Climbing Therapy for Low Back Pain

climbing for back painChronic Low Back Pain has been said to improve after climbing therapy, compared with non-climbing, standard exercise, a new study claims. May 15’s issue of Spine journal, published that Munich, Germany’s Technical University’s Kai Engbert, Ph.D. and Michaela Weber, tested the effects of therapeutic climbing, and they assessed how it compared to other types of exercise for chronic lower back pain sufferers.

Twenty-eight patients were tested over 4 weeks with a therapeutic climbing and standard exercise program. Participants were asked to complete questionnaires before and after the excercise, which assessed their physical and psychological well-being.

The authors state; “This finding demonstrates that therapeutic climbing is equivalent and partly superior to standard exercise therapy for patients with chronic low back pain.”

I know that climbing involves much more intensive toning exercise than regular exercise, and has been proven to improve strength in the upper body, thighs and buttocks; all of which support and take some of the load from the back. I’m certain 4 weeks was more than enough time to confirm these results.

I would not recommended however that beginners to exercise  rush out and start climbing to instantly treat their back pain. I’m sure the participants in this study were all at relatively good fitness levels. After all, extremely fit athletes can still suffer from chronic pain.

But once people have built up considerable strength in their core muscles; arms, legs, abs and buttocks,  more intesive toning exercise (such as climbing) is certainly recommended to further increase the rate of improvement.

Photo by Twistermc on Flickr

How Diet Can Relieve Pain

Yuri ElkaimOne of the surefire ways you can reduce your pain, especially joint pain, is to eat an Alkaline-Forming Diet. This guy Yuri Elkaim is one of my favorite nutrition and health experts and although his book Eating for Energy  is promoted as being for energy and weight-loss, it is an excellent resource for learning about the correct foods that your joints and muscles thrive on – as well as almost every part of you!

An Alkaline-Forming Diet includes most fruit and vegetables, especially when eaten raw. It even includes citrus fruits, which confuses some people because citrus is acid. But that’s where the “-forming” part comes in. Acid-forming foods which include most meats and lots of carbohydrates aggravate muscle and joint pain, causing friction and reducing flexibility. But foods that form alkaline in the body reduce inflammation in joints and increase flexibility in muscles.

Yuri’s great book Eating for Energy is about eating raw food and the vast majority of it is alkaline forming. I eat a lot of raw fruit and vegetables, but still have meat which is mostly acid forming. Even though my diet is not completely alkaline forming, I eat enough of the right foods for it to make a difference.

And how do I know it’s the food that makes a difference to my pain relief, and not some of my other methods? Because it turned out to be an amazing experiment while on an intensive project while I was a student. I was practically chained to a computer and did hardly any exercise for three weeks. Within days of being on an alkaline forming diet, I was amazed at how much less hip pain I was in, and nothing else about my lifestyle had changed.

But the great thing about the food in this book is that it all has a low GI (glycemic index) meaning it gives you lots more energy and a lot less likely to be tired. And when we are tired we of course eat more of the wrong foods, so this diet is self sustaining!

It also keeps you fuller for longer, so you naturally eat less in general because you don’t feel hungry all the time. This has a synergistic effect on your body in tems of relieving pain, because as you already know, when you are tired, as well as eating more to make ourselves feel better, we also have a lot more aches and pains, and feel stiff all over. For people who suffer from chronic pain, that effect is multiplied and our normally just about tolerable pain can become unbearable.

So a low GI, high energy, alkaline-forming diet like the one suggested in this book, is perfect for a number of reasons. But don’t just take my word for it; try it yourself and if you’re not impressed, Yuri has a full 60 day money back guarantee.

And don’t forget, the great side-effect of using the advice in the book, is; you get to lose weight too! So you’ll love it, I promise.

Callanetics for Chronic Back Pain

Callanetics for back painI have been doing my Beginner’s Callanetics for years, which is an hour long video of special intensive exercises devised by Callan Pinckney. I would not recommend them without a warm-up beforehand. Just do the Mom-Dancing for a week or two before doing any Callanetics.

