By Kathryn Trumble, DPT, ATC/L
With over $80 billion spent annually on back pain treatment, it is vital to handle this problem. Back Health is the epicenter of nerve action for the arms and legs. You can have pain in the back with an injury and have pain, numbness, and tingling in the arms and legs. Physical therapy focuses on 4 main aspects of treatment and prophylactic care to ensure you have a healthy back. The 4 main aspects of treatment are mobility, stability, posture, and body mechanics.
To learn more about the anatomy of the back, please go to: lower back anatomy and low back pain.
Mobility is important in the spine to perform functional activities such as turning your neck to drive, bend forward to put on your shoes and socks, or participate in sports. It is important to have good mobility of the neck and low back to function correctly and maintain lubrication between the joints to prevent these tissues’ breakdown. If you do not keep the joints throughout the back and neck mobile stretching, they can tighten up and cause stiffness and pain. In addition to the joint being mobile, it is important to keep the muscles flexible throughout the back, neck, arms, and legs.
Not only can the paraspinal muscles that run up and down the spine get tight and cause stiffness, the muscles in the back of the neck, front of the shoulder, and front and back of the hips can get tight. This throws off the normal movement of the spine. The hamstrings are often tight and can pull on the pelvis’s back, causing the low back to be flattened. The hip flexors can get tight sitting for a long time and pull on the pelvis’s front, causing more curve in the low back. It is essential to make sure you are maintaining proper mobility of the joints and muscles to limit the pain and promote function.
Stability is another aspect of physical therapy to prevent and treat the low back. Proper core stability helps to support the lower back. It is important to strengthen the muscles that surround the low back like an internal back brace. When you tighten these muscles, it helps to strain the low back with any activity. Moving up the chain is also important when good stability of the muscles that run between the shoulder blades (scapula) and in the forgotten muscle group in front of the neck. These muscles are important in promoting good posture and head positioning and improving the mechanics of the shoulder. It might take a while to get these muscle groups strong enough to function all day, but it is vital to your back health.
Posture is another vital aspect of physical therapy treatment for the back and neck. With many workers having to sit at a desk for hours, it is essential to try not to slouch or lean forward. When a person slouches in a chair, you flatten out the low back and put pressure on the low back instead of having the bones support your body weight in your rear-end. Additionally, it is not good for people who sit at a desk all day to start rounding out the shoulders and bringing the head forward. This will cause tightness in the front of the shoulder and rounding in the upper back. This can also cause pain in the back of the neck. It is important to sit up straight and bring the shoulders back. It will be hard, but trying not to utilize the backrest in some chairs will support your back.
Proper Body Mechanics
Utilizing proper body mechanics when lifting or carrying something heavy, and even when getting in and out of bed, it is important to avoid acute back injuries to discs and muscles. When lifting and carrying a heavier item, it is important to keep the item close to you to avoid increased straining the back. When lifting something from the ground, it is important to have a wide stance and use your larger leg muscles to do all the work. It is important to squat and lift with your legs instead of bending forward at the waist and lifting with the smaller back muscles. We often also teach patients to perform a “log roll” when getting in and out of bed to strain the low back. Rolling onto one side and then pushing up or laying down helps keep the back in alignment and take the back muscles’ work.
JOI and JOI Rehab
JOI Physicians continue to offer online new patient appointments. This is another option to make it more convenient to make new patient appointments with less phone hold times. Follow the link below to select your JOI MD and schedule online.
You can still call 904-JOI-2000 to make new patient JOI Physician Appointments if that is your preference.
To make appointments with JOI Rehab, please call 904-858-7045.