Lower Back Pain: How Exercise HelpsYou may feel like resting, but moving is good for your back. Exercises for lower back pain can strengthen back, stomach, and leg muscles. They help support your spine, relieving back pain. Always ask your doctor before doing any exercise for back pain. Depending on the cause and intensity of your pain, some exercises may not be recommended and can be harmful.
Exercise is good for low back pain -- but not all exercises are beneficial. Any mild discomfort felt at the start of these exercises should disappear as muscles become stronger. But if pain is more than mild and lasts more than 15 minutes during exercise, patients should stop exercising and contact a doctor. Some exercises may aggravate pain. Standing toe touches, for example, put greater stress on the disks and ligaments in your spine. They can also overstretch lower back muscles and hamstrings.
Some exercises can aggravate back pain and should be avoided when you have acute low back pain. Partial crunches can help strengthen your back and stomach muscles. Lie with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross arms over your chest or put hands behind your neck. Tighten stomach muscles and raise your shoulders off the floor. Breathe out as you raise your shoulders. Don't lead with your elbows or use arms to pull your neck off the floor. Hold for a second, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 8 to 12 times. Proper form prevents excessive stress on your low back. Your feet, tailbone, and lower back should remain in contact with the mat at all times.
Avoid: Sit-upsAlthough you might think sit-ups can strengthen your core or abdominal muscles, most people tend to use muscles in the hips when doing sit-ups. Sit-ups may also put a lot of pressure on the discs in your spine.
Try: Hamstring StretchesLie on your back and bend one knee. Loop a towel under the ball of your foot. Straighten your knee and slowly pull back on the towel. You should feel a gentle stretch down the back of your leg. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Do 2 to 4 times for each leg.
Avoid: Leg LiftsLeg lifts are sometimes suggested as an exercise to "strengthen your core" or abdominal muscles. Exercising to restore strength to your lower back can be very helpful in relieving pain yet lifting both legs together while lying on your back can make back pain worse. Instead, try lying on your back with one leg straight and the other leg bent at the knee. Slowly lift the straight leg up about 6 inches and hold briefly. Lower leg slowly. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.
Try: Wall SitsStand 10 to 12 inches from the wall, then lean back until your back is flat against the wall. Slowly slide down until your knees are slightly bent, pressing your lower back into the wall. Hold for a count of 10, then carefully slide back up the wall. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Try: Press-up Back ExtensionsLie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Push with your hands so your shoulders begin to lift off the floor. If it's comfortable for you, put your elbows on the floor directly under your shoulders and hold this position for several seconds.
Try: Bird DogStart on your hands and knees, and tighten your stomach muscles. Lift and extend one leg behind you. Keep hips level. Hold for 5 seconds, and then switch to the other leg. Repeat 8 to 12 times for each leg, and try to lengthen the time you hold each lift. Try lifting and extending your opposite arm for each repetition. This exercise is a great way to learn how to stabilize the low back during movement of the arms and legs. While doing this exercise don't let the lower back muscles sag. Only raise the limbs to heights where the low back position can be maintained.
Try: Knee to ChestLie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring one knee to your chest, keeping the other foot flat on the floor. Keep your lower back pressed to the floor, and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Then lower your knee and repeat with the other leg. Do this 2 to 4 times for each leg.
Try: Pelvic TiltsLie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on floor. Tighten your stomach by pulling in and imagining your belly button moving toward your spine. You’ll feel your back pressing into the floor, and your hips and pelvis rocking back. Hold for 10 seconds while breathing in and out smoothly. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Try: BridgingLie on your back with knees bent and just your heels on the floor. Push your heels into the floor, squeeze your buttocks, and lift your hips off the floor until shoulders, hips, and knees are in a straight line. Hold about 6 seconds, and then slowly lower hips to the floor and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 to 12 times. Avoid arching your lower back as your hips move upward. Avoid overarching by tightening your abdominal muscles prior and throughout the lift.
Lifting Weights May HelpDone properly, lifting weights doesn't usually hurt your back. In fact, it may help relieve chronic back pain. But when you have acute (sudden) back pain, putting extra stress on back muscles and ligaments could raise risk of further injury. Ask your doctor whether you should lift weights, and which exercises to avoid.
