Exercise equipment for lower back pain

Inversion therapy

Inversion therapy is the use of gravity to stretch the spine (traction) using a specially designed table. In recent years the traction method normally used by hospitals and doctors was to lay a patient on a bed and strap the patient’s legs to a pulley and adding weights to create traction. This method was cumbersome and extremely uncomfortable for the patient. An alternative to using weights was the use of inversion boots which were designed to hook on a parallel bar hanging the patient upside down. This had limited treatment for most patients because of the extreme degree of incline. The inversion table became the most effective means of traction treatment because of its ease of use and control of incline.


Inversion therapy was first used at the time of Hippocrates (400BC) where he suspended patients to allow gravity to exercise traction. In the 60’s inversion therapy was introduced by Dr Robert Martini as the”Gravity Guidance System” into his therapeutic procedures.

How does it work

The patient straps in his feet in an upright position against the table and then lowers himself head first according to the desired angle of rotation. He controls the rate of rotation with handles on either side of the table. The balance of the inversion table is precise and can be controlled by simple arm movements. The table can be set at any angle up to 90 degrees where it is then fully inverted.

Benefits of inversion therapy


Inversion stretching realign’s the vertebrae and relaxes the vertebral muscles and ligaments, helping to relieve pain and discomfort from overwork and bad posture.


Inversion therapy relaxes and stretches the muscles promoting and enhancing blood circulation in the muscle tissue and accelerating muscle health.

Intervertebral discs

Inversion therapy causes decompression of the intervertebral discs helping the discs to regain their elasticity and functionality.


Inversion therapy relieves back pain and discomfort in the spine caused by overwork resulting in pressure on the vertebrae, intervertebral discs, joints and pinched nerves (Sciatica) and relaxing muscles that are in spasm.


Inversion therapy helps to realign the spine relaxing muscles and muscle spasms and improving posture.

Take note

Always consult your physician or other healthcare professionals before beginning any exercise program.Also, make sure that you have read the manual and applied the assembly and safety precautions correctly.


How to use an inversion table

1. Make sure your feet are tightly strapped and properly locked in place. Use comfortable shoes with added padding on the ankles if necessary. Begin with standing with your back against the bed with hands at your side. Raise your arms slowly allowing the bed to rotate slowly backward. Before you start you can control the angle of rotation with a strap that will keep the table at the desired angle. The strap is connected from the frame to the movable table and can be lengthened or shortened according to your desired angle of inclination, the strap once completely unhinged will give you a complete inversion (90 Degrees)

2. Begin slowly, invert fifteen to twenty degrees, to begin with. Stay inverted as long as you are comfortable and return upright slowly. Dizziness is usually the result of coming up too fast. If you feel nauseous do not persist but come up as soon as you feel queasy.

3. Make the angular changes very gradually. Make changes only when you are comfortable and increase the angle only a few degrees at a time. Increase the time of use from an initial one to two minutes increasing to ten minutes over a period of weeks.

4.If you have any injury pay attention to any pain or discomfort. Keep moving, moving while inverted encourages blood, lymph and spinal fluid circulation and aids in alignment of bones and organs. The movement may include rhythmic traction and light exercise.

5. Use regularly, two to three times a day for a maximum period of five minutes at a time. The greater the incline the less should be the period of inversion. Try to schedule it for the same time each day.

6.If you are able to exercise while inverted do not use jerking or abrupt movements but use gentle and controlled movements to avoid injury. Do not do strenuous exercises at a sharp incline unless you have increased your strength up over a period of time.

Do not use inversion therapy under the following conditions

1. Ligaments, joints or fractures that have not fully healed.

2. Cause of back pain not of a mechanical nature, for example, tuberculosis or cancer etc.

3. Acute infection for example joints, sinus, middle ear infection etc.

4. Recent operations or hernias.

5. The artificial prosthesis or skeletal implants.

6. Heart or circulatory disorder like high blood pressure, thrombosis etc.

7. Severe osteoporosis.

8. Pregnancy.

9. Extreme obesity.

10. Severe spinal injury.

Do not use inversion therapy for at least 2 hours after a meal.




