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Old 02-15-06, 07:10 AM   #1
Blackberry
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The Comeback

In October of 2005 toward the end of a great season of cycling, my back went S-P-R-O-I-N-G. I went from riding centuries to barely being able to walk. I was on crutches, got a handicapped tag for my car and was reduced to using one of those electric carts in the grocery store. Oh, yah, and I gained 20 pounds in three months. The thought of cycling seemed so remote that I even stopped visiting BF.

Turned out to be a bulging disc, which was relentlessly pressing on a nerve.

Finally, with the help of physical therapy (which turned out to be a prescription for lots of core exercises), walking became easier, then I jogged a little. Now I'm able to run 30 minutes without pain, and I'm even riding a little (Went 12 easy miles the other day and do light spinning for 30 minutes several times a week).

But the real sign that I'm coming back is my return to BF. Glad to see you guys are all still here. And if I can give some unasked for advice--make sure you do your stretching and core exercises, in particular those that work the transversus abdominus--a set of muscles that is usually ignored but very important. Some basic info here:

http://www.nismat.org/ptcor/lbp/index.html

If anyone has some good exercises for this group of muscles, I'd be really grateful.
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Old 02-15-06, 07:25 AM   #2
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Oh you are soooooo right! Weak transverse abdominals= bad lower back pain. It can be so weak that you just are unable to walk. No one knows why this happens, but it definitely has to do with weak transverse abs and weak spine.

In the worst case scenario, if either muscle group is very weak, the transverse can completely shut down, leading to absolutely no core support, which is why you end up prone in a bed for weeks on end. The transverse takes the time to heal itself when that happens.

The transverse abdominals are the deepest muscles of the abdominal groups, and it's a ring of muscle that runs the entire waistline- 360 degrees. They are very important with core stabilization, but they're also involved with peristalsis- digestion, and they are the muscles used with deep breathing.

Explaining how to train those muscles is a nightmare. The movements are a little complex. What I can tell you is that if you do pilates, you CONSTANTLY are doing exercises that target the transverse abdominals. You can also stimulate the transverse abdominals by doing deep breathing exercises. For your breathing, you just want to lay quietly and inhale deeply through the nose, expanding the ribcage. Then hold the breath for a moment. Exhale through the mouth- extend the exhale as long as possible and think of completely emptying out the lungs. Imagine the lungs as being like a ziplock bag, and you need to empty everything out of the bag, so you press the bag when you've emptied it and you get the last bit of air out of the bag and leave it completely flattened. That's how you want to feel when you do your deep breathing exercises.

You can also do the bicycling abdominal exercises. When you extend the leg, give your leg a full extension. By fully extending the leg and providing the body more of a lever, you force the transverse abdominals to contract to stabilize the body. But... if your shoulders are coming off the mat, then you should not extend the leg as far. Only extend the leg as far as you can without taking the shoulders and shoulder blades off the floor. If you do allow this no-no, then the low back activates and does the work, which stresses the low back, and hip flexors will also counteract to stabilize the body. These two muscle groups are prone to injury, so you want to avoid forcing them to do such strenuous work.

Those are the only two exercises I can think to give you. There is another one that directly targets the transverse, but it is a bit involved- even in my class, the people don't understand unless I do a demonstration first. Sometimes, I make them stand over me so they can see it (though I don't like the loss of my personal space!). But the two exercises I gave you should be perfectly adequate.

Take Pilates. Preferably on a reformer if you can afford it- it allows for better build up of your core strength. Pilates mat is a lot harder to do.

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Old 02-15-06, 07:25 AM   #3
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Oh- welcome back!

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Old 02-15-06, 08:18 AM   #4
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Thanks KB, for the wonderful description of the TVA muscles. Better than anything I've heard or read so far. Thanks, too, for the tips. I'll be looking for a Pilates class asap.
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Old 02-15-06, 08:23 AM   #5
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See if you can find a reformer class you can afford first. Seriously, the reformer is much more forgiving on the back than the mat classes. If you have a very weak core (like yours), I would recommend 4- 6 reformer sessions for an hour each BEFORE you start doing mat.

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Old 02-15-06, 09:17 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by koffee brown
See if you can find a reformer class you can afford first. Seriously, the reformer is much more forgiving on the back than the mat classes. If you have a very weak core (like yours), I would recommend 4- 6 reformer sessions for an hour each BEFORE you start doing mat.

