Core instability and poor back care can destabilise our building block and can cause postural issues and malalignment of our body, resulting in direct back pains which can be assisted with back braces and supports…
What is Back Care Awareness Week?
Back Care Awareness was established for people to pay more attention to our general back care and maintenance. It may seem obvious that our backs are a vital part of the human body but do we actually know how to care for it the right way? Orthotix Clinical Director, Chris Law has shared his knowledge and insight into the importance of taking care of our backs.
Why is it essential to look after our backs?
The human skeleton makes up about 20% of a person’s body weight and contains 206 bones, of which the spine/back is made up of 26. Our spine is divided into three spinal groups: Cervical vertebrae (7 bones found in the head and neck area), Thoracic Vertebrae (12 bones found in the upper back and are linked to our ribs.) and the Lumbar Vertebrae (5 bones found in the lower back.
Our skeletal system’s main function is to provide support for the body. For example, our spinal column provides support and alignment for the head and structure for our torso, as well as protection and accommodation of our central nervous system. It also gives protection to our internal organs from injury. For example, the thoracic spine and inclusion of its cage protects the heart and lungs.
The spine, allows for a multitude of movement. Muscles throughout our back connect to bones through tendons. These connections allow the spine to move in many ways. It’s therefore important to ensure we look after our spines, and it’s associated soft tissues. Core instability, and poor back care can destabilise our building block and can cause postural issues and malalignment of our body, resulting is direct back pains, referred pains in our shoulders and neck, lower limb nerve pains and discomforts, including impingement pains and sciatica, plus issues with digestion, circulation, and breathing.
Common back conditions and symptoms?
Trauma and injury results in a majority of ‘Red Flag’ back pains. These can include such things as fractures, slipped or herniated disks, tumours (metastasis) and instability from cancer treatments. It can also be attributed to conditions including scoliosis, postural lordosis/kyphosis, and pathologies such as spina bifida. Degenerative problems and conditions such as degenerative disc diseases, osteoporosis and inflammatory arthropathies are also key contributors to back pain and postural stance alignment. These can all cause skeletal deformities, and nerve related problems as a result from high-risk spinal cord compression.
Outside of ‘Red Flag’ diagnosis which require specific treatments, general back pain and back discomforts are often diagnosed as non-specific.
Non-specific back pain
This usually means back pain comes from a non-identifying reason and is usually attributed to being mechanical. Back pains manifest from pour posture, pour lifting technique, and result in sprains and strains to our muscles and connective tissues. Factors such as genetics, age, wear and tear, general fitness levels and body weight are also influencing.
Most non-specific back pain is reported to be in the lumbar (lower back), however can also manifest in the mid back, between the shoulder blades, and up into the base of neck. Symptoms usually are pain, which worsens with movement and activity. Altered posture, muscle spasms, numbness and tingling pains that commonly reported as symptoms. Pains can be referred, usually coming into your legs, and can include stiffness with difficulty to move freely. Sometimes it can feel like your legs are giving way despite the issue coming from your back.
Symptoms can come on quickly and can be very acute and painful, or could come on after an event, and a period of rest. Non-specific back pains do however generally settle down with time and rest. Rehabilitation via back supports or back bracing to improve core stability, and to help improve posture, allows for our connective tissues to have a break, and back pains to further reduce. Include the use of back supports/bracing with back focused exercise, you can support and strengthen the weakness, and improve back alignment and improve poor posture.
Recommendations Non-specific back pain
Non-specific back pain usually gets better on its own over time. Recurring back pain usually results from continued improper body mechanics and can be prevented by avoiding movements that jolt or strain the back, and by maintaining better posture, and lifting techniques. Many work-related injuries are caused by repetitive lifting, improper technique, and awkward posture.
Recommendations for keeping the back/spine healthy is to regularly exercise and keep fitness levels up. Keep the exercise low-impact, and age-appropriate. Try to specifically target and strengthening lower back muscles and abdominal muscles. Maintaining a healthy weight and keeping a low BMI is advised as this will lessen mechanical stress coming through the back, by naturally decreasing its load.
Key considerations for assistive supports include:
Use ergonomically designed seats and cushions at home and at work
If you are office based, try to walk around periodically, gently stretching to relieve tension
Use a rolled-up pillow behind the small of your back to support your lumbar
If you are a manual worker, ensuring correct footwear is being used.
Ensure you get a heavier duty back brace when lifting heavier objects, helping reduce repetitive strain and to help protect the back from injury.
Lift from the knees, and squat down to pick up items. Don’t bend through your spine
If you suffer from knee pains, consider bracing your knees for extra support