Callan Pinckney is somewhat of a miracle lady. She was a disabled child with curvature of the spine, but that didn’t stop her completely banishing her disability, traveling the world and becoming a fitness instructor with top selling books and videos.

But again, everyone who complains that Callanetics doesn’t work for bad backs, has overdone it the first or first few times. It is so easy to overdo it in the beginning. And it’s basic psychology. It takes so much mental effort just to get started, that once we have started, we tend to think “Well I’m up now – might as well carry on.”


And please start with the beginners DVD. Sounds obvious, but some people I know have thought the beginner ones are only for the first few weeks, and attempted the advanced ones before they were ready. I still use the Beginner one after many years I still have the VHS in fact! But also now the DVD. And I missed out the exercises I couldn’t do for several months.

Also, don’t make the mistake of doing Callanetics more than twice a week. I did them every day for nine days to begin with (especially after I saw those photos showing how much the butt had tightened after only 19 hours of exercise!), soldiering on through the pain, but Callan Pinkney herself says only 2 – 3 times a week is needed for optimum improvement. She was right. I ended in up in too much pain and then wouldn’t do them again for several weeks. Totally stupid.

But used correctly Callanetics is a fantastic set of exercises. I’m certain I wouldn’t be able to touch my toes with ease if it wasn’t for Callanetics. The perfect tool to have in your arsenal against pain.

Gentle “Mom-Dancing” to Relieve Back Pain

mom-dancingYeah, the Mom-Dancing thing. You know the type; the sort you see every female at a wedding do (apart from the bride). Just gently bobbing up and down, moving your feet only tiny steps in front of you, alternately. Doing that for just three minutes to a suitable song on the radio every morning significantly reduced my pain after only a few days. (Some men dance like that too, but Dad-Dancing is often entirely different, as Dad’s sometimes like to show off!)

After a week or so I added the same method in the evening, and now twice a day is the minimum I do the mom-dancing (on an average day). I also do it in the afternoon before the dog’s teatime walk, but only if working on the PC has left me feeling a bit stiff.

But, and this is very important – the first time you attempt it, just do it for 60 seconds, especially if you have not done any exercise for a while. Sometimes when chronic pain sufferers do any kind of exercise after rarely doing any at all, they think “Oh great – this doesn’t hurt!” For example, if you are surprised to find you are not in pain, and dancing seems easy, you might be tempted to dance to a few songs, especially if those golden oldies come on; the ones you used to pogo to in the 80s, yeah I know. Don’t do that.

Don’t be fooled!

Your back is plotting its revenge. It will make you pay a little later, or the next day. And then what’s going to happen? You’re never going to do any kind of dancing or exercise again, for fear of being in more pain than you already are.

So ease it in gently. Only a minute the first time, then two, then three, but just leave it at that. Just one song every morning, that’s all. You could just do a week of dancing only one minute a day to begin with. Nothing wrong with that. At least you will have started.

And it can’t be just any song either. Try to stick to around 100 beats per minute. Faster than that will be too strenuous. I have been doing this chronic-pain trick for five years and even now I still stick to around 100 beats per minute, which is a lot of pop songs.

“Well, how am I supposed to know what 100 bpm sounds like?” I hear you cry.


Just think of “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen, the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” or better still; “Dancing Queen” by ABBA.

And if the song on the radio is about the same tempo, then you’re on the right track (s’cuse the pun).

So how does it work, then?

By warming the body up in a low-impact and fun way. And hopefully it will distract you from the pain you are used to, enough to get into a routine of doing this every day. Then you will begin to see improvements. Don’t underestimate this super little trick. It works best when used in conjunction with other tricks too, but is probably the best way to start off.

Stick around for tons more great pain-beating strategies to make an even bigger difference.

And do let me know how you get on!

Image by David Boyle on Flickr