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Back pain

 
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A lot of good input posted here already.

Been suffering with backpain for years, slipped a couple of discs.  Doctors only talk about cortisone injections and surgery.

I've found acupuncture to be the best thing.  Acupuncture and ginger tea to reduce swelling.

And yes, stretching and exercise.
 
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Lots of good advice here! I've suffered from back pain for a long time. I have better times and worse times, but it's always there. Things that have enabled me to keep gardening are:

- learning to keep my feet a shoulder width apart when I shovel anything or turn compost: this position somehow "automatically" helps me to use the correct muscles and I can keep working at least twice as long before I start to feel the pain. At which point I stop, take a break or do something that involves me walking around for a while. Like gathering all the tools I've left all over the yard

- making all my garden beds about 75 cm wide (30 inches) so I can stand over them and harvest/ weed.  I got the tip from Curtis Stone's videos last year and did this conversion last summer. Many more working positions have become possible for me now that I've changed to narrower beds. (My beds used to be the "standard double-reach" 120 cm). Changing positions often helps in itself, as many have said. But the biggest thing for me is avoiding that reaching position.

- hugelbeds can help too.

My main point is: don't despair, even if you have back pain, there's ways to keep gardening regardless!

Many people have said to me: shouldn't you stop gardening since you have that back problem, aren't you afraid of it getting worse. But the worst episode I've ever had with my back so far was in the middle of winter, after an intensive work project involving lots of sitting in front of the computer. So I'd say for me, sitting is the worst thing I could do and no gardening-induced back pain can compete with that pain.




 
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One thing that has helped my back, I think, is living a more primitive life. By that, I mean things like living habitually barefoot, and squatting instead of bending over or sitting.  
 
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Davin Hoyt wrote:I now squat into my own footprint for about 10 minutes each day. -
also put a downward dog and cobra pose in there. (and a cold shower cap-off)
I feel this information could turn a person's life around because it has mine.



I love do it yourself approaches, and while they may not work for everyone else, they can definitely work for someone else.
My back used to occasionally go out from work (construction). So I tried doing kettlebell swings and my back has never gone out again.
 
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Sometimes back pain is congenital or an injury that heals more slowly due to other health issues.
In such cases drugs can be used to help get you up and moving about.
Having masked your pain signals, its more important than ever to know your limits and don't overdo it.

As was mentioned, many gardening activities are easier on all fours, rather than bent over and reaching.
You may look silly or like a wild beast, however you'll be doing what you love.
 
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I read with interest how many things are in common with others on this thread!

First is to rule out crazy anatomy. X-rays or other can be helpful. If you have severe spinal congenital issues (not disc issues), there may be different modalities. The most common are spondylolysis and severe spondylolisthesis. There are others but very rare. Scoliosis unless very severe is compatible with a full and robust suite of motions.

If it isn't something like that, most of the time you are better off with conservative management as people have mentioned. Which means maintenance, just like an older vehicle or animal. There is no shame in aging. Due to our postures and lake of basal exercise and diet we do it too fast. At least I did!

Posture- so may good ideas on here, and I doubt one size fits all. I do tai chi and ballistic lifting, others use yoga and visual training- the important thing is enough consistency to retrain the postural mechanisms. What works best is what you will be able to do the rest of your life. Honestly they seem to lead to the same place if done routinely and properly it seems. I have the radiologic spine of a 70 year-old (including neck from a helicopter crash) but have been blessed with very good advice and hence few symptoms. Discs don't generally totally heal, but humans have ruptured them for millennia and yet here we are. Seated posture is a slow killer. Love the squat posture idea!

Exercise- if you are doing a limited range of motion for extended period of time (repetitive stuff, pushing, unidirectional lifting), you would often improve by doing what is called "motion prep" by physical therapists before you start (several aproaches on youtube). Obtain good mechanics in a full range of motion before the decreased or more repetitive motion starts. It is a discipline to not just jump in to the days work. You don't have to do as much of this if you manage to integrate full or different motions during your work (but I'm really bad about this). I do a full rehab before a full day of work, 20- 30 minutes. I am more nimble in my 40s than in my 30s for sure, but I'm a hell of a lot smarter about it. If you can move differently or more fully during a days' work, you will be better off, but from my scything I am learning how much of a preference I have. So I have to pay the bill up front, not run up a tab and pay it later.

