Today, back pain can be considered as one of the most common of all physical complaints in the world. It is therefore one of the single most important factors in time lost from work and recreation – the condition should be addressed as soon as possible.
Back pain ranks as extremely high among the reasons for visits to various health care providers and has an effect on one’s finances as well as one’s lifestyle. Back pain is caused, broadly, by physical and psychological stress or by weak muscles.
Straining the back for long hours by sitting in a stooped position is one of the main causes of backache. Deteriorating or degenerative changes in the vertebrae and surrounding structures of the spine also play a role. Pain may be caused by disease of the spine (pathological changes), referred pain from internal disorders, and from psychological factors. All these basic causes can be influenced by heredity, occupational hazards, sports and other recreational injuries and motor vehicle accidents. Back pain can further be influenced by poor posture – while walking, standing, bending, sitting and lying down, as well as an unbalanced diet or nutrition, pregnancy and even anxiety. Soft beds, soft armchairs, soft car seats and the effect of weakened stomach and back muscles from disuse or unaccustomed use, can all lead to back pain. In addition, stress and tension can cause muscle spasms in the back, neck and shoulders.
If you have an attack of back pain, don’t panic. See a chiropractor if the pain persists. A thorough physical examination, sometimes with the help of X-rays, will usually determine what action should be taken. The responsibility of attending to back pain is shared by a variety of health care providers such as chiropractors, general practitioners, orthopaedic surgeons, neurologists, physiotherapists and others. Treatment may vary from spinal manipulative care and adjunctive therapy by a chiropractor, to symptomatic control through the use of medication by a general practitioner, to physiotherapy and even surgery if indicated. Surgery, all back experts agree, should only be considered as a last resort with a well-founded diagnosis.
BE KIND TO YOUR BACK
At back classes given by chiropractors, physiotherapists and biokineticists you can learn exercises to strengthen your back and stomach muscles, thus protecting your spine. Seek advice on how to lead a back-friendly lifestyle. Manipulation of the spine by a chiropractic practitioner can be considered as safe, gentle and effective in the management of low back pain. Your chair and desk at work should be the correct height and your chair should be able to tilt forward and backward. When choosing a chair, look for one which supports your spine in positions of rest and at the same time allows you to sit straight when working.
The best way to prevent back pain is to stay fit. Health care providers will advise patients as to which rehabilitative exercises are appropriate in each case. Further problems may be prevented by the following:
- Constantly concentrate on proper posture. (Think Tall)
- If you have a swayback (neck and head forward and abdomen pushed out) consciously straighten it when you walk, sit and stand.
- Keep your weight down. Being overweight puts a huge strain on your back.
- Practise good sitting positions and sit with good back support.
- When lifting objects use your legs and not your back. Hold the object close to your body, bend your knees and hips and keep your back as straight as possible. If the load is too heavy, ask someone to help.
- Sleep on a gently firm mattress, on your side with knees bent and a small cushion between the knees, or on your back with pillows for support under your knees and neck.
- Avoid bending forward for long periods.
- Ten minutes of exercise a day can tone, stretch and relax your muscles. If you can, swim in a warm pool, alternating between breaststroke and backstroke.
- Stand in a slouched or slumped position with your stomach and your hips sticking out.
- Stand or sit in one position for any period of time without moving about, stretching or correcting your position.
- Carry unbalanced loads that tilt your body to one side.
- Lift and twist with a bent back. This is probably the most severe mechanical stress you can exert on your back.
- Bend forward with your legs straight or twist while lifting heavy objects.
- Lift heavy objects above shoulder level.
- Drive sitting stretched far back from the pedals and steering wheel.
- Sit in a chair that’s too high, or too far from your work surface.
When all is said and done, your back is crucial to just about all of your body’s major movements. If you take care of your back, it will take care of you.
With acknowledgement to the British Chiropractic Association and the Chiropractice Association of South Africa.