I was delighted and privileged to be involved in several series of Gladiators – the biggest thing on UK television at the time. But my days as ‘Jet’ ended in a split second. And now I know all about bad backs!

The fragility of your back

I suffered an awful back injury in a fall during a Gladiators game called Pyramid. My back bent in ways that it should not.


And in that moment life in the spotlight as ‘Jet’ was over.

It was a clear reminder that we should take nothing for granted and appreciate what we have, because things can be very different in the blink of an eye.

And there is nothing like a serious injury or illness to dramatically increase your knowledge and understanding of a particular ailment – not that I wish anything to befall you!

Knowledge is key

So my knowledge of back mechanics, appreciation of the value of a strong and healthy back increased 10-fold, as did my understanding of rehabilitating from a spinal injury and training for a stronger back.

Healthy Back_2Much of the body can get injured and we can muddle along.

Even something as major as a broken leg – we’ll get by on crutches for a few weeks and then know our leg will heal and even be stronger.

But when your back is injured all movement and functionality is massively limited and life as you know it grinds to a halt.

Lets look at the make-up of the back

The spine is a very complicated piece of anatomy. It is the body’s centrepiece. And together with the rib cage and sternum, forms the foundation of the body’s trunk.

It is comprised of 26 vertebrae sitting between the base of the skull to the back of the pelvis.

Running inside this 26-part column is the spinal cord. This is of course incredibly fragile and damage to it can lead to irreversible paralysis. Between each vertebrae are discs which are made up of a hard outer fibrocartilage and a soft jelly-like inner substance.

Healthy Back_3These compress to allow movement and they also act as shock absorbers, but when they go wrong – and we’ve all heard of slipped and bulging discs- it can be ruinous to quality of life.

It is the spine that influences our posture, it actually holds our head and is critical to a whole multitude of our movements including all twisting and bending motions.

Ways we can hamper and damage our backs

Unfortunately, many of us are guilty of most of them! Poor posture, being overweight, bad lifting technique.

Low back pain affects huge numbers and can be caused by such things as lack of flexibility, inactivity, stress and tension.

Strong back muscles are vital to increase stability of the spine and defend against excessive stress on supportive structures such as the ligaments and tissues around the discs.

Strengthen your supportive muscles

You need to ensure that the supportive muscles of the core region and back are trained and strengthened.

I fell from the pyramid game in Gladiators and my back folded over the wrong way to an alarming degree. There is no doubt in my mind that were I not flexible and conditioned from my years in gymnastics and dance, then I would have been paralysed in that fleeting moment.

Don’t take back health for granted and make back strengthening and conditioning a central component of your training. You never know when it might save you. 

A healthy back might not be something you can see like other toned and shaped aspects of your body, but without it, those abs, shoulders, butt and arms are pretty useless!

In a follow-up article I will look at some specific exercises that will help you acheive a strong healthy back.

Connect here with Expert Diane Youdale

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