Are you serious about weight loss?

The great weight loss debatediet-2-1323896

The search for the perfect weight loss diet can be a very confusing and frustrating exercise and this could not be better illustrated by the drama unleashed back here in my home country of South Africa over a new fad diet that has now been circulating for some years. Some time ago a certain Cape Town university professor introduced this popular but very controversial low carbohydrate high-fat weight loss diet that in no time had ignited a heated debate in health and medical circles as to its long-term health implications.

The controversy intensified recently when it was revealed that this weight loss diet had been endorsed to babies just weaned off breast milk resulting in condemnation from certain health industry specialists and medical authorities. Public critique has ranged from high praise to others branding this weight loss diet a health hazard leaving Joe public the more confused and none the wiser as to what is the best weight loss formula.

Are you searching for the perfect diet?salad-with-quail-eggs-and-pepper-1634487

A search of diets on the internet will yield up to 66 million searches and weight loss another 162 million with tens of thousands of so-called health experts offering advice and products “guaranteed “to make you lose those unwanted kilos but more often leaving the client out of pocket and frustrated with nothing to show for their efforts . The appeal to the public is the “microwave mentality “of these diets or products promising a quick and easy solution to weight loss.

A bit of common sense will lead us to conclude that excess weight takes months or years to accumulate, so to remove it all within a couple of weeks is unrealistic. Success in all spheres demands time and sacrifice, weight loss should be no different, so instead of the quick fix solution lets focus rather on a disciplined regime of good planning and healthy eating.

I lost and gained up to 15 kilos a year for yearsloose-jeans-4014x2676_17523

I am in my early fifties and have been documenting my health data from my early twenties. At the time I was pushing serious weights at the gym and although I normally kept quite trim I had some very bad eating habits. I would gain weight at stages and quickly shed the extra kilos when I returned to my ‘health phase’. I was losing and gaining up to 15 kilos in a single year.

Naturally, as I got older it became more of a challenge and I had to learn to control my cravings (sweet tooth and salty snacks) and find a better solution to my unhealthy eating problem. Since I was recording my weight once a week it made it easier to experiment with food and I could track my progress and take note of my eating habits and what worked to stay slim or lose weight and what caused me to gain weight.

5 steps to weight losskitchen-1-1547079

1.Plan to succeed

Focus your mind to propel you on your weight loss journey, realize that there is no easy route, success will depend on a disciplined application of healthy eating habits. Set up a positive mind frame for success with good planning of food selection and preparation.Set a realistic target that you will be able to achieve over a certain period, pick a date and start on your weight loss adventure.

2. Motivate yourself

Record all progress, begin with your initial weight. I strongly advise you to purchase a blood pressure monitor, they come in all shapes and sizes and are quite affordable. You can then also record blood pressure and pulse and as you lose weight these readings will also improve and be a further incentive telehealth_-_blood_pressure_monitorto motivate you on to your weight loss target Make sure that you record your weight and the other measurements once a week. The incentive will be to improve weekly.  A comments section can document what you ate for the week and be a guide to what has worked best. It should look something similar to the following table :

Date——  blood pressure— pulse — weight—– comments                                                    

17\10\16   |     120/70          |   68       |    85.kg

23\10\16  |     118/68           |   66       |    83.5kg

3.Teach your body good eating habits

Your body can take as little as 3 weeks to learn a new habit, for example, if you set your alarm clock an hour earlier to begin a new routine, within 3 weeks or so you find you are awake before the alarm clock rings. The same principle can be applied to change your eating habits.dark-chocolate01-lg

I indulged my chocolate craving regularly and had to wean myself off chocolates firstly by cutting it out altogether and replacing it with a healthy alternative. After a month I found myself at a birthday party and a generous slice of chocolate cake left me slightly nauseous and with no desire for more. The secret I realized was to offset a bad habit by replacing it with a healthy alternative. This can apply to all unhealthy foods habits but it requires discipline and a good dose of self-control not to fall again into old unhealthy eating habits

 4. Drink the right liquids.

Avoid all alcoholic beverages as this is a sure way to put on weight and will open up your appetite to eat more. Avoid all sugary drinks like sodas, energy drinks, and fruit drinks even if they claim to be 100% pure. Drink water between meals especially when you are hungry or feel like snacking.

