Welcome everyone to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health. Last week I shared highlights from my recent podcast with Dr. Brett Osborn, a board certified neurosurgeon who is on the cutting edge of health and longevity. Founder and CEO of Senolytix, a wellness and longevity clinic in West Palm Beach, Dr. Osborn aims to change the trajectory of aging. My kind of guy!!!
In today’s Note, I’d like to pick up where we left off last week with the topic of Low Back Pain. Being one who suffers from a “bad” back, it was incredibly encouraging to hear what Dr. Osborn had to say. I jotted down some notes to help myself and hopefully some of you!
Let’s get started.
My Low Back Pain
I started getting a stiff back in my mid-sixties. When the stiffness graduated to pain a couple of years later, I got an X-ray and an MRI of my back. The results came back saying I had extreme scoliosis and degenerative disc disease. I know I am not alone. “Approximately 40% of adults over age 40 have at least one degenerated vertebral disc. By age 80, 80% of them do.” (June 23,2020 The Spine Center). “Scoliosis affects an estimated 6-9 million people in the United States”. (June 2007 National Scoliosis Foundation)
Low back pain can be very crippling and debilitating. Most cases start out like mine, with a weak back and core. I asked Dr. Osborn, “What could I do to help change the trajectory?” His answer startled me.
Relieving Low Back Pain
“You’re not allowed to have back pain in my clinic. It’s not acceptable. It doesn’t matter what your X-Ray looks like.”
This is what Dr. Osborn told me when I first brought up my low back pain. If you watch the YouTube video, you can see my eyes light up. It was a bit “off the wall”, WAY outside the box, but I loved what he was saying. It made me feel like I can do something about it, instead of just giving in to the fact that I have scoliosis and degenerative disc disease.
Most low back pain comes from:
- the low back and core not being as strong as it should be,
- mobility issues, or
- tight hamstrings. Note: Like most people, I have all three.
Dr. Osborn told me to do two things (and I will!):
- Work on FLEXIBILITY.
- Practice your DEADLIFT.
Note: He talked a lot about practicing strength. I was extremely encouraged by this. You all know I practice guitar, and because of that I’ve gotten better. The same thing goes for strength. I need to practice strength.
How To Deadlift At Any Age
“Your back doesn’t hurt because you deadlift. Your back hurts because you don’t deadlift.”
“Being able to deadlift has nothing to do with your age.”
Dr. Osborn said that even at my age (68), I should be able to deadlift well into the 400’s. This was eye opening, humbling, and inspiring. As he said in the podcast, strength is about practice. In order to be able to deadlift at any age, mobility work is essential. Before he deadlifts (or does any weight lifting), he does mobility work for 30 minutes. For you and I, it might not have to be that long. It could be just for 10 minutes! The key is to get in the habit of practicing this.
I’ve already started to incorporate more stretching into my weight lifting routine. I’ve changed the way I stretch, and the way I work out. His book, Get Serious is incredibly helpful. I’ve always said that to be healthy as you age, you have to lift weights. It’s more important than cardio, even though cardio is essential for heart health. You should have some of both in your fitness regimen.
Dr. Osborn really emphasized stretching the hamstrings in our conversation. Think about it, what do we do most of the day? We are sitting, probably looking at a computer or phone. This causes shortened hamstrings, tight chest muscles, and poor posture. To regain flexibility, Dr. Osborn says:
- Stretch the hamstrings and work on strengthening your entire back side.
- Make sure your core abdominal muscles, like the PSOAS, are loose. Note: To do this he uses a Theragun. He will put the Theragun on the PSOAS, IT band, abductors, buttocks, and hamstrings. Again, this is about opening up the hips!
- Learn how to open up your hips.
- Learn about the transverse abdominus muscles and the erector spinae muscles. These are important muscles to keep loose.
- Learn how to do a deadlift correctly. Even if you’re 90 years old. If you don’t learn this correctly, you could make your back worse.
- Grip strength is important also. Note: Grip strength is the most accurate measurement of how strong you are at any age. I just ordered a new grip meter.
As you age, you want to maintain good posture and prevent falls. About 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year, resulting in more than 32,000 deaths (www.cdc.gov).
From a surgery standpoint, Dr. Osborn says, “Either somebody has a subdural, or some sort of thoracolumbar fracture. These are preventable, just like diabetes is preventable!” Exercise is key for prevention, i.e., weight shifting, one-legged balancing, heel-toe walk, leg raises, foot taps, head rotation, standing marches, etc.
I will leave you with two book recommendations that Dr. Osborn gave me: Becoming A Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett and Built From Broken by Scott Hogan, CPT, COES. I’ve already read both of these and I’m using a lot of the techniques that they teach. One of the main things I learned is that you need to work on your connective tissue first (tendons, ligaments), then your muscles. Grip strength is important. I’ve learned to activate my glutes and retract my scapula. I highly recommend these books. Note: You may need a qualified trainer to help you with these movements. Feel free to call my offices for some recommendations.
Remember, your body is your temple. You need to take care of it. Your muscles define you, both mentally and physically. There is no easy way out. It requires knowledge and work. Get Serious. I hope to have a lot more podcasts with Dr. Osborn. We share so much of the same passion when it comes to age management and longevity medicine.
Stay educated. Stay healthy.
Till next week.