In many ways, this post may be the one to put me out of business, but it’s also the post which I’m sure should be my first – how to protect and look after your back. In medicine the preference is always prevention over cure, yet many of us forget to emphasise the benefits of spine health. In other words, how can we all look after the health of our spine in order to prevent injury, reduce the symptoms of spinal degeneration, and lastly to speed recovery following injury or surgery. Let’s get to the point, and keep it simple.
1. Don’t smoke. There is nothing healthy about smoking, and it is known that smoking leads to accelerated disc degeneration. It also increases your chances of an adverse event during and after surgery, and may contribute to failure of spinal fusion surgery in the neck and lower back. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11339862
2. Lose weight. Every kilo your carry leads to an extra 8 kilo’s of force going through your spine. Thin people are putting less stress through their spine, and losing weight is often a very effective strategy to lessen the symptoms of a degenerating spine.
3. Exercise. Exercise will obviously help you control your weight, but strength training, particularly of the “core” muscle groups, will also help stabilise the spine and reduce some of the impacts that it sustains. Some people wear a corset device to help them with their backs. Improving your core strength works in a similar manner.
4. Maintain good posture. Maintaining a good posture will allow the spine to take loads in the way that it was designed to. Good posture also refers to good lifting techniques such as bending your knees, and holding heavy loads close to your body. Core strength will help you to also maintain a good posture.
Is that all? No. Now that you’ve read this, it’s up to you to make a start. Your GP can help you with quitting smoking, and there’s lots of resources available to you on the internet such as QUIT. Your GP and physiotherapist can also help you to lose weight in a healthy and appropriate manner – some people are even electing to have “gastric banding”, but that is something you really need to see a specialist about. Your local physiotherapist will be able to show you good core strengthening exercises, and there’s some available from the Mayo Clinic and the AAOS on the internet.
Some other great resources for learning about your spine are available via the links below:
- AAOS – general information of low back pain
- NHS – top ten tips on looking after your back
- Children’s Hospital at Westmead – a great resource for parents with sore backs, and also includes descriptions of good lifting techniques – something new parents would only be too familiar with!
- http://cunningham.com.au/about-the-spine/ – there’s many more information brochures available here.
All the best,