Water will take off the edge of your hunger and you can add a few drops of apple cider vinegar to give it more body and add to your weight loss effort. Drink a glass of water before meals, this helps with digestion and gives your stomach more of a full feeling so that you will eat less . You can drink coffee or tea or if you prefer something cold, have a glass of water and squeeze some lemon into it.

5. Eat the right foodsveges-on-plate-1159683

Starting with breakfast I would ditch most breakfast cereals as most have added sugar. Read carefully the contents and don’t be fooled by so-called healthy alternatives. Avoid cereals made from wheat and corn, personally, the only cereal I eat is oats. If cereals don’t appeal to you eggs are excellent for making a good and healthy breakfast, scrambled, fried or hard-boiled you can vary with lean bacon, onions, peppers, tomatoes or stir-fried veggies.

The guidelines I use for a steady weight loss is to exclude from my diet the list of the following basic food groups and include in my diet its healthier alternative. The list is as follows.

A. Starches 

Bad – All flour based starches  – bread, all types of pasta, pizza, confectionery, snacks. All Corn products.                          Good – Brown rice, oatmeal, bran, rye bread, peas, beans, baked potatoes with skin, sweet potatoes.

B. Oils   

Bad – Vegetable oils eg. canola, sunflower, soy, peanut oil, regular palm oil. Margarine.                                                  Good – Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, Butter.

C. Sugarfruit-1322393

Bad –  Avoid adding sugar to your food and all sugar loaded foods like confectionery, candy, chocolate etc. Health bars are also loaded with sugar. Avoid Soda’s, all fruit juices and energy drinks. The only sugar you should use is for tea or coffee.
Good – Honey is a healthy alternative to sugar but should be used conservatively. Chocoholics should try to eat dark chocolate with a 70% or more cocoa content a this helps with weight loss. Pineapple and many other fruits are a great alternative if you crave something sweet.


Bad- Too much animal products especially if it contains excess amounts of fat like fatty mince for example and fatty chicken skin.                                                                                                                                                                                          Good – Lean chicken, fish, lean beef, nuts, fruits, and vegetables especially green leafy veggies.


Lastly, avoid all processed foods and fast foods as these contain all the wrong things in excess like sugar, oils and, sodium not to mention unhealthy additives like colourants, preservatives etc. Try to keep your diet as natural as possible. A good meal should consist of about 60 per cent of a variable of vegetables (green, yellow-orange ), healthy starches should be kept to no more than 30 per cent of your meals as they can affect weight loss if eaten in excess. Do reward yourself once a week, a glass of wine or a slice of that favourite cake but keep it disciplined.

This is a general outline of good eating habits and is not a specific diet, but I have used these basic principles to good effect for over 20 years. If you are looking for a specific diet you can compare to the above to get a good idea if the diet is worth trying out or not, beware of strange diets that promise quick results and leave you hungry. Rather make it a long-term challenge to change and adapt to a healthy lifestyle of eating, and applying discipline and common sense.



Lower back pain – exercises to avoid

Strong back muscles are the support for a pain-free and healthy lower back and therefore need to be exercised to remain strong and flexible. The greatest good one can do to protect your lower back from injury or to protect a lower back injury from degenerating is to exercise the supporting back muscles with a good exercise routine.

Not all exercises are beneficial for your back and especially if you have a lower back disc injury or sciatica, there are certain popular exercises that should be avoided altogether. Some exercises put pressure on the spine and can cause or aggravate the injury to your lower back. Exercises that involve twisting and lifting or extreme aerobics like aerobic high jumps that jolt the spine should be avoided. Rather keep to an exercise routine advised by your doctor or physiotherapist.


To begin with, you should avoid certain stretching exercises the most common of which are the following

1.Touching toes figure-37266_640-1

Touching toes standing with legs straight is an unnatural way of relieving a back pain or injury it can overstretch hamstring and back muscles.

