Almost our entire population (+90%) have experienced back or neck pain severe enough to seek professional help.
Most pain is NOT from ONE traumatic event. Rather, it is an accumulation of many minor injuries, over a long period of time, coupled with poor postural habits (like slouching).
Finally a tipping point is reached and pain is the result.
Some activities such as repetitive bending and lifting as with gardening, a more intense workout, longer than normal drive times, can and often do cause temporary back pain.
But, if back pain comes out of nowhere, or won't go away, you need to pay attention.
Sometimes back pain is a symptom of another problem such as kidney disease, urinary track infection, or even cancer. But, these are unusual and not normally found in the vast majority of back pain sufferers.
This blog explains what is going on and how you can manage the problem. Additionally, what to look out for and when to see a doctor.
HERNIATED DISCS - Sometimes called 'slipped' or, 'ruptured'. Discs are cushions between each vertebra. When the discs break out of their normal shape and they become 'herniated'. Bulging discs are not yet herniations.
CHRONIC STRAIN OR SPRAIN - Affecting the ligaments of the spine and supporting muscles. Not all sprains or strains heal and become chronic.
ARTHRITIS - The most common type is osteoarthritis. It happens anywhere two bones become too close and erosion of the joint occurs. Osteoarthritis is not always age related. Also called degenerative joint disease (DJD)
WEIGHT GAIN - Whether it is pregnancy or a slower weight gain, your body resets it's center of gravity, often resulting in back pain.
SPINAL STENOSIS - This is where the spinal canal, that encases the spinal cord, narrows. It puts pressure on the cord and nerves coming from the cord. Walking can be difficult.
SPONDYLOLISTHESIS - This is when one vertebra slips forward and is out of place. It usually occurs in the lumbar spine.
Back/Neck pain involves the spine, discs, nerves, ligaments and muscles. These are exactly the same body parts needed to create movement. Walking, rolling over in bed, washing your hair in the shower, etc.
If one area is not functioning correctly, other areas of the spine take over. This creates an imbalance and each time the spine is slightly more stressed than normal, a pain cycle begins.
Spinal imbalances develop into disc bulges, herniations, sciatica, radiculopathy, arthritis, etc.
Because the body is dynamic, and 3-D, the spine must be fully functional and balanced in rotation, flexion, extension, lateral flexion.
If the spine is crooked, stooped or rotated, it is impossible to function correctly. Some parts of the spine don't move while other areas carry most of the load and become over burdened.
Eventually bones, discs, joints, ligaments and nerves erode. The pain threshold has been met.
Sometimes back pain can be a result of another injury like a knee or hip. Taking the weight off one area loads it somewhere else. Most of the time it goes to the spine. You have become crooked!
We get used to pain. It's our normal.
Every 1" your head is too far forward an extra 10 pounds is loaded on your neck.
Slouching posture can affect everyone.
Imagine a vertical plumb from mid ear to mid ankle. In between: mid shoulder, mid hip, mid knee to the ankle. All these should line up for good posture.
These photos show their 'normal' posture and where their posture should be. (Look closely for vertical red line).
All these people are under 20. For more results click here
Slouching and crooked increases with age. As do the number of back and neck complaints.
There is a point when specific bones change shape to accommodate the unbalanced load. These changes are are permanent. The more sedentary you are, the faster the rate of change.
This spinal imbalance, along with past minor injuries, create many different back problems such as those listed above.
As we age we tend to round forward. It's like the body is caving in on itself.
THE FIRST GOAL
Re-Align your spine. This may sound hard to do, but simple steps can get you on your way. Here is a quick read on how to start. It takes less than 5 minutes, everyday, and you will see the difference in your posture, both standing and sitting.
THE SECOND GOAL
Increase spinal flexibility. In a nutshell, STRETCH! If you are so inclined, yoga is an excellent way to increase your spinal flexibility. This needn't take hours a day, there are plenty of 15 minute easy yoga videos available on YouTube.
THE THIRD GOAL
Increase spinal muscle tone. The most basic way to start is by mindfully holding good posture. You may only to do it for a minute or two at first but as the muscles get stronger you can hold good posture for longer periods. Every time you think of it, stand up or sit up tall - no slouching! HINT: Butt muscles stabilize the low back. Mid back muscles, particularly the lats and the lower traps, stabilize the neck.
When your spine is strong and stable your entire body benefits.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
To rule out any medical condition notice changes including the following:
There are dozens of products claiming to prevent or relieve back pain. There is no direct evidence that back supports, back braces, posture correcting shoulder harnesses, specially designed furniture, or seat cushions can help.
Also, there does not appear that one type of mattress is better than another. Choose the one most comfortable.
Ask for a second opinion if a spinal injection or surgery is suggested.
Be wary of narcotics for pain. Most are addictive. Many over-the-counter pain medication is fine for intermittent use. Read the directions.
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