Do you have a family history of spine/disc problems? I do – and it’s pretty significant. My brother and mom have both had multiple back surgeries, and my maternal grandfather and great grandmother were plagued with neck pain. Watching my mom and brother suffer over the last decade makes me want to do all I can to avoid their situation.
I recently accompanied my brother on an appointment to his surgeon (he was about to have a fusion done on some discs in his neck). I asked the surgeon if there is anything you can do to prevent disc issues if you know you have a family history. The surgeon’s answer: there is no magic pill. BUT core strength, exercise and a healthy diet can help.
Any time I think about core strength, I think about pilates. Pilates is a form of exercise that helps build flexibility and strength in the abdominals, legs, arms, hips and back. Spinal and pelvic alignment are emphasized, along with building a strong core and breathing.
I had been taking private and semi-private pilates lessons with a personal trainer for a couple of years, but stopped taking classes when I moved to a new town. With my mom and brother recuperating with my family after having surgeries this summer, it was definitely in my face that I needed to get back into pilates. At the same time, I’d been having some back/neck pain issues and tweaks – which I felt were muscular, but there was enough of a doubt to freak me out a bit.
So, I made an appointment with Debby Bowen at Bend Pilates, and have been going twice a week ever since. About 4 months later, I feel great. My core is stronger than it was and is protecting my spine – I actually feel relief in my spine when I engage my core correctly during physical activity. I can feel my core support my body when I run, ride my mountain bike, and do yoga. I’m more flexible in my hips and legs, and I’ve also been working on strengthening my rotator cuffs. What’s more, my body awareness is better – I’m learning how to use the right muscles so I don’t tweak out.
Although there is no guarantee that I won’t ever have a disc problem, at least I know I’m doing something about prevention!