Understanding the Back

By Michelle Duclos, ATC and Chad Evans, PT

JOI Wellness Newsletter


Understanding the Back and Tips to Prevent
Back Pain

By understanding structure, function, and body mechanics, you maybe able to resolve or prevent low back pain. The spine is made up of cylinder shaped bones called vertebrae. Together, vertebrae form
the spinal column. They are connected by facet joints, discs, muscles, and ligaments. The spine is divided into four segments: the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacrum-coccyx. These natural curves provide shock absorption for the spinal cord. There are a few common factors that lead to low back pain: weak abdominal and back musculature; poor flexibility in the hips, hamstrings, and lumbar area; poor postural habits; and poor body mechanics with lifting, pushing, pulling, and carrying.

Back pain typically presents as localized pain in the lumbar region. However, in some cases these symptoms can radiate down the leg as well. Treatment is focused on decreasing muscle guarding through the use of
massage, ultrasound, heat, ice and electrical stimulation. When symptoms begin to subside, light stretching and gentle joint mobilizations may be beneficial. As symptoms improve, core strengthening
exercises are initiated to provide musculature support for the spine with performance of daily activities.

Learning and using proper body mechanics and improving posture will help ensure that your back is not exposed to further trauma.

Tips to Prevent Back Pain

  • • Sleeping on Back – Place a pillow under your knees.
    • Sleeping on Side – Place a pillow between your knees.
    • Sleeping on Stomach – Place a pillow under your lower legs and under your stomach to help keep the
    spine in neutral.
    • Standing for Long Periods – Alternate placing one foot in front of the other or on a stool. Wear low
    heeled shoes and maintain good posture.
    • Sitting for Long Periods – Sit upright, head facing forward. Try using a roll to support the low back.
    Keep your shoulders relaxed, avoiding a rounded back. Keep hips level with the knees. Avoid crossing
    your legs for long periods.
    • Work Positioning – Position yourself close to work both when you are standing or sitting. Avoiding
    straining forward at your neck or waist.
    • Reading – When reading, hold reading material in tilted position and maintain good sitting posture.
    • Work Height and Reach – Work no more than two to four inches below elbow level when standing
    and at elbow level when sitting. Reach at an arm’s length with elbows slightly bent.
    • Keep Chin Tucked – Keep chin tucked and shoulders back when picking up objects.
    • Driving or Sitting in Car – Before driving, adjust seat and steering to ensure good posture.
    • Computer Work – Position work to face forward. Use proper work and seat height. Keep shoulders
    back and down, wrists straight and elbows at right angles. Use chair that provides full back support.
    Add a footrest and lumbar roll as needed.

Related Article: Best Core Stabilization Exercises. 


JOI Scheduling

  • To schedule a new patient or follow up patient appointment with your MD, please call (904)JOI-2000.
  • Finally, to schedule an appointment for physical or occupational therapy, call 904-858-7045 or call any of the 12 area JOI Rehab Centers.

JOI Fracture and Injury Care

JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP Fracture care. Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000. This is a new option for patients who would like to avoid the emergency room if they have suffered a fracture or soft tissue injury. To learn more about this service, read this article about fracture and injury care.


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