Diet- this is a big deal and most on here are probably eating a nutrient dense diet (I hope, or are working toward it). I don't think one works for everyone, there are lots of different ones, and I found one that works for my genetics. There are already tests and I am interested if it predicts what I have found. I sincerely don't think we know what we don't know about diet, there are too many genetic differences. Alcohol and refined stuff is almost certainly bad in more than moderation but beyond that I don't think there is much across the board.

 
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TJ

> seated posture

I'm sure sitting a lot isn't good. I'd be interested if you had some specific idea about bad seated posture when you mentioned it. IOW, is there any "good" seated posture? What in particular makes it bad?

Asking because sitting is something some of us simply cannot avoid. So if there's a "good way" vs. the "bad way" - I'm all ears. <g>


Regards,
Rufus
 
Tj Jefferson
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is there any "good" seated posture? What in particular makes it bad?



Rufus, good questions. I am no expert on this. But my complete novice opinion based on conversations with physical therapists when I had my initial issues (2008-2009) were that sitting removes the normal lumbar curve and makes it opposite. Lumbar spine should be a curve with the apex facing the front. Most sitting flattens this or even points it backward (slouching) which puts pressure on the anterior of the discs. This would seem good because it unloads the posterior discs where ruptures normally occur, but for some reason it does the opposite. I am no biomechanist! In general sitting is OK for a period of time, provided the vertebral column remains anatomic. This is the challenge presented by seated yoga postures I believe. People sit in those postures for days and don't blow anything out. The other issue is unactivated hip girdle muscles.

What to do if you have to sit at work? At the time, I did have to sit at work, and my PT said to keep my feet flat on the floor, set the chair as high as possible, and periodically contract the hip girdle as if I was going to stand up (to keep them a little activated). The big change was that I started doing exercises before work, which involved range of motion and core stability much like people have shown on here. I bought one of those big inflatable balls and did
walkout exercises. After a few months I coud get away with doing them 2-3 x a week. The single best thing you can do is intermittent squats I think during your work day (no weights required) with engaged hip muscles, or to mix it up
single leg deadlifts with really good form. It even got to the point that I have a kettlebell under my desk for this purpose!
 
Greg Mamishian
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This is my kettlebell workout routine..
I've become quite proficient at it
and have worked my way up to 2KG.

 
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Greg Mamishian wrote:This is my kettlebell workout routine..
I've become quite proficient at it
and have worked my way up to 2KG.



Tehehe….but have you mastered the yelp at the end!!!  
 
Greg Mamishian
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Greg Martin wrote:

Greg Mamishian wrote:This is my kettlebell workout routine..
I've become quite proficient at it
and have worked my way up to 2KG.



Tehehe….but have you mastered the yelp at the end!!!  



I'm also a karate master.
 
Greg Martin
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Greg Mamishian wrote:I'm also a karate master.



When do we get to see that video! :)
 
Greg Mamishian
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Greg Martin wrote:

Greg Mamishian wrote:I'm also a karate master.



When do we get to see that video! :)



It's much too violent. ;  )
 
pollinator
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I don't know if this is going to make sense in context, but here goes.

Many years ago I discovered that I could fall into any kind of dance or martial art and do it well, simply by determining what you might call the center of gravity for the activity. Latin dancing the focus is low and toward the back, into the hips, and a very tight focus. Tango it's high and forward, in the chest, and broad. Ballet is high and forward, almost up into the throat. Martial arts were the same, and really any activity. If you're carrying buckets your focus is going to be very different than if you're pushing a wheelbarrow or throwing 100# bales of hay.