Try: Aerobic ExerciseAerobic exercise strengthens your lungs, heart, and blood vessels and can help you lose weight. Walking, swimming, and biking may all help reduce back pain. Start with short sessions and build up over time. If your back is hurting, try swimming, where the water supports your body. Avoid any strokes that twist your body.
Try: Some Pilates MovesPilates combines stretching, strengthening, and core abdominal exercises. Under the instruction of an experienced teacher, it may help some people with back pain. Be sure to tell your teacher about your back pain, because you may need to skip some moves.
Personality tests business are growing
The next time you apply for a job, you may well be asked to take a personality test - even though the companies that make the tests often discourage their use for staff selection. The business of personality is big and growing. But do the tests work?A few years back, my niece Andrea was looking for a summer job to pay her way through college.
She heard the tips were good on a riverboat restaurant in Chicago, but before the interview, she had to fill out an online application including a psychometric assessment.
"There was a whole section on ethics and how you'd react in a given situation, like dealing with an obnoxious customer", she says. "The message was pretty clear - if you're a grumpy type, don't be a waitress."
Andrea was surprised, but was faced with a similar test when she applied to work in a bookshop. Personality assessments are now ubiquitous. In a global recession, many firms want to hedge their bets and cannot afford to pick the wrong people.
Tighter profit margins also mean working under more stress and companies want to make sure their employees get on. Disagreements are costly and inefficient.
Jeff Hayes Myers-Briggs publishing company, CPPWe don't like its use for selection because it's not an assessment of skills and abilities”
In the US alone, there are about 2,500 personality tests on the market. One of the most popular is called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI. Used by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies, it has been translated into 24 languages and has been adopted by governments and military agencies around the world."Myers-Briggs is the most successful psychometric out there and deservedly so," says Rachel Robinson of the consultancy firm YSC in central London.
"It has been a fantastic vehicle for people to think about themselves and how others are different."
Perhaps its attraction lies in its seductive simplicity - according to the MBTI, we all conform to one of 16 character types.
But that simplicity is precisely what makes some people sceptical, or even suspicious.
Letters and labelsThe 16 MBTI types are sometimes given shorthand tags - though not by MBTI itself. For example:
- ISTJ - Inspector, Duty fulfiller
- ESTJ - Supervisor, Guardian
- ISFJ - Protector, Nurturer
- ESFJ - Provider, Caregiver
- ISTP - Crafter, Mechanic
- ESTP - Promoter, Doer
- ESFP - Performer
- ISFP - Artist, Dancer
- ENTJ - Fieldmarshal, Executive
- INTJ - Mastermind, Scientist
- ENTP - Inventor, Visionary
- INTP - Architect, Wizard
- ENFJ - Teacher, Giver
- INFJ - Counsellor
- ENFP - Champion, Inspirer
- INFP - Healer, Idealist
"There is something about the wish to put everything in neat little boxes so that we can manipulate them and make them serve our purposes that is quintessentially corporate America," says American author Annie Murphy Paul.Her 2006 book, The Cult of Personality, claims personality tests are leading us to miseducate our children, mismanage our companies and misunderstand ourselves.
Like many personality tests, MBTI is based on the work of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who, together with Sigmund Freud, laid the foundations of modern psychology. Jung developed the idea of opposed pairs of character traits which are present in all of us and suggested that in each pair we each have a natural preference.
It came into being thanks to an awkward relationship between a woman and her future son-in-law. Katherine Briggs, a wealthy housewife from Washington DC, realised Clarence Myers was a good catch when her daughter Isabel brought him home from college. He seemed like a nice young man, but his way of thinking was so alien to her that she turned to books for help.
Jung's Psychological Types fascinated her and became what she described as her "Bible". Soon, Isabel was infected by her mother's enthusiasm. Over two decades, the pair became avid "type watchers".
Jung only identified eight personality types, but Isabel Briggs Myers eventually doubled that number. Everybody can be described by four letters chosen out of a total of eight, she says.
To the uninitiated, it can look a bit like alphabet soup, but the first category is relatively straightforward - are you E or I? Extrovert or Introvert? The second is a choice between S or N - Sensing or Intuitive - which means some interpret the world by collecting data through their senses, others make intuitive leaps.
Then are you predominantly a T or and F? A thinker or somebody more governed by their feelings? And, finally, are you J or P? According to the blurb in the booklet, Judging types prefer to "regulate and manage their lives" whereas Perceivers favour spontaneity.
