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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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November 23 2015

Dear Mark: Back Health and Weight Lifting, Blood Pressure on Primal

By Mark Sisson
42 Comments

Dramatic lighting deadliftFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two reader questions. First, Will wonders whether his brother’s recent back injury from lifting a bag of mortar and his father’s lifelong bout with spinal stenosis following a deadlift injury should inform his exercise choices. Is the deadlift inherently risky? How prevalent is disc degeneration, and what does it mean? Then, Mike is a very active 52 year-old with a history of great blood pressure readings who’s been Primal for four months. At his latest checkup, his blood pressure and heart rate were elevated. Should he worry? What could it mean?

Let’s go:

Dear Mark,

A few weeks ago my brother slipped a disc lifting a bag of mortar (with improper form, obviously). However, he’s 24. He is healthy, fit, and a decorated athlete. So, he visits the doctor and the doctor informs him of the normality of his situation, saying, “90% of people will have at least one deteriorating disc in their back by the time they are 30 years old.”

Furthermore, my father has battled spinal stenosis since college after a deadlifting injury. He just recently had surgery which, while it did improve his mobility, totally took him out of commission for months upon months. On top of that, his exercise routine is now severely and permanently limited.

My question is, are deadlift and squat and other heavily weighted movements like that doing more harm than good?

I am 19 years old. I’m a big guy and I like to stay fit, so I do these types of lifts on a weekly basis. But am I setting myself up for a lifetime of back injury?

Please provide some clarity to me and the other readers. I do not wish to be another statistic.

Sincerely,

Will

Your brother’s story is a common one. If someone throws out their back, it’s usually because they lifted something wrong. It doesn’t even have to be anything particularly heavy. I’ve seen people throw out their back lifting a cat, or a jug of water, or a piece of trash. It’s a mix of bad luck, carelessness, and poor technique. So in some respects, that motion—picking stuff off the ground by hinging at the hips—seems inherently risky. If you can hurt yourself lifting a tabby cat, how could deadlifting twice you body weight ever be a good idea?

Well, there are some major differences.

Deadlifts are planned. It’s a formal occasion. You don’t just randomly reach down and grab the bar and lift it up any old way. You set yourself. You activate the musculature along the spine. You arrange your feet underneath the bar just so. You’ve been here a hundred times before. You know what you’re doing and what’s going to happen. Grabbing the cat darting between your legs is a split-second reaction, and that’s where mistakes are more likely to occur.

Bars with 45 pound weights on either end are designed to be lifted from the ground. Most people with two arms and two legs and no serious injuries or limitations can figure out a way to safely lift the bar.

There’s even research suggesting that deadlifts can improve symptoms in patients with low-level back pain, provided their back extensors are sufficiently strong and their pain isn’t too bad.

But I do agree that any exercise with the potential to increase jump height, bone mineral density, and overall beastly strength also carries some risk. So be careful:

Don’t deadlift when you’re tired. Deadlifts become dangerous when you’re fatigued. That’s why you don’t program heavy deadlifts after sprinting on the rower, back squatting for five sets of five, and maxing out your snatch; you’re liable to hurt yourself. Besides, to get the most out the deadlift you should go into it fresh.

Consider deemphasizing the squat. Many experts think heavy back squats are riskier than heavy deadlifts. Gray Cook recommends maintaining the squat and training the deadlift. In my experience, a lot more can go wrong when the heavy bar is on your back than when the bar’s in your hands. And if you still want great leg development, there are worthy alternatives to the back squat. I even went over 9 of them in a previous post. Single leg training (lunges, split squats) can be very effective and much easier on the back.

Back off if you get a funny feeling or premonition about the lift. If something feels “weird” on the last rep, cut the set short and call it a day. If your ego starts asserting itself and you feel like you should do “just one more set,” don’t. Go with your gut, and always err on the side of caution.

If you’re really cautious, have impeccable technique (i.e. you’ve been coached), stay on top of your recovery, don’t do anything overtly stupid (like max out after pulling an all-nighter), and keep your ego in check (the deadlift is a tool to improve your health, not a way to prove your worth), I think the deadlift can be safe. We’re designed for hip hinging, after all.

