervision of your doctor, of course. And if you do experience pain, don’t assume rest is the answer or it will be gone after the baby comes. Appropriate treatment can help you receive significant back pain relief during the pregnancy and lessen the chance of having chronic back pain in the lower back after the pregnancy.

Love your big bag but don’t use it like a suitcase. If your purse or satchel weighs more than 10% of your body weight, it’s too heavy – ask yourself, do I really need all of this stuff?  You also need to carry big bags correctly. We recommend you select a purse or briefcase with a long strap that allows you to carry it across your chest. And while we on the topic of big bags, shopaholics shouldn’t try to carry the day’s haul all at once – you won’t miss a sale if you deposit a bag on two in your car and return back to the hunt.

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