If you suffer from back pain, you are far from being alone. Four out of five adults experience the symptoms of low back pain at least once in their lifetime. The back is a complex structure made up of 33 vertebrae, over 30 muscles, numerous ligaments, multiple joints, and inter-vertebral discs. As you can see, there are many structures that can cause discomfort if injured or affected.
Back injuries and thus back pain can often be prevented by performing daily stretches. This loosens up the muscles of the back making them less susceptible to tears. Back stretches should be performed in the morning after wakening as well as at night before going to bed. Most people do benefit from a regular stretching regimen, however before beginning any new exercise program, you should discuss your plans with your primary care physician.
When performing a stretching program, you should continue through the exercise until a gentle stretch is felt. You should not experience any pain or significant discomfort. If this is the case, you are stretching too far for your current level, and muscle tears and injuries can occur. Avoid any bouncing motions, keeping your movement slow and smooth. After completing your stretches, drink plenty of water to re-hydrate.
Proper lifting techniques and work ergonomics are two other important ways to avoid back injuries. Never lift heavy objects with the muscles of your back! Instead use the strong muscles of your legs to do the lifting. When sitting at a desk for long hours, make sure to take plenty of breaks and use proper adaptive devices such as a lumbar support role to maintain a healthy posture.
The most common cause of back pain is due to muscular strains. This happens when an unexpected force, twist, or pull is applied to one or several of the muscles in the back. As a result, several tears occur in the muscle. These muscular tears cause pain felt in the back.
Ligamentous strains are another common cause of back pain. They occurs when the ligaments of the back are stretched beyond their limits. Sprains often occur along with muscular strains.
Herniated discs result in back pain by compressing the spinal nerves where they exit the spinal column. They are often the result of repetitive vibratory motion (as experienced by truck drivers/machine users) or due to a sudden heavy loading of the back (as occurs with improper lifting) This injury results in a radicular type of back pain in which pain is felt at the site of injury and along the course of the affected nerve. Sciatica, for example, is a type of radicular pain.
Spinal stenosis is often the cause of back pain in people over 50 years old. The term refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal. Spinal stenosis has many causes including thickened ligaments along the spinal canal, bony spurs, and enlarged joint cartilage from arthritic changes. This condition often results in back pain that is worse with extended periods of weight bearing or walking. Surgery is sometimes necessary to correct this disorder.
Osteoporosis is a common cause of back pain in women. It is a disease characterized by progressive loss of bone density. This results in thinning of bone tissue making one more susceptible to fractures, or broken bones. The bones of the spine are especially affected in this disorder. Injury from falls, lifting of heavy objects, or even the force of sneezing can result in painful vertebral compression fractures.
Fibromyalgia is a cause of chronic back pain. It is a rheumatic condition characterized by widespread soft tissue pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, and the presence of evenly distributed areas of tenderness. A history of at least three months of widespread pain and tenderness in eleven or more of the eighteen designated tender point sites is required in diagnosing this disorder.
Proper Chair Positioning
Sitting properly in your work chair is an easy way to avoid unnecessary strain on your back. By sitting with your back against the lumbar support of the chair and placing both feet on the floor, you reduce unnecessary stain on your back throughout your work day.
Back Saving Lifting Techniques
Many back injuries occur while lifting heavy objects. By utilizing proper lifting techniques, you can “save your back”. Always keep your back straight when lifting heavy items and use the strong muscles of your legs to do the work. Avoid all twisting motions of the back and use your feet to turn instead.
Stretches for Tight Back Muscles
Stretching exercises are an effective way to loosen up tight back muscles and help avoid injury. Each stretch should be performed with smooth motions. Never bounce during these exercises, this can cause a back injury. Perform the stretches in the morning after wakening and at night before sleeping.