Lifting is extremely important, but it’s not everything. There are hundreds of other ways to get strong, fit, fast, and—yes—big. Don’t fall prey to barbell dogma.

As for the prevalence of structural damage to the spine, the “90% by age 30” doesn’t appear to be totally accurate but there is some interesting data in asymptomatic populations (people who report having no back pain).

  • 37% of asymptomatic 20 year-olds have disc degeneration. 96% of asymptomatic 80 year-olds have it.
  • 30% of asymptomatic 20 year-olds have bulging discs. 84% of asymptomatic 80 year-olds have it.
  • 29% of asymptomatic 20 year-olds have disc protrusion (a kind of herniated disc). 40% of asymptomatic 80 year-olds have it.
  • 19% of asymptomatic 20 year-olds have annular fissure (a tear in the tissue filling intervertebral space). 29% of asymptomatic 80 year-olds have it.

That’s about a third of otherwise healthy, asymptomatic 20 year-olds with apparently serious spine issues. I mean, degenerated discs? Hernias? Tears, bulges, protrusions? Sounds awful. Interestingly, the authors of the study suggest that many (perhaps most) structural injuries to the spine are incidental to the aging process and may not require or even benefit from therapeutic interventions. In patients complaining about back pain, any disc abnormalities found during the MRI might not even correspond to the site or intensity of the pain. They may present with a bulging disc that looks bad on the monitor but doesn’t actually cause the pain they’re complaining about.

Genetics play a role in one’s susceptibility to disc degeneration, too, so I wouldn’t ignore your father’s back injury history. That may have played a role in your brother’s incident.

I have been following the primal lifestyle now for about 4 months, eating and exercising primally. I am 52 and very active. My carb intake would average 90gms per day and we have no bad fats in the house pantry. I also consume almost no sugars. 6 months ago I had some tests done with the doctor and my blood pressure was 109/65, my resting heart rate was 54, my cholesterol scores were HDL 2.5 LDL 2.1 and Triglicerides 0.3. Today I had my blood pressure taken and was shocked to be told my heart rate was 70 and my blood pressure was 139/85, I must admit I was standing up and had been walking around for about 3 hours on a warm day. My question is can the primal lifestyle cause a massive jump in blood pressure or could it have simply been the circumstances of standing/walking and heat that affected the reading.

Thanks for your advice!

Mike

That’s a tough one. If anything, blood pressure tends to be higher in colder weather and lower in hotter weather.

During and immediately after exercise, systolic blood pressure goes up to reflect the increased blood flow and diastolic blood pressure goes down as the arteries dilate. As the day wears on, having exercised usually improves your 24-hour blood pressure. I don’t think this is it, as even if your blood pressure was elevated from the walk, diastolic should have been lower. Are you walking regularly? Regular walking has been shown to modestly reduce 24-hour blood pressure.

So I don’t think it’s the weather or the walking.

You say you’re highly active. Are you eating enough food? If not, you could be overtraining, which is often just another way of saying “undereating.” A common symptom of overtraining is increased sympathetic nervous system activity, which can increase blood pressure and heart rate.

Are you eating enough carbs? You may be one of those people who needs a few more carbs than most, especially if you’re counting fibrous green veggies toward your total carb count. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it doesn’t really make sense to count the carbs contained in foods like broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage, etc. Those foods often take more glucose to digest and metabolize than they provide. No one’s “carbing up” with a big head of cauliflower, and trying to maintain a highly active lifestyle and heavy training schedule on fibrous veggies rarely works out. Try getting 90 grams of carbs from starchy tubers and fruit, if you haven’t been doing that already.

It’s important to keep in mind that a single reading is just a single reading: a snapshot of a physiological state that’s always in flux. You need a series of measurements taken days/weeks apart with everything else staying as constant as possible. Same time of day, same ambient temperature, same emotional status, same activity levels. So whatever you do, don’t look too deeply into this single reading.

That’s it for today, everyone. If you have any advice or input for Mike or Will, help out in the comment section!

Thanks for reading!