Koffee
What's a reformer class? Is that a piecxe of equipment? And is the Total Gym a total rippoff in terms of pilates?
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Old 02-15-06, 10:30 AM   #7
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Welcome back, you've always been one of my favorite posters.
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Old 02-15-06, 11:14 AM   #8
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Wishing you a full recovery and many enjoyable rides in the future
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Old 02-15-06, 03:14 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackberry
If anyone has some good exercises for this group of muscles, I'd be really grateful.
This book has a lot of helpful information and exercises. I have used these techniques to overcome the effects of 25 years driving heavy equipment and trucks. The author also runs clinics around the country but they are a little spendy.... ~$1500.00; still cheaper than surgery but read the book first. As usual, the price has been reduced 50% since I bought my copy.

PAIN FREE

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Old 02-15-06, 03:24 PM   #10
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Blackberry.....welcome back! I remember you posting then dropping off the radar as sometimes happens. Its always good when someone returns....makes BF 50+ that much more of a community. Glad you're on the mend.
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Old 02-15-06, 03:36 PM   #11
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Good luck with your therapy. Keep us posted as to your progress.
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Old 02-15-06, 05:43 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Digital Gee
What's a reformer class? Is that a piecxe of equipment? And is the Total Gym a total rippoff in terms of pilates?
If the Total Gym is what I think it is, then yes... it's a rip off, and not the same thing as the pilates reformer.

The reformer is a machine you use- working with resistance provided and with your own body weight to develop the core. It's great!

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Old 02-15-06, 06:21 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blackberry
In October of 2005 toward the end of a great season of cycling, my back went S-P-R-O-I-N-G. I went from riding centuries to barely being able to walk. I was on crutches, got a handicapped tag for my car and was reduced to using one of those electric carts in the grocery store. Oh, yah, and I gained 20 pounds in three months. The thought of cycling seemed so remote that I even stopped visiting BF.

Turned out to be a bulging disc, which was relentlessly pressing on a nerve.

Finally, with the help of physical therapy (which turned out to be a prescription for lots of core exercises), walking became easier, then I jogged a little. Now I'm able to run 30 minutes without pain, and I'm even riding a little (Went 12 easy miles the other day and do light spinning for 30 minutes several times a week).

But the real sign that I'm coming back is my return to BF. Glad to see you guys are all still here. And if I can give some unasked for advice--make sure you do your stretching and core exercises, in particular those that work the transversus abdominus--a set of muscles that is usually ignored but very important. Some basic info here:

http://www.nismat.org/ptcor/lbp/index.html

If anyone has some good exercises for this group of muscles, I'd be really grateful.
Welcome back, Blackberry. I have degenerative discs myself (L4-L5 is the worst), and did the physical therapy too, 8 years ago. Because of my back, my cycling is done on recumbent bikes.

For my core muscles, I follow a video called Healthy Abs and Back, that I got from the University of Michigan Medical School Spine Center. It has worked very well for me. It is available online at: http://www.med.umich.edu/pmr/spine/video.htm for just $11, including shipping. There are many such videos around, I'm sure, but I really like this one, and the exercises' results.

Good luck, and glad to see you back on BF.
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Old 02-15-06, 06:39 PM   #14
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It is nice to hear NO mention of surgery or the smell of surgery. Sounds like you are a good example of the non-American approach to back pain therapy.
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Old 02-15-06, 08:18 PM   #15
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Thanks, everyone, for your encouragement and suggestions. It probably doesn't surprise you, sch, that my doctor wanted to send me to a surgeon right away, but I insisted on a month of PT first. By the time I did see a surgeon, he agreed that I was making good progress and that the non-invasive approach was the way to go in my case. One of the things I learned pretty quickly--in the medcial world you've absolutely got to be your own advocate.
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Old 02-16-06, 06:29 AM   #16
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welcome back
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Old 02-16-06, 08:27 AM   #17
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I can't think of anything appropriately sarcastic to write especially since presently I have numb spots on my right leg and foot that are supposedly caused by spinal problems.
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Old 02-16-06, 09:20 AM   #18
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Terrific to hear that you are making some progress!! At this rate of improvement you'll be ready for the Mountains of Misery this summer!!
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