CNY Orthopedic Sports Medicine, PC: Bodyzone: Back

Body Zone: Back

There are two kinds of animals: those that don't have a spine (invertebrates) and those that do (vertebrates). Vertebrates include fish, reptiles and humans. You don't hear much about back problems in fish or reptiles and there's one overwhelming reason. Gravity. Unlike species with horizontal lifestyles, we stand up.

It's as if the Golden Gate Bridge, with its complex horizontal support structure, was turned on end and made to walk across San Francisco Bay. Somehow, we have to keep our head erect, shoulders back and tummy in. How do we do it? With an elaborate system of muscles, tendons, ligaments and shock-absorbing discs. There are enormous advantages to being upright - the view is better, for one thing. But there have been costs: wear and tear on joints and over $80 billion a year in the U.S. due to absenteeism, medical and other expenses related to back injuries. Back pain is the third most common reason for patient visits to physicians' offices and affects up to 80% of us at some point in our lives. Most injuries to the back result from trauma, poor conditioning, repetitive activities or playing sports that subject the spine to excessive force or twisting motion (golf, tennis, baseball and football, for example). However, less than 10 percent of us will need back surgery to relieve symptoms.

The most frequent site for back injury or degeneration is the lumbar spine. It endures the greatest amount of force and strain during activities and provides the primary strength and support for standing, walking, twisting, bending and lifting. The space between the lowest lumbar vertebral body and the sacrum is particularly injury-prone.

Lumbar Disc Herniation
Lumbar Strains
Spinal Stenosis
Degenerative Disc Disease

Harmful Behaviors
  • Excessive work. Avoid frequent, uninterrupted bending and lifting.
  • Bad form. Don't twist your body when lifting and carrying.
  • Sudden changes. Abrupt movements, especially when carrying, can cause damage.
  • Being overweight.

  • Good Practices
  • Don't strain. Use correct lifting and moving techniques, such as bending your knees, to prevent trauma to the back.
  • Keep fit. Exercise regularly to tone the muscles that support your back and maintain flexibility.
  • Don't slouch. Poor posture puts a constant strain on your lower back.
  • Stay trim. Maintain proper body weight.

  • General Conditioning
    Preventing a back injury starts with keeping yourself in good physical shape. Swimming, bike riding, running or walking briskly are excellent ways to maintain muscle strength and flexibility. Try exercises that are directed toward strengthening and stretching your back and relieving the strain on your lumbar region.

    Your spinal column is basically a stack of bones - the vertebrae - separated by intervertebral discs that keep your spine flexible and cushion the vertebrae as you move. The discs account for about 25 percent of the length of the spinal column. Muscles attach to the spine and nerves run like cables in a structure called the spinal cord, carrying sensory and motor messages between your brain and your body. Curved like an S, the spine has three major regions:

  • Neck. (7 Cervical vertebrae called C1-C7). These are the smallest bones, but most prone to severe trauma.
  • Mid-Back. (12 Thoracic vertebrae T1-T12). With the ribs, this region of the spine forms the cavity that protects the heart and lungs.
  • Low Back. (5 Lumbar vertebrae L1-L5). These are the thickest bones and bear most of the weight.

    There are also 5 fused vertebrae in the Sacrum (S1-S5), which sits above your coccyx (or tailbone). Doctors use these vertebral co-ordinates in describing a diagnosis. (For example: You may have a problem between L5 and S1).

  •  How Badly are You Hurt?
    Get answers to triage questions that will help you decide whether to contact a doctor.

    Product Considerations
    Lumbar: Supports
    A bad back can often be the result of poor posture and positioning. A lumbosacral back support, when properly fitted and positioned, will help to maintain a proper, stable posture when sitting at a chair or driving in the car. Poor posture while sitting forces the spine out of its proper position and puts a significant strain on the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support the spine. Lumbar supports can be found in a wide range of sizes and styles.

    Effective Ways of Measuring Progress
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