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Saving your spine

Millions of Americans are taking up core-strengthening exercises such as yoga and Pilates. Unfortunately, inexperienced novices aren’t taking the proper precautions to protect their spine.
“Our physician members are certainly seeing an influx of back pain cases and injuries stemming from the popularity of yoga, Pilates and martial arts,” says Thomas Errico, MD, president of the North American Spine Society (NASS).
To help those interested in improving core strength while becoming physically fit, the society offers these simple tips to protect your spine:

  • Always get proper instruction on the correct poses from a certified instructor. In class, speak up and ask questions about proper technique.
  • Always keep proper head, shoulder and pelvis alignment.
  • Individuals beginning a new exercise program should check with their doctor first—especially about ways to protect your spine. Always report injuries, both recent and past.
  • Commit a modest amount of time and energy. The most challenging and physically demanding core exercises should be reserved for advanced exercisers.
  • Back pain sufferers should avoid exercises that place the spine in extreme forward bending or combined bending and twisting.
  • It may take some time to reap the full benefits of a core-strengthening program. Learning to use one’s muscles to support—not stress—the back takes time, patience and commitment.
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