Do You Have Someone’s Back?

26 May

by Phillip Tomlinson

Well, do you? 

I know what you are thinking.  You always have someone’s back. 

I have no doubt.

Frankly, it’s very nice of you if you have someone’s back because, somewhere, that special someone is breathing a little easier knowing that you’re guarding his or her back.

Feeling good about yourself as you puff away on that cigarette break?  I guess you should, if you have someone’s back in that way. 

Only thing is that’s not exactly what I’m talking about.  Literally, I’m talking about your back.  Yes, that back.  And the one thing I can tell you is that your Joe Cool habit could have a lot to do with whose back you have.  In a very big way.  Hint:  it definitely won’t be the back that is a stabilizing platform for regular physical activity.


Yes, being Joe Cool could turn out to be pretty uncool.

That’s because puffing away on that nicotine stick could have a big say in how easily you bend over to tie your shoe laces or, well, pick up a pencil.

No kidding! 

Just ask the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons who warns that “both the smoke and the nicotine cause your spine to age faster than normal.”


Let’s put it this way, those smoke signals are the bearers of bad news.  So, add one more thing to the list of maladies associated with cigarette smoking and the picture becomes a lot more cloudy.  That’s pretty cloudy when you consider that experts rank back pain as the number one medical problem in the United States.

You should also know that with age, intervertebral disks in your back suffer wear and tear and begin to shrink.  Cigarette smoking has been found to speed up this process. 


The good news is that we can postpone this eventuality by observing certain rules of the road.  One very important one is through strengthening the back with regular core exercises.  This along with the body’s hormonal activity have been found to also stimulate healing through the formation of new bones.  But, according to research, cigarette smoking has an adverse effect on this and could limit the benefits of exercise.

So, while we cannot avoid the normal wear and tear on our spine that goes along with aging, there are things we can do the lessen the impact.  Of course, a healthy lifestyle is a must and that means finding your way out from under the clouds.  Yes, that cloud, if you are a smoker.  Meanwhile, the experts suggest you pay attention to these other recommendations:

Exercise — Combine aerobic exercise, like walking or swimming, with specific exercises to keep the muscles in your back and abdomen strong and flexible.

Proper Lifting — Be sure to lift heavy items with your legs, not your back.  Do not bend over to pick something up.  Keep your back straight and bend at your knees.

Weight — Maintain a healthy weight.  Being overweight puts added stress on your back.

Proper Posture — Good posture is important for avoiding future problems.  A therapist can teach you how to stand, sit and lift.

As for exercise, since safety is also a concern, you may want to check out an interesting link about one man’s crusade to save our back.  In fact, you could say he has our back:

Likewise, if you are interested in a functional BodinSync routine to help build core strength, you may want to try this one:


The Pendulum


  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.  Bend your knees as if you are about to squat to pick something up off the ground.
  2. Bend at the waist so that your back forms a 45 degree angle.  Your stance should now look like that of linebacker trying to stop a past-rush.
  3. Dangle your arms to the side.  Maintaining your body position, slowly raise your arms, palms facing each other, shoulder width apart, until they are horizontal to the floor.
  4. Hold for a count of five. 
  5. Lower your arms and stand straight up.  THAT’S ONE REPETITION. 
  6. Start again by assuming the linebacker position.  AIM FOR 10 REPETITIONS

NOTE: This routine can be made more challenging by

  1. Holding two small weights in your hands
  2. Holding the position for 10 seconds instead of five

With that, I guess I can’t resisting saying — though with the best intention — watch your back!


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