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September 14, 2010 > Reduce Back Injuries and Pain

Reduce Back Injuries and Pain

Learn How to Strengthen Your Back at Washington Hospital Seminar

Does your back hurt? You aren't alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, back pain is a common problem, affecting 8 in 10 people at some point in their lives.

"Back pain can be a dull, constant ache all the way to a sudden, sharp pain," said Dr. Desmond Erasmus, a neurosurgeon and member of the Washington Hospital medical staff. "The goal is to help people improve their back fitness so they can avoid back surgery and feel better. "

He will present "Strengthen Your Back! Learn to Improve Back Fitness" with Washington Hospital physical therapist Sharmi Mukherjee, MPT, from 1 to 3 p.m. on Monday, September 27. It will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditoriums at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register online, please visit or call (800) 963-7070.

Mukherjee will provide an overview of the back muscles and how they work. "If you understand the anatomy of the back, how the biomechanics work, you can be more aware of your posture and how you are treating your back," she said. "About 70 percent of the patients I see are having back pain due to bad posture, whether it's at work, while they are lifting the kids or a bag of groceries, or even during sleep."

The back is a complex structure of bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and tendons, Mukherjee explained. The backbone, or spine, is made up of 33 bony segments called vertebrae: The vertebrae are held together by ligaments, which are attached to muscles by tendons. Between each vertebra is a cushion called a disc.

"Strengthening your back can help to slow down the degenerating process that can happen in the spine as you age, causing back pain," Erasmus said. "As the back muscles get stronger, they are better able to support the spine."

Legacy Training Can Help

Mukherjee will discuss the importance of strengthening the core muscles, which are located in the abdomen, back and pelvis. She will offer some simple exercises that can help.

"You need to maintain equal strength in these muscle groups to maintain the correct posture," she explained. "If either is weak, you can develop back problems."

She will also talk about the benefits of the Legacy Strength Training Program for strengthening core muscles. Located at the Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, the program focuses on slow, intense movements rather than fast repetitions

"What we normally do with our back pain patients is that we manage their pain with therapy and start strengthening their core and back extensors," Mukherjee said. "Once they plateau with us in therapy, we recommend that they join our Legacy Strength Training Program to maintain all the gains from therapy. We have very knowledgeable therapists here who train the patients depending on their endurance level and know when to push further and when not to."

The Legacy Strength Training Program is a scientifically based fitness program modeled after the Superslow program created by the late Gary Lindahl, a well-known local physical therapist. The program at Washington Hospital was named to honor Lindahl's legacy.

It is based on slow-motion, high-intensity exercises using special weight machines that are adjusted to fit each individual's needs and limitations. The program is highly individualized. Participants get their own personal trainer who goes through the routine with them, making sure each machine is adjusted properly.

"We encourage people with back problems to enroll in the program to get their core muscles strong," Erasmus said. "We also ask patients to use the program to strengthen their back muscles prior to back surgery. Their muscles will be better able to support the spine after surgery if they are toned."

He said it's important for people to protect their backs as they age by strengthening their core muscles. "It helps to protect your back and also reduces the chance of osteoporosis and other health problems," he added.

Learn More Online

Visit and click on "Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center" to learn more about the therapeutic services that are offered at the Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center including the Legacy Strength Training Program ( or call (510) 794-9672 for more information.

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