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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"What Jobs Cause a Bad Back and What Can I Do About It?"

"What Jobs Cause a Bad Back and What Can I Do About It?"
Back problems are commonplace in society. It is important to ask if there might be certain risk factors for back injury that should be avoided if possible. While we cannot pick our genetic make-up or even our current occupation (for most of us), how we interact with our daily tasks can be the difference between disabling pain and minor aches.

Some of the most strenuous jobs are those tied to the construction industry. Concrete-reinforcement workers and carpenters have more back pain than what is typically seen in office workers. But office workers can be a greater risk for carpal tunnel symptoms. Each of these jobs has unique characteristics that make certain locations of the spine more affected than others.

Lifting heavy weights (e.g. concrete, lumber), especially in awkward positions, makes the discs in the low back vulnerable to the load, which can exceed the strength of the ligaments. This is called a sprain, and in severe cases the disc can bulge or herniate. If the worker can use good ergonomics (e.g. symmetrical lifting), then the disc can more safely resist the load. It is also known that the spine is more stiff in the morning, and develops higher pressures in the disc when a worker lifts at this time of day. Taking this into account, one can do more light lifting in the early morning. In almost every case one should never lift anything, even a light object, by doing a twisting motion. This action is where the spine can easily be damaged. Getting a buddy to help with a lift is a solution that many do not try.

Sitting for prolonged periods can also be damaging to the spine. First, there is the inactivity, which causes muscles to become weak. The spine is designed for movement, especially walking. An apple a day is good, but a walk a day is better. Sitting also causes increased pressure in the disks of the low back. If you add vibration (e.g. bus drivers), the sitting seems to be much worse. An anti-vibration seat, frequent walk breaks, along with a chair that provides proper support, are the main counter measures.

Each job has its own unique ergonomic characteristics and should be assessed accordingly. Proper spinal posture while working is a key to overall good health and is the best prevention for back injury.

"Why Don't My Usual Stretches Help My Back Pain?"

"Why Don't My Usual Stretches Help My Back Pain?"
Like most health conditions, low back pain is a chronic problem. Patients with low back pain typically suffer off and on for years. Back pain seems to come on when we overexert or do something out of the ordinary, such as moving boxes or when returning to a sport we have not tried since our high school days.

Most patients will say that stretching seems to prevent problems and injuries from the activities of daily living. Both the weekend warrior and the daily athlete will attest to the benefits of stretching prior to the activity.

But stretching is typically not a good treatment plan when the pain comes on. Why is that? Why is something so effective for preventing a problem and completely useless as a cure? However, some patients are lucky. Through trial and error, they may find that the stretching actually causes their back pain to get better. But over the years its effectiveness diminishes. Some patients will say that their normal pre-activity stretches actually make the pain get much worse.

Stretching is designed to lengthen muscles and tendons, but back problems typically affect the ligaments and the discs. The problem here is that the ligaments are stretched out, allowing the bones to creep into abnormal positions. So while stretching may help a tight muscle, its affect on ligaments can be detrimental.

Another factor to consider is that the delicate nerves of the lower spine cross the disk areas. With stretching, those nerves can lengthen and become even more irritated.

If you find that your normal stretches seem to have no effect on your pain or even make the pain worse, then that is a sign the ligaments have been damaged. Stretching will not help in this scenario and you will need to consult a chiropractic doctor who will perform an examination of the ligaments and discs.

The adjustments that chiropractors perform are designed to align the bones of the spine so that the ligaments do not remain stretched-out, producing pain. Over weeks, the bones begin to hold their normal position for longer periods of time and gradually the ligaments begin to shorten.

The doctor can also advise you on stretches that lengthen the muscles but do not cause further stretch to the already damaged ligaments of the lower spine.

Walking For A Healthy Back?

Walking For A Healthy Back?
Scientists who have studied the architecture of the spine have concluded it is meant for walking. That may come as a surprise since we humans do very little walking these days. Our lives, over thousands and millions of years have gone from a day filled with walking and searching for food, to one that is largely sedentary. Many of us spend the bulk of our day working at a desk, and inactivity has become a major problem to our spinal health. It has been shown that prolonged sitting increases the pressures in the disk and leads to decreased strength of the spinal and leg muscles.

Many of us do not sit all day, but instead engage in heavy and repetitive lifting tasks. The heavier the loads we lift, the greater is the risk for spinal degeneration. Whether it is heavy lifting or sedentary life, the effects are the same: low back pain. Low back pain has now become an epidemic in society. Depending on which study you look at up to 90% of us will experience low back pain at some point in our lives.

A study of adolescents in Norway showed about 57% had back pain in the past year. We tend to think of our children as immune to back troubles, but the statistics show otherwise. Back pain seems to start in adolescence, and follows us into adult life.

When LBP was compared to activity levels, an inverse relationship was shown. This means that the less time children spent at the computer or watching television, the less likely they were to report back pain. Walking decreased the occurrence of back pain.

In a study of adults who engaged in regular, low to moderate exercise, such as walking, significant differences were noted when these people were compared to those with a more sedentary lifestyle. The group of patients who exercised had improved mood, reduced need for physical therapy, and used less pain medication. They also tended to have less work disability.

The positive effects of walking continue into old age. Those who walk regularly show less lower body disability.

There was a time when medical doctors thought bed rest for two weeks was a good treatment for patients with low back pain. However, over the past two decades, multiple research studies have shown this prescription will actually increase your low back pain.

Whether you have back trouble or not, it is important to stay active, and walking is one of the best ways to keep you pain free. You don’t need a gym membership to do it-just some comfortable shoes. It lowers your risk for back trouble, and is also the best activity to engage in during rehabilitation following an injury.