Back pain is one of the most common neuromuscular conditions in the U.S., second only to headaches. “Lower back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work,” according to the National Institutes of Health. 61% of Americans experience back pain. So what can you do? Let’s start with some background first.
The 33 boney vertebrae making up your spine give your body mobility and stability and provide a highway for nerves to run from your brain to the body. Discs made up of a spongy material we all know as cartilage, are between each vertebra providing cushion and flexibility while ligaments and muscles hold it all together. It’s an amazing system; what could go wrong? Obviously injury or overuse will cause problems (we’ll get to that) but it turns out that a lot of the time your back’s muscles, ligaments, and joints just don’t work together like they are supposed to. And so here we are to talk about back pain in the modern age.
Back Pain in the 21st Century
Why doesn’t everything work together like it should? The evolution of back pain has followed us from the roles of hunter and gatherer to sedentary office worker and roles requiring repetitive motion. As we delve further into the problem we see that Culture, Maintenance and Bad Habits are some contributors to the problem.
Our Culture has advanced into the Information Age where we do a lot of sitting (like I’m doing right now typing this). Sitting is the new smoking as far as creating health issues. You, in your chair reading this, should get up every 20 minutes and stretch and walk around like I just did. Your back wasn’t designed to sit for 8 hours straight so move around and stretch frequently to prevent problems.
Maintenance? Do we have to work to keep our muscles, ligaments and joints working together correctly? Unless you plan on being 18 years old forever like me… the answer is YES! Your physical therapist can help you devise a daily exercise plan for flexibility, endurance and strength training that is right for you.
Last but not least, Bad Habits. Your mother told you to sit up straight, right? Doing it though is the hard part. Most of the time we don’t realize we are slouching or using our back to lift instead of our legs. Here are a few random tips to help you maintain proper form…
- Keep your mouse close to you at your computer (don’t reach)
- Children’s backpack weight shouldn’t exceed 15% of body weight and should lay against the middle of the back, not the lower
- When lifting, bend your knees not your back and carry weight close to your body
- When carrying an item turn your feet, don’t twist at your waist
- Keep one foot on the ground when gardening instead of kneeling on both knees
- Don’t twist your spine while shoveling
We’ve talked about ways to prevent back pain but what if you are one of the 61% of people who experience back pain at some point? Rest and gentle stretching, that’s what your mother or PT would say. At what point do you need help? If you experience numbness, leg weakness, extremely sharp pain, etc. consult your physician as soon as possible. They can refer you to a physical therapist like us who will work on your muscles and joints to fix the root cause of many problems without drugs or surgery. And if you are needing rehabilitation following surgery that is our specialty.
We work with all doctors in the area, ask for us by name. At Anderson Physical Therapy Associates you have your own clinician dedicated to you for the entire session each visit to help you get back to work and play faster.
Prevention is the new trend in bringing down health care costs for business. We can visit your warehouse or manufacturing facility to do an ergonomic evaluation and educate your group on back injury prevention and more. Contact us today for a consulting appointment; we make “house calls”.
Have a blessed pain-free day!
Shawna Anderson, MPT