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42 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Back Health and Weight Lifting, Blood Pressure on Primal”

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  1. My dad just hurt his back this morning by dropping something off the counter and going to pick it up really fast. He’s now laid out on the couch. He’s also had back surgery and had three discs completely stop doing their duty. He’s worked hard all his life and been thin, but had a heart attack. His diet is piss poor. I’m sure the amount of inflammation in his body has contributed to his back problems. I keep trying to get him to go primal. He tries so hard and then his west Nile causes him to sleep for 18 hours and still be exhausted. It’s tough out there, but everyone of his problems he’s got is made worse or caused by his diet. Couldn’t the guys dad also have caused problems due to his diet? People arent known to have great diets in college and back in the day (still) carb loading was where it was at. So if his dad’s back was inflammed to begin with couldn’t that contribute more then genetics? I would assume that in order to tribute back issues to genetics you would have to look back into their family history to find many more people with back issues and the you would have to figure out why. Because people tend to inherit their diets from their families and don’t change them, so technically they could inherit the genetic predisposition from that. It’s a really in depth thing.

    1. His West Nile symptoms may also be made worse by poor diet. I caught West Nile over labor day weekend. I was down for a few days, very tired – the too much effort to get up from the chair to go to bed kind of tired – but after two days of very pronounced symptoms and general exhaustion, I was fine. By the time the labs came back to tell me I had West Nile, I was back to my workout routine and feeling great.
      My Dad caught West Nile the same weekend and was flat on his back for over a week, with relapses over the next month. His diet, unsurprisingly, is mostly bread, cereal, starch, and very lean meat with lots of sugary treats thrown in because he gets hungry.

  2. To address Will–my mother (who passed away a couple of weeks ago at 87) had had two very difficult lumbar back surgeries several years prior. She found out that the tendency for stenosis is hereditary, telling me “Don’t get this”. I already have some stenosis in my neck that was VERY painful at first, especially in the deltoid on the affected side. No pain now but that hand will lose sensation if I hold it in certain positions (like the one I had to put it into when I was drawing blood gasses as a respiratory therapist–if I spent very long feeling for the artery I wanted my fingers would start to go numb).
    After 35 yrs of health care I have no idea what may be going on in my back but I know for sure that my feet are ruined. My 30 yr old daughter recently had to have the mini-surgery to get a ruptured lumbar disc fixed; she was non-functional for pain for several weeks beforehand. She insists that her problem started when she was in the Navy about 10 yrs prior. Who knows.
    Seems that bipedalism was great for our brains but hell on our spines.

  3. The age old chicken or the egg conundrum. It’s hard to say if it’s genetics or lifestyle habits passed down that are the real culprit (or a combination of the two). At any rate, diet could definitely be a factor if he already struggles with inflammation. Limiting injury is another reason we should work really hard to limit the environmental factors that flip on those genes we’d rather lay dormant.

    1. My back troubles stopped when I started sleeping on the wooden floor.

      1. Taking a yoga class with a qualified tutor can have remarkable effects on back pain, particularly all the disc-related issues.

        You need to find a teacher that has a thorough understanding of anatomy as well as yogic science. Many osteopaths do/teach yoga.

        1. I agree — and with emphasis on “qualified,” as yoga can also exacerbate back issues. And it’s as true for yoga as deadlifting, check your ego at the door and only go as far as you can go. I sampled Svaroopa yoga this year — its focus is the spine — and I loved the class. My back felt incredible. But more incredible were the testimonials from the other students and their dedication to the practice as it had clearly improved many people’s long-standing horrible back issues. I had a scheduling conflict, or I’d be in the class.

      2. +1 to sleeping on the floor (blanket over carpet on wood floorboards). Surprisingly comfortable once I’ve found the right position on my side and have pillow at the right height for my head.

  4. A series of back injuries is what lead me to interest in a more primal lifestyle and diet. I have pretty serious facet joint arthritis in my lumber spine along with fairly significant spinal stenosis. I can definitely say that deadlifts are far easier on my back than squats. In fact when I have problems with right leg feeling numb or my back hurting a bit, doing a set or two of dead lifts actually, makes it feels better. My back specialist who uses the same gym as I do, talked about this he said it makes some sense to him. Back squats are tools of torture to me. I do find zercher squats to be a good alternative. In general back issues are very person specific.