2.Touching toes doing alternate twists.

Any twisting action especially bent over is always risky.

Rather keep to the exercise stretching routine already mentioned on this site. https://lowbackmaintenance.com/exercises


The following exercises should be avoided, if you have a low back injury, these exercises will aggravate and cause discomfort and pain to the immediate site of the injury.

1.Sit ups Any form of sit-ups where you lift your back completely off the floor or bench places tremendous strain on the lower back muscles and the spine.abdominal-998836_640

2. Alternate elbow to knee touches – Lifting your back off the ground to touch your left knee with your right elbow and vice versa places great stress on the lower back spine.abdominal-1203880_640

Any exercise lying down on your back that involves lifting both legs off the ground places great pressure on the spine, the most common are the following

3. Leg raises –  lifting both legs off the floor.

4.Scissors- crossing your legs in a lifted position in an alternating scissors action.

5. Jack Knives- Lifting your back and legs at the same time from a lying position to touch your feet with your hands.


6. Running –  all sports activity involving running, jumping or aerobics can aggravate a lower back injury because of the jolting action on the spine.

7. Jogging – Long distance runners sometimes develop lower back problems due to the consistent pounding action, this is a definite no if you have a lower back problem.

If you have strong lower back muscles and you include some running or jogging in your routine, keep it to a minimum and make sure you wear decent running shoes that cushion the jolting action.

Gym exercises

Using weights is a great way to build up your body strength including building strong back muscles but if you have a lower back problem there are definite exercises to avoid. Always use a kidney belt especially if you have a lower back problem and ask gym staff for help with applying the correct training techniques.

Avoid exercises that include heavy weights on your shoulders and that place great strain on your back and spine, some exercises require great technique and can cause further serious injury if done incorrectly especially the following crossfit-534615_640

1. Squats

2. Lunges

Avoid exercises done standing or lifting above your head without back support as this puts unnecessary strain on your lower back, common exercises include

3. Shoulder press standing – with barbell or dumbbellsfunctional-606568_640

4. Bicep curls standing 

5. Barbell or dumbbell front extensions 

Avoid any exercises bent over and or with your legs straight

6. Deadlift straight leg

7. Bent over rows

These two exercises using exercise machine equipment should always be avoided as they place great strain on the lower back vertebrae.

8. Vertical leg press  –  On your back pressing up at almost 90 degrees                                                front extensions

9. Hyperextensions – The reverse of a sit up.

All exercises done using the arms should be done seated with back or front support to relieve the pressure on the spine.







The weight loss conundrum

Your spines excess loadAdobeStock_98734295_WMportuguese-977981_640

The weight you carry is a vital part of your quest to live a life free of low back pain. As mentioned in a previous article excess weight can affect or compound back problems. A prominent ‘tire” around your waist or a protruding stomach ‘Paunch’, can even lead to you aggravating a perfectly healthy back over a period of time.If your spine and especially your lower back has to continuously bear the pressure of excess weight it can eventually lead to wear and tear and becomes much more susceptible to injury.

Also as one gets older and less active the supporting muscles are not as strong as they used to be and the risk of injury is increased.Most of us start putting on that excess weight from our thirties onwards and then spend the rest of our lives trying to take it off.Our billion dollar weight loss industry is proof of this human struggle.



Food culture

I am in my early fifties and know all about putting on excess weight particularly since I come from a Portuguese background where food is a strong part of our culture. We know how to make food taste great and we are sometimes unashamedly gluttonous in its consumption. We just love our food and will always make it a family or social occasion.

Traditional or family meals tend to be a whole lot healthier than the fast foods and processed foods we consume in our fast-paced society.Unfortunately, fast food or processed foods seems to be the convenient alternative to spending time in the kitchen and is becoming the prevalent food culture.The result is a population worldwide battling with an ever-increasing problem of excess weight or obesity.As far as health habits go if smoking is the habit that kills most people in the world then unhealthy eating must surely come close or even surpass it.We are literally digging our graves over time with our teeth.

