I read an article recently in the La Times: L.A. WALKS, Step by step, a way to health, happiness and friendship. The premise of the article is that walking and climbing stairs saved Charles Fleming from back surgery. This caught my eye, I tend to read a lot about back pain and my primary goal is to save patients from surgery.
As far as surgery, I am constantly looking for what’s new and how it might help my patients. For over 20 years I have treated patients that have serious lower back pains, many of which have been recommended for back surgery. So when I read an article about saving a patient from surgery, I stick to my core principles, and ask WHY? WHY are they saying that and WHY did that happen? In the LA Times article there are several key factors for WHY, its a combination of walking and climbing.
The statement in the article was that walking and climbing stairs saved him from surgery. Does that make sense, if so WHY? Absolutely it makes sense, and it is a good strategy for eliminating the need for surgery. We live in a technology world that results in a sitting lifestyle. We sit most of our day at work and then go home as sit to have dinner and they sit and watch TV.
We have become the sitting culture. Unfortunately, sitting is bad for the discs in your spine. The sitting position excessively loads the discs. This loading over a long period of time leads to a break down in the discs. The result is lower back pain. The longer your spine breaks down, the more severe the damage to your spine. This severe damage leads to chronic lower back pain, herniated discs, stenosis and even bulging discs. All of these could potentially lead to surgery.
So the question goes back to WHY this helped him?
#1 - Walking will get you moving. The benefits of this are profound for your whole body, but in this case the benefit is about your discs and your hips.
Walking helps start to balance out hip movement and flexibility, when your hips are balanced and flexible the result is less stress on the low back. With less stress on your low back the discs of your spine can start to heal!
Can this save you from surgery? Its possible, slowly over time healing will take place, but its not overnight. It’s not a miracle but consistency over time will get the healing to start.
- Discs need motion and walking will get motion to the discs.
The discs need motion for blood flow. Discs are avascular; this means they don’t have blood vessels. Discs get oxygen and nutrients from motion. So without motion discs starve. A starving disc breaks down very fast and can cause a great deal of pain and an eventual need for surgery. Motion feeds the disks and helps in the healing process.
#2 – Climbing stairs strengthens your Glutes.
A healthy low back requires strong glutes. I tell my staff and patients all the time, if I had one exercise for patients that have low back pain it would be squats. Squats are the best exercise for your low back.
- Climbing stairs strengthens glutes.
Having strong glutes will result in a more stable spine. When the spine is more stable there is less wear and tear.
- There are 2 keys here, healing and spine stability.
Reading this article and asking WHY can lead to some very powerful answers. WHY did this person get better? The answer is motion, strength and stability. This is what is necessary to get better and be saved form surgery.
At the Illinois back institute we preach motion. Our program of functional disc rehydration does exactly that; motion, strength and stability. The Key word for our program is FUNCTION. All our exercises and procedures are performed in a way that we can increase motion and increase blood flow, thereby increasing function.
We use a very precise form of unweighting (antigravity). This process is performed in 3 functional positions, walking, sitting and laying down.
Walking unweighted (antigravity) on a treadmill allows us to take the pressure off the discs. This does 3 things;
- Prevents pain
- Allows for you to walk
- Increase the oxygen and nutrients to the discs
- Similar to waking and climbing, without pain.
These above principles are the cornerstone for a healthy back.
About 20% of our patients, before they see us, have been recomended by a specialist to have surgery. They come to see us before they have surgery and we save 98% of them from surgery. I always say it’s not a miracle but if you stick to the core principles over time you will get better. We perform antigravity treadmill walking and glutes strengthening on every patients and the result is less need for surgery.
So if you have back pain that is not getting better start moving. (If you have not seen a doctor see one first).
Don’t forget to always ask WHY, because the truth will set you free.