  5. Tell me about back issues. I went primal one year ago and had great success (weight loss, much more energy, better mood), and then all my motivation went down because one day I woke up unable to feel my legs. Maybe that’s a bit an exageration, but certainly my sensitivity was not really there. I could move without problems but I would hit me with a ruler or a belt and felt nothing. Turns out I had a totally degenerated disc, plus two big hernias that were affecting the nerves. Not a very motivating thing since I’m just 26 years old, but I understand I’ve always been predisponed to this because I was born with scoliosis and I can’t say I had very healthy habits before I changed my lifestyle.

    That said, even if I’m not fully healed by now, I’ve had great improvement and keep living primal. Now I can feel my legs, even though I still have some annoying tingly feeling in my feet.

    1. My husband has mild scoliosis which developed into debilitating back pain at the age of about 33. He found a highly competent acupuncturist who helped manage the pain, and the acupuncturist’s main advice was to strengthen his back. Hubby’s had no issues since he took up deadlifting at the local gym.

  6. I’m surprised Mark didn’t mention getting a blood pressure cuff to the second letter writer. Inexpensive automatic blood pressure cuffs can be easily found at drug stores and big box stores. They will even keep a record of the readings. Use it everyday for several days at the same time to get a better idea what your baseline bp is then decide if you need to worry or fiddle around with stuff.

    1. Second this! I have “white coat” high blood pressure. It’s always really high at the doctor’s office. I got a good machine (about $40) and took it with me to an appointment. The nurse took my blood pressure on both to confirm it was roughly the same and the doctor said just to check it at home on a regular basis and on the day before I have an appointment.

      1. White Coat Syndrome is more like a phobia for me. I would get an immediate panic attack whenever they put that damn cuff on me. So of course my blood pressure was always too high. I have no idea why it throws me into such a panic, other than I’ve had several bad experiences with people who didn’t know how to check blood pressure. In any case, I won’t let them check it at the doctor’s office any more. My blood pressure is normal the rest of the time.

    2. Also, make sure that the physicians assistant doesn’t have the cuff too tight. It’s not supposed to be painful!

  7. I’ve recently switched to single-leg stiff-leg deadlifts using a heavy dumbbell in one hand and steadying myself with the other hand, and so far I really like the change. It seems to have a really good muscular affect with less structural stress. For those who, like me, don’t find lunges to be a good exercise, I would suggest one-legged leg presses. They don’t stress the lower spine at the bottom of the motion the way normal leg presses do (h/t Stuart McGill) and give a lot more range of motion than lunges. Power cleans also give the DL motion but with generally safer form for most people.

  8. Thanks Mark, I agree on the squat advice. I used to be a squat-aholic but have dropped them almost completely and mostly just deadlift occasionally. At first I was afraid that I would lose strength, muscle mass, conditioning, you name it but it never happened. Actually nothing happened except I am no longer sore all the time from squatting and was able to improve my sprinting, 1 mile and 5K times. Looking back, most of my weightlifting injuries were related to squating and I have never gotten as much consistent soreness from an exercise than squats. While I don’t regret doing squats, I also don’t regret dropping them, they served their purpose but after a while the costs outweighed the benefits.

  9. I’m left with the question of whether I should continue squatting or not (with heavy weights that is). It never fails, I also end up some with some weird back injury, even when I’m doing the form correctly according to those who analyze my squat. Even now, I’ve been squatting 5×5 or 5×4 or 5×3 the past 3 months, primarily activating the glutes, good hip thrust, the whole deal. Here I sit with 1 tight hamstring, 1 tight psoas (I’m sure of this), my glutes on the one side seem tight, and looking at squats like the enemy.

    I’m thinking now it’s better to just forget squats, stick to weightless squats for the simple motion, while doing single leg quad training like Mark suggests. Then keep deadlifts in my workout as I feel no ill effects from those.