Copy (2) of abstract-1238246_640currywurst-498147_640

doughnuts-1368342_640 - Copy





Breaking the trend

If you ice-cream-2-1326942are serious about losing weight you need to take charge of your eating habits and break with the easy and the convenient.It stands to reason that if you spend some time and effort on preparing meals at home you become the master of what goes into your body.Fast food and processed foods always carry way to much sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats or oils, not to mention all the chemicals used as colorants, enhancers, and preservatives which are adding to the health woes of our society.

As much as people may deny it, the weight loss battleground takes place in the mind, its all about mind over matter, self-control and breaking the unhealthy eating trend.People should perhaps approach weight loss as do addicts when trying to overcome smoking, for instance, this may be a bit harsh a comparison but overeating or unhealthy eating can be a serious habit to overcome and a potential health risk.The first exercise on the road to weight loss begins in the mind, formulating a weight loss plan, creating incentives and long-term goals.

My weight loss experiencebathroom-scale-1419153

I was never a fat kid growing up but was pretty lean and strong even though I often binged on the wrong foods and remained so into my late twenties. This bad habit though caught up with me once I hit my early thirties, I found that I could easily pack on three kilos in one week if my eating binges had gone out of control.

I tried out numerous methods to control my weight like diets and counting calories combined with an exercise regimen.I found that I could with strict application take off the weight over a certain period and put it all back on over an even shorter period.I had the discipline to shake off the excess weight but lacked the discipline and knowledge to keep it off and I was able to do this year in and year out.I was literally losing up to 15 kilos a year, packing it on and taking it off but never keeping consistently to my target weight. I slowly started to learn how to eat a more balanced diet that helped me lose weight easier and keep my metabolism more regular, maintaining a more consistent weight.I will share my knowledge and experience in my post.

Copy of appetite-1239200_640diet-2-1323896

Lower back pain – Facts about your back

Back episodes happen 

Stories abound of lower back pain episodes. A 40-year-old father wrenches his back while bending over to tighten bolts in his car engine.Keeled over on his knees and immobilized he waits for two frustrating hours until he is discovered.  A 39-year-old mother finds herself stricken with sharp lower back pain whilst hurriedly making a bed.In too much pain to straighten up, she phones for help and lies motionless until it arrives. Almost anything can make your back go awry; from a simple action like sneezing or picking up the kids toys to whiplash from an accident or fall or physical exertion like sports or manual labor. Today the lower back pain is one of the most common complaints around and at some point in their lives up to 8 out of 10 people will suffer from one or other back pain affliction.

Human_vertebral_column - Copy Here are some interesting facts about your back

*Your back is the principal support of your body on which the skull, ribs, shoulder bones and pelvis are all anchored.

*It serves as the major conduit for the spinal chord, a bunch of nerves that link your brain to the rest of your body.

*Your back is flexible, at a young age it is almost elastic.Gymnasts and dancers can bend the spine to form two-thirds of a circle.Obviously, flexibility declines as we get older.

spine segments*
The spinal column is composed of 33 building blocks called vertebrae that fit neatly into each other and are held together with an intricate system of muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

The lowest 5 vertebrae are the largest forming the lower part of the back.The lower back bears the brunt of the bodies full weight and is generally the most worked part of your body.

Up to 80 percent of lower back pain is attributed to nothing more than overworked or under-exercised lower back muscles.Being overweight is a significant contributor to lower back pain, a pot belly puts immense pressure on the spine. According to studies, 5 kg of extra weight on the abdomen can equal up to 40 kg of stress at the disc. Preventative steps such as correct posture, losing excess weight and good habits relating to sitting, standing, sleeping and driving, are all important as is exercising to strengthen the supporting muscles in the lower back and abdominal areas.bathroom-scale-weight-2560x1920_102235

Unfortunately, many people don’t follow through with an exercise routine or slack off once their backs feel good again.To deal effectively with lower back pain takes dedication over a lifetime, and it is my hope that you will find in the pages of this website the incentive to persevere and succeed in your quest for a strong healthy and pain-free lower back.