Your spine truly is a marvel of engineering, a strong yet flexible column that supports your head and protects the delicate cord carrying nerves from the brain to the rest of your body.
The spine’s complexity is also the reason back problems are so common. Eight out of 10 Americans will experience lower-back pain at some point, and back pain is the single largest cause of workers’ compensation claims. The costs—in medical treatment and time lost—add up to more than $50 billion annually.
Most back pain will ease with proper diagnosis and treatment. Experts estimate that less than 2 percent of patients with chronic back pain need surgery. That option should be used only as a last resort.
Back pain falls into two categories: acute and chronic. Acute back injuries include tears to the capsule of the discs that cushion the upper vertebrae; hernias, which affect the gelatinous center of the discs; and sprains, which stretch the ligaments connecting the vertebrae. Avoid activities that involve lifting, bending, or twisting. Gentle activities like walking can help speed healing and reduce swelling around an injury. Analgesic medications such as acetaminophen are safe for short-term use. Acute back pain almost always disappears within several weeks.
Chronic back pain is the kind that lasts longer than three months. Most cases are caused by improper alignment of the vertebrae or pelvis, which puts pressure on the nerves. This may cause stiffness or pain in the lower back or pain that radiates into the buttocks or back of the legs (sciatica).
Here are some common causes of chronic pain, and simple strategies to help.
Obesity, especially abdominal fat, which pulls the pelvis and lumbar spine forward and downward. The obvious solution: Lose weight.
Poor posture, especially during prolonged sitting, such as working at a desk or driving. To correct the problem, stay conscious of your posture. Change the way you stand, sit, or walk. You may need guidance from a physical therapist or exercise physiologist.
Degeneration of normal structures such as ligaments, discs, and bones of the spine. This is common among smokers but also can occur as a result of chronic inflammation from arthritis. If you smoke, quitting is critical for your overall health and can go far in preventing long-term degeneration of the back.
For many conditions, it’s helpful to do daily back exercises that stretch key muscles and strengthen the abdominal core.
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Written by Dr. Mark Liponis, PARADE Magazine
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.
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