So unfortunately I wasn’t able to put up any kind of post yesterday, for the simple reason that I got home on Tuesday night to the ever-joyous site of 2 inches of standing water in my basement. Apparently my sump pump decided to give me the big “Eff You!!” and take off for a few hours and stop pulling water out of the floor and sending it along its happy way straight to hell.
Here’s a graphic re-enactment of how my day went during the discovery of this event.
I get home all sunshine and happiness, because to be honest it was a pretty good day. I had a good BM, trained some pretty cool clients, got a good lift in, no problem.
I went to the top of the stairs leading to the basement because I had to put away my suitcase from the weekend.
….But what’s this? I noticed the carpet was kinda shiny and dark. Almost…..like it’s……..wet!!!
Son of a bitch!!!
So after an emergency call to Roto Rooter and figuring out that my sump is a piece of Jillian Michaels, bailing water out of my basement and throwing it across my lawn, and having my ass a cold bath because the flood knocked out my hot water tank’s pilot light and soaked the thermal coupler, I got to thinking about whether there was a lesson to be learned from this epic failure.
Of course there was!!
What I didn’t mention was the fact that about a week ago Edmonton was hit with about 4 days straight of rain, which is as much as we normally get in a year. Let’s imagine the house was a human body, and the sump pump was any part of the body exposed to stress, for this example we’ll use a spinal motion segment mad up of two vertebrae and a disc. Under normal rainfall amounts, the sump works like a hot damn, pumping water out before it can become an issue. However, in times where the water fall is way higher than the handling capacity of the sump, the pump gets overwhelmed and starts coughing up blood from getting the kidneys worked over and hits the mat for the ten-count.
Let’s take this analogy to the spine. Panjabi et al (1992) put out a couple of landmark studies (I’ll reference part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE), about how the spinal segments can move freely within a specific range of motion called the neutral zone with minimal resistance from the passive restraint of the spinal and ligamentous structures.
Injury tends to happen if this neutral zone gets stretched out to become larger than normal, or in other words, to become unstable. Essentially, each vertebral segment has the ability to move only so far within a range of motion. Occasionally a segment may lock up and force another segment to pick up the slack and move farther than it normally would. This increased demand on the neutral zone of this segment can lead to increased pressure on the ligaments, vertebrae and discs of the spine, which means all sorts of bad things for the person who is now in crippling pain, much like any male who gets dragged to a Twilight premiere by his lady-friend.
As a back-up to the spinal passive system there is the muscular active system, which generates tension and resists segments being stretched beyond their neutral zones. The downside to this is we treat our bodies like a pinata and keep hammering it with low-level extended force applications, like sitting at a desk and hunching the hell out of it like we’re going to give ourselves Will Ferrel’s yoga move “The Smiling Cobra.”
Pushing the spine slowly into this flexion bias will increase the neutral zone of motion that the spinal segment can move through before the muscular support system will even begin to kick in to help save the day. So the day that you decide to bend over and tie your shoes where you’ve never had a problem bending forward and tying your shoes will now result in a big increase in pressure on the disc pushing backwards into your spinal canal, and will more than likely increase the chance of herniation since the muscles aren’t going to be available to kick in and provide more of a support system to prevent untimely doom.
Much like the way my house has a weeping tile around the perimeter to direct rain water away from the house (passive system) as well as a sump pump inside the house to pull water away and into the drain (active system), if there’s too much rainfall and an increased demand on the system, the sump has to work extra hard. Eventually, it can’t meet the demand and gives up (fatigue), which leads to the only thing between me and cleaning up my basement being a weak and overloaded weeping tile system, which won’t last.
Now in situations where there’s significant degeneration of the joint or bone spur formation, the range of the neutral zone will decrease, which will also result in pain, but most people under 60 will get into trouble by having too much movement of their spine, which is where core stability training comes into play.
Now core stability training doesn’t mean balancing on a stability ball with one foot while curling a dumbell and pressing an elastic and reciting pi to 15 decimal places, and it sure as shit doesn’t mean doing something as dumb as this:
I think she would get more from curling her water bottle. What are those she’s holding? One’s?? Sweet holy God pick up a fiver and break a sweat for once, would ya sweetie??
Anyways, before I go on a rant about stupidity, for the purpose of this situation, spinal stability means the body’s ability to resist being deformed in a specific direction while maintaining its’ position within the neutral zone due to active muscular contractions. In other words, we push, pull or try to bend the spine with some sort of heavy resistance, and our core works like a boss and takes care of the joint.
Sure, deadlifts and squats are great core stability exercises, but at a certain point, axial loading on an unstable spine will probably result in some sort of tipping and deformation that causes a strain on the passive system, and leads to injury. In these cases, you need to work on the ability to stabilize through saggital, frontal and transverse planes versus through axial loading.
Some of the best examples of spinal stability include exercises like a pallof press, and a more basic one such as a stability ball rollout.
The key to both of these movements is resisting the impulse applied to the body to cause it to deform against the direction of resistance. Because of the nature of the active and passive sub-systems involved in spinal structure and support, movements like these will be crazy better for your core strength and spine health than performing any kind of crunch.
I got most of this info from a really cool book I’m reading right now, called Therapeutic Exercise for Spinal Segmental Stabilization in Low Back Pain.
This is one of those books that spine geeks like me have to duck and cover from due to all the knowledge bombs being thrown around, so if you want to get your geek on with spinal stability, check it out HERE.
So this Canada Day Long Weekend I’m gonna do four things. 1. Work in my yard and do some weeding. 2. Lift heavy shit to make my active support system stronger. 3. Get my cousin to come and install a new bad-ass sump pump in my basement so that I can handle a big rainfall without having to drag out my unmentionables to dry off the next time we get a few inches of rain in a few days. 4. Rent a carpet steamer to get that “Pau Gasol’s gym bag” smell out of the basement. Do I know how to party, or what?