So by observation, the focus of the activity should never be on one side or the other--it should always be centered. It should also never be down into the legs, as this puts the focus too low (and split) and you're likely to go off balance. Carrying buckets the focus is low--if your focus is high you're more likely to injure your back. Pushing a wheelbarrow your focus is going to be high and forward, probably right under the diaphragm. After a while it's second nature to create the right focus for the activity, and you're much less likely to be injured.
 
Lauren Ritz
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Greg Mamishian wrote:

Greg Martin wrote:

Greg Mamishian wrote:This is my kettlebell workout routine..
I've become quite proficient at it
and have worked my way up to 2KG.



Tehehe….but have you mastered the yelp at the end!!!  



I'm also a karate master.


Now do the same workout on the other side. :)
 
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Update for me: I have added magnesium drops to my supplements, and regularly stretch my psoas.  I feel the magnesium is helping release muscle tension. (MK-7 and trace minerals are also new to my in-take.)
 
Davin Hoyt
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Davin Hoyt wrote:
I feel this information could turn a person's life around because it has mine.


Adding to what I wrote last year...
I now have a foam roller that I do before bed.
I stretch by lunging, placing back knee on floor, and pulling the back ankle to butt.
I lay on a tennis ball and feel around; get to know myself, basically targeting sciatic at but, and muscles running up back (and hiding behind shoulder blade).
I'm trying yoga planks; and alternate lifting legs.
And I'm trying what is called dead bug exercise to strengthen core - on your back, knees and arms up, straighten and lower left leg and right arm, bring back to start position, then, vise versa.  
 
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I am wanting to say something here, that may be a bit crude.



                                                           ***!!!Don't do exercises!!!.***


There, I said it.

Well, if you really want to, do exercises, it's not a big problem, and probably won't hurt.  But it's not really permaculture.  It is not a lot of bang for your buck.

Do you see animals doing exercises? do you see trees practicing weightlifting before they lift hundreds of pounds of wood up into the air?  do you see eggplants strengthening their core?  or do you see them moving effortlessly in a graceful dance with gravity? how about indigenous people in the "developing" world, do you see them shuffling and limping or do they move with grace and poise and life? how come 70 lbs of water on their heads isn't giving them terrible spinal injuries later in life? why is Burkina Faso one of the places in the world with the lowest incidence of back pain (source--Esther Gokhale, interview with Direction Journal).

F. M. Alexander called physical exercises "beastly exercises," and said you always wind up behind where you started when you engage in them.  I don't know if that's always true, but I would say most people end up substantially behind where they _could_ end up if they had literacy in the use of the self.  I  think you can get much more bang for your buck by really observing.  And though he may have been overstating the case to make a point, the point is one that still isn't really being heard by the majority of people: _How you do what you do is more of a factor than what you do_.

I'll say it again, louder.  HOW YOU DO WHAT YOU DO IS MORE OF A FACTOR THAN WHAT YOU DO.  There, I said it louder.

We're all permies here, so I'm hopeful there's an interest in really researching the immediate, sensory feedback.  [Just now I noticed myself using a lot more effort than makes sense to type this and to see the words--old habits--and could sense the feedback from my body clearly as I opened my attention to it again.  I'm not saying this as some enlightened guru, I'm a student of movement too, but I've gotten the memo and am trying to share that)

You can get improvement from exercises, but so can you get improvement by spraying a pesticide.  Pests gone.  Fukuoka observed that you pay a price for that, of course, and so now you need a bigger pesticide to kill whatever the newly poisoned predators of your pests had been handling for you before--and then you need a more toxin-resistant plant, and that cycle gets harder and harder.  Exercises, and exercise thinking, is a lot like that.  Or maybe the exercise is "organic" horticulture, and then permaculture is...?

I want you to have awareness of the _principle_ behind the exercise, something that may be touched into half-consciously if you just do exercises and have imported information, rather than ascribing the benefit to the exercise itself.  Instead of looking to something outside yourself, find the answers that are already here.