There are plenty of websites devoted to pigeonholing celebrities. Apparently, Shakespeare was an INFP and Margaret Thatcher is listed as an ENTJ. The Queen, "data driven" Condoleezza Rice and the "information carnivore" Hillary Clinton are all ISTJs.
Find out more
- Lucy Ash presents The Business of Personality on BBC World Service on Sunday, 8 July, at 09:05 BST
- Episode two will first be broadcast on Saturday 14 July at 12:05 BST
Madonna's rebellious streak and talent for self-promotion makes her an ESTP. Jung may have dismissed such classification as "nothing but a childish parlour game" but I was curious to discover my four letters.I completed the test online, going through the questions quickly, as instructed. But some stripped of context, seemed meaningless. What do you prefer? Hard or Soft? Spire or Foundation? Justice or Compassion?
Then I met Alice King, an occupational psychologist who works for the company responsible for Myers Briggs products in the UK. Over coffee in the British Library, she pulled a thick folder of papers out of her bag.
"Some people like the analogy of the Harry Potter sorting hat, because it can take a while to find your type."
At JK Rowling's fictional school for magicians, the enchanted hat does all the hard work and decided which house suits each pupil, but Alice wanted me to read the booklet, work through the dichotomies one by one and try to assess myself. (Rowling, like Shakespeare, is supposedly an INFP.)
"For example, both an introvert and an extravert may like going jogging after work", she said. "But while the extrovert notices people in the park as he runs past them, the introvert's energy is turned inwards. He uses the time outside to mull over ideas and what has happened that day.
What are they like?If you've ever speculated about the personality type of a celebrity or historical figure, then savour some of these suggestions:
- Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and Leonardo da Vinci have been labelled INTP (Introvert, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving)
- Winston Churchill, Donald Trump and Madonna, have been seen as ESTP (Extrovert, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving)
- Warren Buffett, Hillary Clinton, the Queen and Condoleezza Rice have been judged ISTJ (Introvert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging)
After two hours, she finally revealed that I was an ENTP - Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinking and Perceiving. That puts me in the same category, some would say, as Voltaire and Machiavelli.I guess I am an extrovert, not because I like dancing on tables but because I often get my energy from the people around me. Coming from a large family, I am used to noisy groups, and in the office I am easily distracted by phone calls although perhaps that is not because of my E characteristic so much as my WAB or Work Avoidance Behaviour (an acronym that has nothing to do with Myers-Briggs).
But I was much less convinced by the next two letters. As a reporter, I believe that I am a Sensing type. An S. In my job I look for concrete information that can be verified. Yet according to my questionnaire result, I was the opposite. An Intuitive. An N. Much as I would like to be a big picture person, I know I often get too interested in the trees and forget about the wood.
I was most surprised though by the third letter, T, which classified me as a thinker rather than an F, a feeling person. Maybe I am not as empathetic as I thought I was…
Apparently the overwhelming majority of the 2.5 million Americans who take the MBTI assessment each year feel their results do fit their personalities.
On the other hand, according to the author Annie Murphy Paul, as many as three-quarters of test takers achieve a different personality type when tested for a second time. She argues that the 16 distinctive types described by the Myers-Briggs have no scientific basis whatsoever.
The only letter I felt really confident about was the last one, P, because I do prize spontaneity and flexibility. Unlike my husband and many of my colleagues who are Js, I'm not keen on plans and timetables.
But if I were applying for a job where I knew they needed a good organiser, I might be tempted to answer differently.
Barbara Ehrenreich Investigative writerIn reality, they are not looking for introverts... they want everyone to be perky and positive and upbeat at all times”
Employees often sense that management is looking for a particular type for a specific post. A Sydney- based executive who used to work for an international bank, admitted to cheating on the test at the start of her career when she was desperate for promotion."I don't believe that corporations value diversity and I wanted to be a senior manager," she said. "I knew they wanted either an ESTJ or an ISTJ and I am an ENTJ so it didn't take a lot to fiddle with the answers. But I was conscious that I was doing it."
The investigative writer and self-proclaimed "myth buster by trade" Barbara Ehrenreich, who has been a strong critic of personality testing for years, thinks employers have a greater tendency to worry about whether a candidate is I or E, than P or J.
