Christian Stewart, nutritionist and physical therapist, explains how to reduce back pain and enjoy sailing more.
Back pain can rob you of mobility and reduce your enjoyment of sailing. In this article we’re going to look at back pain and how sailors can reduce the incurrence of pain and improve their mobility.
Prevention is always the best way to avoid a painful spinal condition developing. Over 80% of us will experience some form of spinal pain at some point in our life. The “I’ll be right” approach is a disaster waiting to happen. The key signs you may be developing spinal problems are reduced movement (finding it difficult to put your underwear on in the morning, using mirrors to back out of the driveway, feeling uncomfortable sitting or standing too long). If you think you may have a problem with your spine, it is nearly 100% certain you will. The only way to find out is to consult a health professional knowledgeable in the functional and biomechanical workings of the body. Who ever you choose to see their approach should always be to detect the problem, reduce the symptom, address the cause of the problem and prevent it from returning, incorporating regular exercise is essential to your rehabilitation. Unfortunately there are no miracle cures, your spine needs looking after your entire life. Pain will always be the last sign something is wrong with your spine, so don’t use pain as the sole indicator of the level of your spinal health. You need to be consistent with your approach. When you have maximum restoration of your spinal function it is always best to have periodic checkups as a preventative measure because as research shows it can save you time and money by stopping minor problems from becoming major. In reality people service their car more than they service their body, fortunately this attitude is changing. Don’t fall into the trap of taking medication to solve your condition, medication will only numb your condition, in fact you can do more damage to your spine by ignoring the bodies warning signals that something is wrong and needs to be addressed.
Back care tips for the Sailor
1. You need to develop and maintain a strong mid-section (core strength) that will support your back and give you confidence out at sea.
2. You can always benefit from an increase in flexibility
3. Try to be aware and pro active about your posture
When you are sailing in any weather or at the end of the day, try and be aware of the way you move around the boat and be conscious of the body’s mechanics and the position of your back.
You should always have an exercise routine you go through at the end of the days sailing to reverse all the postures you have experienced while at sea.
A back injury while you are out at sea can be extremely debilitating and the only thing you can do if this happens, is try and find a warm dry area and lie down with a neutral spine (or flat).
When packing up or lifting, try and keep a neutral arch in your spine. If you are getting around with poor posture or a rounded back, and this usually occurs when you bend forward, with a lack of flexibility and strength in your lower back, abdominals and leg strength, this will cause the arch in your back to disappear or reverse and load up your lower back and discs.
Your discs are most commonly injured as a result of forward bending (or flexion) with straight legs in conjunction with a twist. So if you are bending, always have a slight bend in your knees and firm abdominals.
- Weight Reduction
- Improve standing and lying posture
- Do relaxing exercises
- Improve back flexibility by regular stretching
- Improve overall strength.
- Avoid long periods of sitting
- Proper bed and rest.
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