As you're reading these words, are you reading them with just your eyes? your head? what changes if you acknowledge you are reading them with all of you--body-mind you, feet to head--rather than just parts?
What changes if you acknowledge that there is space not only where the letters on the screen are but the whole screen? the space around the screen, above it, below, left and right?
That there is space behind you as well as in front of you?  Above your head as well?

Conducting your own experiments, having your own _experiences_, is the only real antidote to misinformation.  I could go above the laborious process of giving you different information and then you could, and should, say, Why should I trust your information instead of another's, the PT's or the chiropractor's?  In teaching the use of the self by Alexander's discoveries, we don't actually import any information, we give you a point of reference so you know where you are in space, we hold a kind of mirror to you, but you find the new information through your own _experiences_.  Which is permaculture: observe, observe, observe.  Observe and interact an then observe more.  No imports, or minimal imports.   (Exercises are an imported thing!).  

Alexander discovered a paradigmatically different concept of the use of the self (body-mind).  The old concept is pretty much akin to a "flat-earth theory" model of the self.  It works, mostly, but when it doesn't it really doesn't.  And chronic injury is a good sign it isn't working.  Unbounded energy would be a good sign of an accurate model.  Alexander was a pemaculturist of the self, of the movement of the self in gravity, I would say.  

It seems to me people are far more inclined to do observation and experimentation with their gardens than with their own selves/bodies, but I encourage you to try--at least a little! make your own discoveries! Make a five-minute experiment and see what happens.  Try suspending a belief you have about the degree of effort it takes to do some motion or activity, and then noticing what you sense.

It can help to have a friend observing with you--the social component of movement of the self is not to be underestimated.  Some of the changes may be very subtle to sense but may still be visible to an attentive observer.  (Some observers can't see a difference either, but everyone has different capacities and perspectives, the more perspectives you can get the better).

My offer stands--and no one has taken me up on it yet.  Read 4 chapters, get a free learning session.  If you want to get a learning session without reading we can arrange that, but then I charge for my work.  Save yourself 60 bucks and read a book, and investigate your own self.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Lauren Ritz wrote:I don't know if this is going to make sense in context, but here goes.

Many years ago I discovered that I could fall into any kind of dance or martial art and do it well, simply by determining what you might call the center of gravity for the activity. Latin dancing the focus is low and toward the back, into the hips, and a very tight focus. Tango it's high and forward, in the chest, and broad. Ballet is high and forward, almost up into the throat. Martial arts were the same, and really any activity. If you're carrying buckets your focus is going to be very different than if you're pushing a wheelbarrow or throwing 100# bales of hay.

So by observation, the focus of the activity should never be on one side or the other--it should always be centered. It should also never be down into the legs, as this puts the focus too low (and split) and you're likely to go off balance. Carrying buckets the focus is low--if your focus is high you're more likely to injure your back. Pushing a wheelbarrow your focus is going to be high and forward, probably right under the diaphragm. After a while it's second nature to create the right focus for the activity, and you're much less likely to be injured.



This seems like a significant observation to me.  Say more, please.  What are the sensations you experience when you focus your "center of gravity" in once place as compared with another? what is the way you move your center of gravity, what's involved in doing that? what's your breathing like when you're placing your center of gravity? what are your limbs up to? what's your sense about the space around you?  Thanks for sharing your observations.
 
Davin Hoyt
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote: ***!!!Don't do exercises!!!.***



Love it. The last two days I had gone straight to some construction work and felt great.
BUT, now I'm sitting at a computer which is probably how I got out of shape (then, hurt).
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Davin Hoyt wrote:

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote: ***!!!Don't do exercises!!!.***



Love it. The last two days I had gone straight to some construction work and felt great.
BUT, now I'm sitting at a computer which is probably how I got out of shape (then, hurt).



Aha.  Thanks for sharing that.

What do you notice about yourself as you are typing/reading?
 
Davin Hoyt
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:What do you notice about yourself as you are typing/reading?



What parts of my body are in motion, and what parts aren't, and what you will think, and these words being recorded:)
 
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