    1. I’d say your reps are too low. No wonder you’re so sore. Low rep max squats are a once in a while thing. Try doing at least 12 reps. If you can’t easily knock out twelve, then lower the weight until you can. To mix it up, try putting a little wedge under you heels and see how that feels. It really hits the front of the quads hard while taking stress off your back.

    2. Forget squats unless it’s specific to your training. I saw few benefits and lots of pain after reaching 1.5x BW squats. I stopped at 2x BW due to an unrelated shoulder injury and in a way it was a blessing. A year later I can still squat 1.5x BW without training it and there is really no reason to go beyond that. I’m much more interested in running 5Ks and keeping up with my deadlift for strength.

  10. I’ve had grade 3/4 spondylolisthesis since I was probably 18 (currently 46). That is a vertebrae moved forward and the disc below pretty much gone. I have consulted with several back surgeons over the years in a monitoring basis only.

    I used to row competitively and play football. Now I ski and mountain bike.

    Bottom line: design whatever training program you do around core strength first and foremost.
    I gave up heavy weights years ago, especially squats as MS mentions. In fact I have found body weight leg exercises, using balance and individual limbs to be exceptional for fitness and strength. As good as any strenuous leg weight training of the past.

    But the core is the focus if you have back issues.

    My back is less than perfect but I can hammer with the best of them on the mountain. So yes you can train. Yes you can remain fit; and yes you can do it with a “lousy” back if you keep your core strong and fit.

  11. I’m kind of new around here, but I’m wondering if people know Dr. John Sarno’s work on this website. He wrote Healing Back Pain which poses the theory that our back pain is related to suppressed rage. It is a quick, easy, and really empowering read. I thought it was really bizarre at first, but the book actually really helped me with some back issues.
    Just thought I’d throw it out there.

    1. Thanks for this recommendation! I’ve requested it via interlibrary loan from my library.

    2. I second this. I also recommend Dr. Scott Brady’s Pain Free for Life. It’s partly a first-person account of using Sarno’s methods and partly a physician’s story of how these concepts changed his practice and helped his patients. He does a really job of tackling some of the intellectual and emotional conundrums in Sarno’s work that were stumbling blocks for me.

  12. I do have a BP cuff & started checking mine at home regularly after some high readings, higher than the writer in your post. As we age, blood vessels tend to stiffen so for older folks, BP may rise even if living primal. and, at least for me, salt, even natural salts, do raise BP. It’s frustrating and I should walk or bike farther, but like everyone, have time constraints. Also arthritic knees make walking more difficult and it’s too cold to swim for the next 4-5 months. Ive been primal 4 years and it really has not helped my BP even though weight is normal.

  13. Ugh, reading this makes me want to go out and lift soooooo badly. Broke my collarbone riding my bike. Had surgery a month ago, starting PT this week.

  14. I agree with maintain squats, train deadlifts to a certain degree. Heavy back squats do not seem to be a very natural way of lifting something. Usually the object you lift is in front of you. I changed my mindset of weightlifting to ‘if I can’t lift it off the floor, I ain’t lifting it’. So I clean the weight up and do front squats instead. Deadlifts seem quite natural and maybe not a high rep exercise(3-8) Proper form is always first. Also, barbells are just one tool, You can bearhug something heavy and squat that actually feels very primal- like chopping wood! Keep writing Mark thanks:-)

    1. “You can bearhug something heavy and squat that actually feels very primal”

      paul,

      Interesting that you would say that. It reminds me of the greatest wrestler of all time, Aleksander Karelin. He won over 800 international matches and lost only 2!

      When an interviewer asked him who his toughest opponent was, he said it was his refrigerator. He had purchased a full-sized refrigerator, and to get it up to his 8th floor apartment, he bear hugged it and carried it up. All 7 flights.

      After watching him wrestle on youtube, I have no doubt whatsoever that this story is true.

      1. And one of the losses was against Tomas Johansson, a great Swedish wrestler, who happened to have his career at the same time as Karelin.
        Karelin and Tomas had numerous fights over the years and Tomas says he was happy to wrestle against the best wrestler ever.
        The other loss was the Sydney Olympic game one, when Karelins career already was over.
        So imagine beeing Tomas Johansson knowing that “if” he’d been 10 years later/earlier then Karelin he would probably have been one of the greatest wrestler in history.
        But it seems like Tomas mostly appreciates the time spent loosing against Karelin.

