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Back Care Tips!

Posted May 22 2009 11:56pm


Having A Healthy Back As A Way Of Being:Back Care Tips!
Nearly 80 percent of all Americans suffer from back pain at some time during their lives. It is important to learn how back injuries occur and what can be done to prevent or manage them. In most cases, you are not born with a bad back, most often it is the result of time, stress, poor posture, stress and inactivity that causes back pain and injuries.

Most of low back discomfort is not serious and reflects only minor injury, overexertion and normal aging. When our backs have had enough and are sore, unfortunately, they cannot always stop working and take a break. So we must learn simple methods to improve our posture, increase our back and abdominal muscle strength and ways to relieve the pressure and stress on our back muscles, joints, ligaments, spinal discs and nerves. Healthy Backs: A healthy back is strong, flexible and pain free. Its chief functions are to support the upper body and trunk, protect your spinal cord, allow flexibility and provide a point of attachment for bones, muscles and ligaments of the trunk and all four extremities. The lower back (lumbar spine) is composed of five vertebrae (L1 to L5) with their associated discs, nerve roots, muscles and ligaments.

The vertebrae and discs in your lower back have the greatest load to bear and are the largest. A healthy spine is one that is properly aligned, with its three natural curves (cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine curves) in their normal, balanced position, supported by strong back, abdominal, hip and leg muscles.
SO WHY DO BACKS HURT?
Let's Look at the Anatomy:
Backs hurt when more is asked of them than they can perform. Specifically, when a structure is overloaded and therefore injured. Interestingly, the pain is often unrelated to the extent of physical damage. Injuries to the back most can occur to the muscles, ligaments, bones, joints, discs and nerves. Additionally, a muscle spasm from a simple back strain can cause excruciating back pain that can make it difficult to walk or even stand, whereas a large herniated disc or completely degenerated disc can be completely painless. So, let’s take each possible scenario and explore how injury occurs. From that standpoint, it is straightforward how to proceed to avoid injury, and allow for healing. You should always seek the care of a Medical professional if your back pain is worsening or limiting your function.

Acute Injuries to Muscles & Ligaments
The most common types of injury to the spine are muscle tendon and ligament strains. These types of injuries are considered acute, meaning they come on due to direct trauma or single incident and they came on quickly. These injuries usually are the result of lifting something heavier than that for which the lifter is prepared. This can also happen when there is a sudden movement like when you lose your balance, or are in a car accident. In this type of injury, the tissue is stretched to the point of moderate to severe tearing, the extent of the tearing will determine the length of time it will take to recover, and it will determine the amount of discomfort suffered. However, most of the time, a muscle or ligament strain will recover in one to two weeks provided you do not restrain the muscle or ligament tissue by bending over for an extended period of time, or by lifting in a bent over position.

Injuries To Ligaments: "Monday To Friday Syndrome"
Another way to get a ligamentous stretch or ligament strain injuries is slouching. These slouching injuries are considered chronic in nature, since they develop over time due to repeated exposure to the ergonomic risk factor (sitting with poor posture over and over again and or for extended periods of time). Although the pain may develop and worsen quickly making it appear the injury is new, the cause of the injury is repetition of the poor posture and pressue on the ligaments that causes them to stretch.

When you sit for an extended period of time, and allow yourself to slouch, you allow your backs to “hang on our ligaments.” Hanging on your ligaments occurs when your muscles can no longer support you; your muscles relax and transfer their work to the ligaments along the spine. Your ligaments can then become overstretched, causing back ache, stiffness and fatigue. The pressure on your spinal vertebrae can eventually lead to further pain, disc damage and back injury.This is often called the “Monday to Friday Syndrome”. Forty hours of sitting at work can place more strain on your back than 40 hours of standing. This can result in lower back, neck pain and fatigue.

Lower back pain caused by poor sitting posture affects nearly 90% of the adult working population. It can easily be prevented and minimized just by adjusting your office chair and improving your sitting posture, ergonomic seating and overall computer workstation ergonomic set up with computer accessories.

Injuries To The Spinal Discs
Disc injuries are another common type of back injury, and many people think that they do not heal without surgery. This is untrue, and like the previously mentioned injuries, disc injuries heal when the repetitive re-injury is stopped. Your discs are made up of two types of materials. On the outside, shaped like the rings on the trunk of a tree is the Annulus Fibrosis. The Annulus is a tough, rubbery material that is tightly attached to the vertebrae above and below. Inside the Annulus is the Nucleus Pulposis. The Nucleus Pulposis is a jelly-like structure. The Annulus Fibrosis and the Nucleus Pulposis work together to create a water balloon—type of shock absorber. Imagine a water balloon squeezed between two books. If you press one book flat on top of the other, the balloon will squish out in all directions. If one book is angled one way, the balloon will squish out in the opposite direction. The most common way discs are injured are when someone is bent over for a long time, sits slouched for a long time as with "Monday to Friday Syndrome", or lifts a heavy object in a bent over position, Disc injuries can occur where the Nucleus Pulposis breaks through a layer (or ring) of the Annulus Fibrosis. It may be a few or many of the rings. In some cases, the Nucleus can be squeezed out of the annulus completely.

Injuries To Spinal Nerves
We have spinal nerves that run inside the vertebral column, and leave the spinal canal to innervate our trunk and extremities. Many times a back injury will irritate a nerve, and this may cause pain at a distant site such as the leg.When nerves are pinched or irritated, there is frequently evidence of muscular weakness. Usually, nerves are only irritated by the structures in the back, and when you change what is causing the repetitive re-injury as with "Monday to Friday Syndrome", the nerves recover. Therefore correct posture and ergonomic seating is critical for your healthy back care.
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