Preventative Back Care 101
By Chad Evans, PT
Preventative Back Care 101
A large part of preventative back care is the knowledge of the spine and how it supports the body as well as how the rest of the body supports it. By understanding structure, function, and body mechanics you may be able to resolve or prevent low back pain.
To learn more about the spine and a catch in your back, please read this ARTICLE.
Anatomy of the Spine
To begin with the spine is made up of numerous cylinder shaped bones called vertebrae. These bones stack together forming what is known as the spinal column. They are connected together by facets joints, discs, muscles, and ligaments. The spine is generally thought of as being divided into 4 regions:
- Cervical (neck) consists of 7 vertebrae and provides lots of movement
- Thoracic (torso) consists of 12 vertebrae, less movement, connection for ribs
- Lumbar (lower back) consists of 5 large vertebrae, provides lots of movement
- Sacrum/Coccyx(tailbone) 8 fused vertebrae that connect to pelvis bones
Function of the Spine
The main function of the spine is to protect the spinal cord. It also allows for trunk mobility and support, as well as shock absorption via the disc and it numerous curves. The muscles that run along the front (abdominals) and back side of the spine act as a corset to help brace and protect it.
Because there are so many structures that make up the spine, you can see why it can be difficult to figure out the origin of back pain. Typically there are a few common factors;
1-Weak core muscles (abdominals and lumbar erectors)
2-Poor flexibility in the hips, hamstrings, and lumbar area
3-Poor postural habits (sitting, standing, and sleeping)
4-Poor body mechanics with lifting, pushing, pulling, and carrying.
Back problems usually present as localized symptoms in the lumbar region but sometimes these symptoms can radiate down the leg as well. Localized pain is often the result of muscle guarding from such things as sprains/strains, arthritis, joint stiffness, and/or disc injury. Radiating symptoms are usually related to pressure or irritation to a nerve or nerve root. The source of irritation or pressure could be from entrapment due to decreased disc height, disc protrusion, muscle entrapment, and/or arthritic changes.
Treatment of the Spine or Proper Back Care
Treatment for these different conditions can vary based on the origin of the problem. Typically, our focus in your treatment is on decreasing muscle guarding via massage, ultrasound, heat, ice and electrical stimulation. When your symptoms improve, we can start light stretching and gentle joint mobilizations may be beneficial. As things improve core strengthening exercises are initiated to help begin preventative back care to better protect your spine for the performance of daily activities. Learning and using proper body mechanics and posture will help ensure that your back is not exposed to further trauma. Watch this video on Lower Back Stretches for Home.
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