        1. “The other loss was the Sydney Olympic game one, when Karelins career already was over.”

          That was the year 2000, in the gold medal match. American Rulon Gardner won by 1 point, in a controversial decision because Gardner won the point with a rule that had only been implemented a few months before.

          Karelin won silver, and retired immediately after the match. Had he won, it would have been his 4th gold medal in the olympics. The other 3 were all in the super heavyweight division.

  15. “Back off if you get a funny feeling or premonition about the lift. If something feels ‘weird’ on the last rep, cut the set short and call it a day.”

    Even better, use bumper plates so you can drop the bar without doing any damage to the plates or floor. It’s easy to drop the bar when deadlifting – just let go. But learn how to properly drop the bar when you’re squatting so it doesn’t crash on you.

  16. Really appreciate this line, Mark: “It’s important to keep in mind that a single reading is just a single reading: a snapshot of a physiological state that’s always in flux.”

    I wish more physicians were sharing this message…along with more complete explanations of what lab tests show and do not show.

    1. My PCP told me that she wouldn’t start to worry about an elevated blood pressure until six months of consistently troubling readings. (Obviously, she was not referring to off the chart, “you are having a stroke” bad readings). She also said that all too often providers do not have the patient follow blood pressure best practice: feet on floor, shoulders relaxed, no talking.

      I had a high reading for me at a screening for work, remembered this advice, added a few minutes of meditative slow breath work, and dropped my reading so significantly the RN took it a third time because she couldn’t believe it.

  17. After living with a bad back for forty years for which I refuse to have surgery, I can recommend the following:

    1. Never turn or twist your trunk while carrying weight.
    2. Get a kneeler chair for your desk and a good orthopedic mattress.
    3. The moment you feel the twinges of coming attack, rest more, walk more, do a little light exercise, pay attention to your posture, and take anti-inflammatories.

    I’m sure a healthy diet helps, but the main problem is mechanical IMO.

    PS: Every time I access MDA my computer hangs and I get a message “A script on this page may be busy, or it may have stopped responding. You can stop the script now, open the script in the debugger, or let the script continue.
    Script: https://www.marksdailyapple.com…ting-blood-pressure-on-primal/:1

  18. Re: squats and deadlifts

    I strongly recommend Bill DeSimone’s books, articles, and videos for anyone attracted to these exercises. Bill argues persuasively that they’re inherently dangerous, due to basic biomechanics. Some people certainly get away with them, or seem to for long periods, but others don’t. Both catastrophic injuries and long term damage are dangers. If you do choose to do these moves, Bill has suggestions for how to do them more safely.

  19. Will: I’m 66, and once suffered from back pain, and lifted things at my peril. Two things I’ve learned to do have almost completely resolved it (when I first get up I have a little bit, but it goes away as I become active). The first is the Gokhale method of posture, which made an amazing difference in my quality of life (and I can lift things, even heavy things from the ground by hip-hinging, with no problem. I was recently in Atlanta, and the walk from my hotel to the train and restaurants took me by a Crossfit gym several times a day. I noticed that almost all of those people, doing rapid curls with weighty barbells, leaping up and down, and so forth, had terrible posture-shoulders, head and neck rolled forward, pelvis tucked. The second thing I learned was The Founder, from Foundation Training. This engages the posterior chain (from Achilles to neck) of muscles, and is how I begin my warm-up every time I do my workout.

    1. This. The S-shaped spine most (even Egoscue) think is natural, is not. That bottom lumbar curve is the problem, it puts strain on those discs. Esther Gokhale and Dr Eric Goodman are really onto something.

