If you are experiencing back pain right now or have in the past, you are certainly not alone. It’s reported that the NHS spend 5 billion pounds a year tackling back pain, and it is estimated up to 60% of the adult population will experience some form of lower back pain in their life1. And whilst back pain is extremely common and something that we see often as a Chiropractor, it can sometimes be deemed as ‘normal’ due to the amount of people who struggle with it. But pain is not normal, and with any type of discomfort it is a warning sign to highlight that something is not right and should be taken seriously. Trying to prevent issues starting in the first place is always best, so this week, we wanted to highlight how amazing your back really is and in honour of ‘Back Care Awareness Week’, we will be sharing more about your back (and spine), the common causes for back pain, and what you can do to take care of it. Why is your back (and spine) so important? The foundation of your back and whole body is your spine. Your spine sits behind you and is made up of 24 bones called vertebra, which stack on top of each other forming a column, starting from the base of your skull, all the way down to the top of your pelvis. A disc sits between each bone which holds the bones together, helps to absorb pressure, and aids mobility. Surrounding and attached to your spine are muscles, ligaments, and tendons that assist with the stability and movement of the rest of your body. Not only does your spinal column form the foundation of your body helping you to stay upright and move, it also protects your spinal cord which, along with your brain, is the communication highway (also known as your nervous system) that controls every part of your body. If you wave your hand in the air right now (go on, give it a go!) how does that happen? That’s your brain sending messages through your spinal cord, out via the nerves that exit your spine to the muscles of your hand! The signals from your hand return through the nerves to your brain, so they are constantly talking to each other without you even realising. Isn’t that amazing?! So why do we get back pain? For many, the cause of back pain can be multifactorial. Quite often when people struggle with back pain we hear it described as their “back has gone”. It may have started following the simplest of tasks such as bending down to pick up the post or hanging out the washing, things that for most don’t require a great deal of strength or effort. And often in these cases it was not the event before the pain started that caused it, that was just the final straw. Common causes include muscle or ligament strains due poor conditioning, repetitive twisting and bending, or a sudden movement such as a trip or fall. The discomfort could be due to poor mechanics of the spine, for example, the joints that connect each vertebra together can get irritated or there may be degenerative changes, or injury can occur to the disc between the joints. The symptoms experienced will vary depending on the cause, and pain can be local to the area or referred, such as pain down the leg. What you can you do to prevent back pain? Well now you know how amazing your spine is, you will be pleased to know there are many ways you can take care of it. Here are 5 things you can do to be proactive with the health of your spine and prevent back pain: 1. Be active Daily exercise and regular movement is key to help prevent back pain. It is important for all aspects of health, but it will also help to manage weight, which if in excess is a risk factor of developing back pain2. A good place to start is by doing 30 minutes intentional exercise each day which challenges your body and increases your heart rate. This could be anything from a brisk walk, cycling, swimming, or a gym class. Try and do things you enjoy as you are more likely to stick to it. Varying your exercise by incorporating movement that helps to strengthen your body and create resilience is important too, whether that be using weights, resistance bands, or moving heavy items around your home. During the day, do your best to keep mobile. We know how easy it is to get engrossed in work or captivated by the latest film on TV, but unfortunately sitting for extended periods is unnatural for your body, so be sure to keep moving. If you find yourself sitting for long periods of time stand up, walk, have a wiggle, whatever you need to do, but try and do this every 20 minutes. 2. Be mindful of posture This follows on nicely from staying active, because when you stand up and move it helps to reset your posture. Don’t worry, you don’t need to walk around like a robot forcing your head and shoulders back! It is more about awareness. Here are some examples: - Use of devices: If you are looking down at your phone, laptop, or iPad regularly try to elevate your screen so you are looking upwards. This will help to reduce the stress going through your spine. - Sitting: Crossing your legs or twisting your body when sitting will put stress through your spine, especially your lower back, so we would recommend keeping both feet firmly on the ground. - Carrying bags: We know shoulder bags are fashionable but sadly when the bag is full, they put strain on one shoulder and cause you to compensate. Where possible, carry a bag on both shoulders to spread the load. 3. Use both sides If your work or hobbies involve repetitive twisting or heavy lifting, this is especially important to keep in mind. We all have a dominant side of our body and it is natural to want to favour it by lifting a certain way and twisting to one side, however the repetitive motion can cause stress on your spine, particularly the discs. Therefore, using both sides of your body will help to reduce this. It may feel strange at first as you learn a new way of moving, but over time it will start to feel normal and will certainly help your body long term. 4. Be proactive with your spine health It is often only when a problem occurs that we realise how important something is, and that is certainly the case for our spine. Being proactive with the health of your spine by seeing a Chiropractor can help to reduce the chances of back pain occurring in the first place, and if you are struggling with it currently, can help the healing process. 5. Nourish your body Everything you ingest through food and drink forms the building blocks for your body. Getting plenty of fresh foods into your diet and drinking lots of water each day will help to keep your body strong, reducing the chance of developing injuries. We hope this information is helpful and provides a useful insight about how amazing your spine is and how you can take care of it. If you are struggling with back pain, please reach out, we are here to help. We know how frustrating it can be and the impact it has on daily life, which is why as your Chiropractor we would aim to get to the root cause of the issue and help you move forward. References: 1. National Institute for Health Care and Excellence. (2022). Back Pain. Retrieved from National Institute for Health Care and Excellence: https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/back-pain-low-without-radiculopathy/background-information/prevalence/ 2. Arthritis Care & Research. (2019). Risk Factors for Lower Back Pain. Retrieved from National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30044543/ The content of this blog is for educational purposes and is not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.
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