"You will be told that no one type is better than another and you should be spontaneous in answering the questions," she says.
"But, in reality, they are not looking for introverts. Even if what you are doing is looking at figures all day. They want everyone in the environment to be perky and positive and upbeat at all times."
According to Susan Cain's recent bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can't Stop Talking, introverts are just as high achievers.
Previously in the MagazineFelicity Lee, a chartered occupational psychologist, says it is perfectly possible for introverts to try to act like an extrovert, but it will be more tiring for them.
American and Canadian culture tends to put a higher value on the qualities of extroverts than some other cultures do, Lee says. She also thinks a bias towards extroversion exists in the UK.
But she says being an extrovert, does not necessarily mean a person does extroversion wel
Yet these days more employees are expected to work in teams - to "groupthink" to use the jargon - and possibly communicate effectively with people on the other side of the world whom they have never met. There is a perception that extroverts are better at this.The Myers Briggs Foundation discourages the use of the test for hiring and firing, seeing it primarily as a means of getting employees to think about how they interact with colleagues and work as a team.
"We don't like its use for selection because it's not an assessment of skills and abilities," says Jeff Hayes from the San Francisco-based Myers-Briggs publishing company, CPP.
"But we can't police that in every circumstance because it is used all over the world."
But as my niece Andrea knows, personality tests are used to select staff, even waitresses and bookshelf stackers.
Incidentally, she took neither of those jobs, opting for some paid research at university instead.
"The riverboat restaurant seemed more concerned with vindictive, easily annoyed, angry personality traits," she says. "Whereas the bookstore seemed mainly concerned with personalities that handle boredom and monotony well."
But that reminds me of one of my own techniques for assessing personality - I find the way someone treats a waiter or waitress surprisingly revealing. People who click their fingers or don't bother to even look at the person bringing them their food should be given a wide berth.
Surprising Health Benefits of Sex
The health benefits of sex extend well beyond the bedroom. Turns out sex is good for you in ways you may never have imagined.
Reviewed by Marina Katz, MD
When you're in the mood, it's a sure bet that the last thing on your mind is boosting your immune system or maintaining a healthy weight. Yet good sex offers those health benefits and more.
That's a surprise to many people, says Joy Davidson, PhD, a New York psychologist and sex therapist. "Of course, sex is everywhere in the media," she says. "But the idea that we are vital, sexual creatures is still looked at in some cases with disgust or in other cases a bit of embarrassment. So to really take a look at how our sexuality adds to our life and enhances our life and our health, both physical and psychological, is eye-opening for many people."
Sex does a body good in a number of ways, according to Davidson and other experts. The benefits aren't just anecdotal or hearsay -- each of these 10 health benefits of sex is backed by scientific scrutiny.
Among the benefits of healthy loving in a relationship
1. Sex Relieves Stress
A big health benefit of sex is lower blood pressure and overall stress reduction, according to researchers from Scotland who reported their findings in the journalBiological Psychology. They studied 24 women and 22 men who kept records of their sexual activity. Then the researchers subjected them to stressful situations -- such as speaking in public and doing verbal arithmetic -- and noted their blood pressure response to stress.
Those who had intercourse had better responses to stress than those who engaged in other sexual behaviors or abstained.
Another study published in the same journal found that frequent intercourse was associated with lower diastolic blood pressure in cohabiting participants. Yet other research found a link between partner hugs and lower blood pressure in women.
2. Sex Boosts Immunity
Good sexual health may mean better physical health. Having sex once or twice a week has been linked with higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A or IgA, which can protect you from getting colds and other infections. Scientists at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., took samples of saliva, which contain IgA, from 112 college students who reported the frequency of sex they had.
Those in the "frequent" group -- once or twice a week -- had higher levels of IgA than those in the other three groups -- who reported being abstinent, having sex less than once a week, or having it very often, three or more times weekly.
3. Sex Burns Calories
Thirty minutes of sex burns 85 calories or more. It may not sound like much, but it adds up: 42 half-hour sessions will burn 3,570 calories, more than enough to lose a pound. Doubling up, you could drop that pound in 21 hour-long sessions.
"Sex is a great mode of exercise," says Patti Britton, PhD, a Los Angeles sexologist and president of the American Association of Sexuality Educators and Therapists. It takes work, from both a physical and psychological perspective, to do it well, she says.