  20. It’s interesting that you discuss these problems in the same post, Mark, as there’s a connection between back problems and high blood pressure. I’m an RN who had a very difficult time with high blood pressure a few years back. I had so many side effects from medications that I started looking for other strategies. I started keeping a log of blood pressure readings and other daily activities. Here are several other things that can cause high blood pressure, based on my experience:
    1. Thoracic spine alignment. T3, 4 and 5 affect the heart and lungs. I found when my T-spine was out of alignment, my blood pressure would spike. In fact, once I started to pay attention, I could feel these vertebra “go out” and in checking my blood pressure, would find an definite strong spike. Regular chiropractor visits solved that problem.
    2. Eating grains. Wheat was the major culprit here, but excess amounts of any grain resulted in higher blood pressure readings (excess meaning more than one or two servings a day).
    3. Taking NSAIDs. NSAIDs stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, many of which are over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen. All NSAIDs except aspirin have been linked to heart failure, which often occurs after years of high blood pressure (remember the Vioxx scandal, in which the drug was finally pulled from the market after it caused many heart-related deaths?). I found that even 200 milligrams of Advil caused my blood pressure to climb by 10-15 points or more the next day.
    As long as I keep my back in alignment, limit grains, avoid wheat and rarely take NSAIDs (maybe one Advil in a 7- to 10-day period), my blood pressure rarely gets above 120/80 and usually runs in the teens. I haven’t taken meds in five years.
    Those who suffer from high blood pressure may also have sleep apnea, so it’s worth getting that checked out as well (although snoring is the most common symptom, you can have sleep apnea without snoring).

  21. I’m just wondering what sort of sport your brother was as an “athlete” – was it running, weight lifting for body building, or weight lifting for power lifting, calisthenics ? For example, a pro runner will never be any good at lifting weight, as they just don’t train for it, and even worse, probably have weak core muscles. Also, they haven’t trained there body to be able to work as a whole to lift weights, this is why long distance runners/cyclists have illusionary fitness – its very one dimensional.

    Lifting weights with the correct form and not being a “hero” will in fact protect your back, as will mixing in yoga and calisthenics (the heavy kind). Calisthenics moves, advanced ones like handstands, muscle ups, L-Sits, Hanging leg raises, planches (not a plank, a planche, but planks are good too of course), etc, will ensure a strong and co ordinated core. You can have huge muscles, but if you lack true body control and core strength, its just a matter of time until you get an injury – sticking only to weights, your especially prone to your strength out stripping your tendon and joint strength, not to mention not have developed the co-ordination to control such strength.

    In terms of “everybody inevitably developing a bad disk” – that’s total BS, as long as you follow a good diet (hey, like a primal diet), and do good form exercises, and avoid chronic cardio (despite the huge following, the catabolic response from this type of training is to sacrifice, strength, joints, tendons, bone density, and yes, things like disks in your back will break down, and that’s just a plain fact) – I personally “corrected” my bad back following this advice, after being told by the doctors my back would get worse and worse – 15 years later my back is stronger then ever, and I can do things like dig and lift all day, and be perfectly fine. The primal diet were the cornerstone of doing this.

  22. i think a lot of soft tissue injuries are genetic. i was a farm worker from the age of 11 to 19 lifting heavy baskets of tomatoes for at least 2 hours a day, twisting and turing, no kind of good form. my grandparents in their 70s, and also a little in their 80s were doing the same work. none of us has herniated discs or needed back surgery. one think that did help us was that we got into shape very slowly as the season picked up.

    i also played field hockey and lacrosse for years and never had any injuries. my daughter tore her acl and a partially tore her meniscus from field hockey as a junior. i think she shares her father’s genes. he has had back surgery for a herniated disc (his big toe is still numb from the nerve damage related to that injury), he had tennis elbow surgery for one forearm, and needs it in the other, he had shoulder surgery. his job as a cook involved a lot of repetitive lifting, twisting, etc, but he had co-workers in their 60s doing the same work (chinese cook) with no problem. so if your family tends to have these kind of injuries, i say watch out.

  23. I met a guy who’d been a postman for 25 years, so knew a thing or two about weight-bearing and sub-optimal conditions (freezing cold wet weather, working with flu, bending and twisting). He said to never wear a belt, and that posties who wore leather belts always ended up damaged because the tight narrow band trapped the muscles and placed the wrong the pressure on the discs.

    Just passing this along fwiw. 🙂