The Evolution of Man: Your Back

By Ron Geraci


It took you 4 million years to jump from australopithecus to well-groomed taxpayer. Many didn't survive that journey, but you did. Nice job. But why stop there? Here, we'll take primitive man (that's you) and apply the evolutionary steps necessary to fix some common problems that can keep you stuck in a miserable, wretched state of existence.
      Join us all this week as we offer tips to help you improve your life. Today, we tackle back pain and poor posture.

Your Back Is Killing You

Our upright posture has contributed to one of America's top health complaints: back pain. What should you do?

Name the pain. First, you have to diagnose the torture. If you have a sharp pain in your upper back, it's probably an overuse strain, which will heal in a few days. Lower-back pain often comes from a sudden shock, like a twisting injury. The pain is smack in your spine or you have numb fingers or toes? Get to a doctor; that could be a herniated disk.

Get back to basics. When the pain first strikes, lie on your back with your arms stretched out to your sides and your knees bent. This will often take pressure off your spine. When you can move, put an ice pack on the injured area to numb the pain and reduce swelling. After 24 hours, apply heat for 20 minutes once every hour or two. Use this down time to decide how much you hate your boss: Researchers at the University of Manchester in England found that among 180 men, those who said they had lousy jobs were more than twice as likely to have recurrent back pain.

Stretch your horizons. After you ice, stretch. Lie on your back, lift one knee to your chest, then lower it and repeat with the other leg. Then lie face down and push your upper body up while keeping your lower body on the floor. Hold each stretch for 10 seconds, and repeat 10 times a day until the pain subsides.

Work it out. Within a few days of healing, start exercising again. But lay off running and weight lifting; think biking or swimming. You need activities that move both sides of your body symmetrically without putting pressure on your joints. Still hurt after four days? See a doctor.

You Have Ape-Like Posture

Now that we've taken care of your back pain, let's work on your posture.

The 'ouch' in 'slouch.' Slouching not only makes you look slow-witted; it can cause neck pain and breathing difficulty, and shorten your spine.

Crunch up. Now train your muscles to stand up: Three times a week, do three sets of 10 crunches while holding a 10-pound dumbbell on your chest. Freestyle swimming will also help straighten you out.

Be a wallflower. Stand with your shoulders against a wall. See how straight your torso is? That's how God intended you to stand -- and sit -- before the world crumpled you.


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