by Stephen Kellett, PT DPT
June 8, 2017
Do you wake up with pain in your back? Is it difficult to bend forward and pick something up the floor due to stiffness or pain in your back? Have you missed work because your back was “out”.
You are certainly not alone. Low back pain is a big issue for many Americans.
- 8 out of 10 people will be affected by low back pain in their lives.
- Back pain is the number one cause of disability for those under age 45.
- The U.S. spends more than $50 BILLION on the treatment of back pain annually.
- 31 million (~10% of the population) has low back pain at any given time.
- After the common cold, back pain is the second major reason for visiting a health care provider
- Getting older – As we age, degenerative changes take place in our spine that reduce the space between vertebrae (DDD/DJD -degenerative disc/joint disease) or cause the openings between our vertebrae to narrow. These changes may increase the risk of pressure on sensitive nerves and cause us to feel pain. While we can’t avoid aging, we can reduce the effect it has on us.
- Being overweight – Carrying extra weight produces additional load/stress on the spine which can affect the discs and their performance, leading to increased pain.
- Heredity – Some forms of arthritis have a genetic component. While there is nothing you can do to prevent the arthritis, there are things than can be done to reduce the symptoms.
- Poor physical fitness – Weakness and poor endurance will reduce your ability to maintain healthy postures which prevent back pain.
- Your job – Physically demanding jobs, especially if you have to push, pull, or twist often, can lead to injury and pain. Poor posture in desk jobs can also cause problems. A strong core, proper body mechanics and awareness can reduce pain/risk of injury 6. Smoking – Tobacco and its by-products affect nutrient delivery to your intervertebral discs and lead to delayed healing
- Exercise regularly to improve overall health – A mix of strength and conditioning exercises will provide the greatest results.
- If you smoke, try to quit – There are many effective programs available, so see your doctor for what’s best for you.
- Maintain a healthy body weight – Avoid fad diets; a well-rounded program that focuses on nutrition, exercise and behavior modification is best for most people. Your doctor can help find what’s right for you.
- Keep your core muscles strong – Our core helps to support our spine in the most protective/pain free position while sitting, standing or working.
Use proper body mechanics when you lift (neutral spine and hip hinge) – Many people have misconceptions about the proper way to lift. Seek formal training if you have not had it.
- Check and alter your posture frequently when using your phone, laptop or tablet.
- Find ways to reduce stress – Yoga, meditation and even, simple controlled breathing can be effective.
- Keep bones strong by taking vitamins and minerals recommended by your doctor, and regularly perform weight bearing exercises. Properly applied loading can actually improve bone health.
- Practice moderation until you are ready – Minimize “weekend warrior” sports/activities that overtax your body and increase risk of acute injury. Seek recommendations from a physical therapist/certified athletic trainer to properly train for your sport