Whether you're some type of competitive athlete such as sports athlete, a crossfitter or the everyday "gym guy", lower back and neck pain is something that cripples anyone's aspirations. In an efforts to understand the ailments and how to prevent them, we asked Dr. Michael Camp DPT, CSCS, PES, owner of My Competitive Life, for his rundown of back injuries and expert advice on how to treat and prevent them.

What You Did

Bulging Disc or Herniated Disc The disc is a gelatin material that resides between each vertebrate. A bulging disc is where the nuclear material is still contained within the annular fibers, but bulging out and can be putting pressure on a nerve root. A herniated disc can vary in degree, but the disc is no longer contained by the annular fibers and can be leaking and causing pressure onto a nerve. Degenerative Disc Disease The space between each vertebrate begins to become smaller, causing more pressure onto each disc and spinal structures. This can lead to osteoarthritis, micro fractures and ruptured discs. Spinal Facet Impingement This is part of the vertebrate that can become locked in a certain position due to a quick, awkward movement, or straining a muscle when lifting. The result is sharp pain in your neck or back when trying to move into certain positions. Pinched Nerve with Strained Muscle This happens due to compression, constriction, or stretching of muscles. Symptoms can range from numbness and burning into your extremities or a “pins and needles” feeling as well.

How You Did It

Poor Form Performing a squat or deadlift while flexing or rounding your spine has dramatic effects on shear loading of the discs and the result is injury. The spine is much stronger and better able to withstand compressive forces—about 55% stronger—when in a neutral posture. Myoelectric signals (the electrical signals that control muscles) create muscle forces when performing the deadlift and squat. With a flexed, rounded spine, the muscles of your lower back are “silent,” and you increase strain on posterior passive tissues and high shearing forces on the lumbar spine resulting in injury. On the other hand, a neutral or extended spine showed increased myoelectric lower back muscle recruitment and a reduction of shear forces on the lumbar vertebral disks resulting in a quality lift and reduced risk for injury. Lack of Flexibility Crossed Pelvis Syndrome and Gluteal Amnesia is described by having weak or inhibited glutes, weak abdominals, tight hamstrings and tight hip flexors. As a result, when trying to squat or deadlift, you will not be able to recruit the power muscles of their hips and glutes correctly, causing increased stress and force onto your spine.

Training Prescription Key Notes

#1 Focus on developing unison among several muscle groups. #2 Focus on the core, pelvis and hips. (Remember: power comes from the hips, not the lower back) #3 Work on stretching your traps and pecs. #4 Increase your back and shoulder muscles to improve strength and spinal support to improve posture. NEXT: THE TRAINING PROGRAM >> [pagebreak]

Training Program

Perform this routine 4x per week

Exercise 1: Cat Camel

Set up on your hands and knees, slowly arch your back towards the ceiling, then lower and dip your spine towards the floor. Perform 15 reps.

Exercise 2: Bird Dogs

Begin with 25 reps each leg, again no excessive hip motion, keep your abdominals tight, and kick back in a controlled manner. As it gets easier, you can strap ankle weights to your ankles (begin with 1 pound) or you can perform the exercise for duration of 1 minute. Note: You can also add your arms as well to challenge yourself more.

Exercise 3: Clam Shells

Lay on your side, with both legs bent. Place an ankle weight or resistance band around your thigh, just above the knee. Perform the exercise by keeping your feet together and lifting your upper knee to the ceiling. Perform 30 reps each side, contracting your glute. Then switch sides.

Exercise 4: Chin Tucks into Physioball

Lay on a bench on your back with just your head resting off onto a physioball. Keeping your head in a neutral position, perform a chin tuck (retract your head into the ball like a turtle pulling their head back). Pause for a 1 second hold, then relax and repeat for a series of 10 reps.

Exercise 5: Neck Isometrics

Take a face towel, fold it, and hold it against each side of your head, and forehead. Movements performed are side bending, flexion, and slight rotations right and left. In each position, push your head towards your hand for a gentle contraction of 5 seconds, and then relax. Perform for total of 10 reps in each position. Each movement is very subtle. I.e. Look to right, towel against your chin and gently look to the right against your resistance.

Exercise 6: Planks

Set up on your elbows and feet and keep your abdominals tight and spine completely straight. Perform 3 sets of 20 seconds holds. Note:Start with 20 seconds and add 10 seconds each week until you reach 3 sets of 60 seconds each