Back Pain: The Chain of Command
Your spine is essentially a chain that forms the ‘backbone’ of your entire body. Without it you would be a blob of muscles, organs and soft tissue piled on the floor.
It is the pillar that supports your body, allows you to walk, stand and sit, as well as touch and feel. It forms the canal connecting the nerves from your body and limbs to your brain. While your heart may be the vital organ that keeps you alive, without your spine you wouldn’t be able to move.
There are three natural curves in your spine that give it an “S” shape when viewed from the side. These curves help the spine withstand great amounts of stress by distributing your body weight. Between the bony vertebra are spongy discs that act as shock absorbers. Interestingly, if you jumped from a height and landed on your feet, you would shatter your vertebrae (amongst other bones), but not your discs. The discs are designed for axial loading. What stresses them is flexion and rotation which strain the outer layer of the disc. The lumbar spine (or lower back) connects the thoracic spine (where ribs attach) to the pelvis and bears the bulk of your body’s weight.
Your spine is not rigid though.
It allows movement through the inter-vertebral joints connecting the bony vertebra. These joints allow you to twist, to bend forward and backward, and from side to side. Large groups of muscles surrounding the spine, pelvis, hips and upper body all interact. This allows for movements like walking, running, jumping, and swimming. There are also muscles deep in your body that work constantly just to maintain your posture when you’re sitting and standing. It is essential that all elements of the spinal ‘chain’ work harmoniously together to ensure fluid movement without overloading structures, resulting in injury and pain.
Links in a chain.
Any link in the chain that becomes ‘stuck’ will not only affect that spinal level but also the movement and strength of the chain above and below it. If the muscles around the spine are uneven in strength and length (flexibility) this too can affect the ‘chain’, altering the alignment and motion of the links. Taking care of your spine now will help you lower the chances of experiencing back pain later. Many of the steps you can take to improve the overall health of your spine, involve nothing more than practicing better body mechanics, or how you move and hold yourself, when you do daily tasks and activities.
Taking Care of Your Spine
Pay attention to early warning signs or pain. Although back pain is very common and nearly every person will experience at least one episode of back pain in a lifetime, it is essential to address any symptoms promptly.
It has also been shown in studies that early treatment and rehabilitation can prevent recurrent bouts of back pain and prevent the development of chronic lower back pain which can be very debilitating, stressful and depressing. It can affect your ability to work, play sport, socialise and sleep, all of which can further compound your pain cycle.
Your back pain could be due to inflamed ligaments, damaged inter-vertebral discs, nerve irritation, bony formations on the spine, muscle imbalances such as weakness or a lack of flexibility, leg length differences, or muscle strains, to name just a few. Even the way we move (or don’t move) at work, school or sport can all be an underlying cause to the current pain.
How Physiotherapy Can Help with Back Pain
Your physical therapist can treat the pain or stiffness experienced from back pain using massage, soft tissue mobilisation, spinal manipulation, heat, acupuncture and other devices.
It is important that you, together with your physiotherapist work through a rehabilitation programme (specific exercises and stretches). A good rehab programme will aim to correct underlying muscle weaknesses, flexibility issues, and the sequence in which the muscles around your spine work to provide stability. A physiotherapist can also give you advice on correcting posture / technique for work and sport.
Should you need a referral to another professional, your physiotherapist can also help with this. For example: a dietitian to advise on a meal plan to achieve a healthy body weight. Being active can also help prevent as well as cure back pain.
Chat to us today about what we can do to help and check out the SERVICES we provide.
Back Pain and Sleep Issues
One of the most common issues back pain sufferers experience is sleep disruption so we have put together an interactive Back Pain and Sleep Guide to help you banish those sleepless nights and wake up feeling refreshed.
The guide includes:
- 6 Strategies for Improving Your Sleep
- 8 bedtime stretches to relieve back pain (with video links)
- Sleeping positions that will help relieve pain (with links to videos)
- 7 Yoga Poses that will help cure most back pain issues
- A morning stretch routine that will help ease pain from a restless night (with videos)
Click this link to find out more and download the guide ‘Banish Sleepless Nights and Wake Up Feeling Refreshed’
Disclaimer: This information is intended as general guidance and information only and should not be relied upon as a basis for planning individual medical care or as a substitute for specialist medical advice in each individual case.