By Meryle Richman, PT, DPT, MS, CST, RYT
We all do- whether we have a healthy back or a problem with our back. In order for your back to stay healthy and less prone to injury, you need strong, flexible muscles to support the spine’s natural curves.
Why all the fuss about back problems?
Statistics have shown that backaches are second only to the common cold as a cause of missed workdays. It’s estimated that 8 out of 10 Americans will have a back problem at some time in their lives. A large part of this is due to the neglect of their backs. Back disorders are the accumulation of months or even years of poor posture, faulty body mechanics, stressful living and working habits, loss of flexibility as general lack of physical fitness.
A balanced back is a healthy back:
It is time to take a new look at the prevention of back injuries rather than the treatment of back problems after they have occurred.
Back problems can be avoided by understanding what the problems are, how to prevent them and what to do if they do occur. It involves self-responsibility and a desire to have a healthy back
In order for your back to be healthy, there are three natural curves that must be in balanced alignment. This should occur at all times i.e., sitting, standing, lying down or moving. These curves are the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle back), and lumbar (lower back).
When your ear, shoulder, and hips line up straight, then the three curves are balanced and you have achieved “good posture”. To test whether your curves are in their natural alignment, imagine a line beside the mid-part of your body. If your ears, shoulders, pelvis, knees and ankles line up on this line (plumb line), your three curves are in their correct position. In order to maintain a balanced back you must also have strong and flexible muscles and joints:
●Muscles: A healthy spine is supported by a strong and flexible back, abdominals, hip and leg muscles. Muscles that lack strength and flexibility cannot maintain your back’s natural curves, which can lead to back problems, and possibly injury.
●Joints: Strong and flexible hip, knee, ankle, and back joints help balance your back curves ad allow movement. Joints that lack strength and flexibility fail to support your spine, and this can also contribute to back problems.
Other important structures to understand about the back:
●Vertebrae and facet joints: the vertebrae (or bones) provide the structural support for your back. The facet joints, which are located on the outside of the vertebrae, control the amount and direction of movement.
●Ligaments: These are tough and non-elastic bands that hold the vertebrae together. They connect to the discs and vertebrae, lending support and stability to the spine.
●Disc: The discs act as shock absorbers and allow normal motion to take place. The center of the disc is jellylike and is composed of water and fluid. It is surrounded by tough rubber-like bands that are attached to the vertebrae.
●Nerves: Provides the energy to make the muscles work. Once the goals of a well back are achieved the individual should follow up with a regular exercise program that includes an aerobic activity, such as walking or swimming.
Here are some tips that will prevent low back pain or its recurrence:
● Always bend with the knees, not from the waist when lifting
● When sitting, place at least one knee higher than your hips; either by crossing your legs or putting your legs with knees bent, on something like a foot stool
● When standing place one foot on a stool to keep the back straight
● Standing is better than sitting, and lying down is better than either; sitting puts 40% more pressure on the discs than standing and 75% more than lying
● When driving adjust the seat so you can sit closer to the pedals with the knees bent and back supported
● Avoid exercises that put excessive strain on the lower back. These include straight leg exercise such as leg raises, toe touching, or sit-ups with the legs straight on floor
● Additional suggestions include: changing the type of chair used at work, taking exercise breaks to stretch tight muscles and finding ways to handle stress.
Learn how Physical Therapy at Ivyrehab can help you:
For those individuals that suffer from prolonged back pain, the first goal of physical therapy is to reduce pain. The next step is to determine which muscles are tight and need to be stretched and which muscle groups are weak and could be strengthened. An evaluation of the individual postural and work habits should then follow. Based on all this information, corrective measures, which are tailored to the individual can then be recommended.
Other physical therapy measures can consist of any one of a combination of moist heat, ice, modalities, aquatic therapy, soft tissue massage, mobilization, stretching and gradual core and strengthening exercises.
If you would like to be seen right away for learning how to set-up an exercise program, prevent an injury or chronic pain under Direct Access (no prescription is required), contact us at: Contact Ivyrehab Briarcliff (914) 762 – 2222 and Ivyrehab Jefferson Valley (914) 245 – 8807 or visit our Website: www.ivyrehab.com to learn more about Direct Access. Ivyrehab accepts most insurance plans (which our office obtains pre-approval from your insurance carrier) and will submit your office visit treatments for payment. You will be responsible for your co-payment depending on your particular insurance policy. With one-on-one care this permits the therapist to construct a personalized program for the individual. After all, when it comes to rehabilitation, “It’s all about the people”.