The good news is back and neck pain can be successfully prevented and treated. However, it does require some lifestyle changes and, at times, the assistance of a physician or physical therapist.
The purpose of the spinal column is to protect the spinal cord, maintain proper posture and to allow smooth movement of the head, neck and trunk. Because of its many functions, it is important that the spine is strong, mobile and responsive. The bones of the spine offer the protection to the spinal column and nerves. The ligaments, bands of tissue running the length of the spine, provide stability and hold the vertebrae together. The discs are thick cartilage structures between the bones that act as shock absorbers and allow each bone to move on the other. The disc has a thicker outer layer and a softer gel-like center. The muscles help with the movement and control of posture.
Good posture is essential in preventing back and neck pain. Poor posture puts unnecessary strain on the spine, including the discs, ligaments and joints. This type of stress on the spine is caused by sitting, standing or working for long periods of time in a poor position. When a person sits with poor posture for too long, the nucleus of the discs moves toward the back of the disc, eventually causing it to bulge. This bulge can pinch the nerves causing pain, weakness and tingling in the arms and legs. The more frequently an individual practices poor posture, the more likely they are to eventually create a back problem.
To achieve good posture, the body must be upright against gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. This requires the body to be trained to sit, stand and lie in positions that are least stressful to the spine.
There are a number of advantages of practicing good posture. These include:
• Keeping the bones and joints in correct alignment.
• Helping to decrease abnormal strain on the discs and joints.
• Decreasing the stress of the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together.
• Preventing the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions as we age.
• Limiting fatigue because the muscles are being used more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy.
• Eliminating backache and muscular pain.
• Contributing to a good appearance.
In addition to practicing good posture, it is important to keep the body moving regularly and try to avoid sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time. Performing simple exercises every one to two hours is also recommended. One way to do this is by stretching. There are many stretches and exercises to keep your spine healthy. Contact a physical therapist to determine which are appropriate for you.
We also need to learn to listen to our body. Pain is not a normal sensation. It acts as the body’s alarm system to inform us that something is wrong. Another important sign is loss of normal movement of the neck and back. It is important to pay attention to these signs and address them appropriately. Too often we ignore pain in our spine. This can lead to chronic problems, which are more difficult to resolve compared to a recent symptom that could have been addressed easily to prevent future issues. By practicing good posture, changing positions every 30 minutes, and exercising and stretching daily, you can dramatically decrease the likelihood of suffering from back and neck pain in the future.
When experiencing pain, it is important to seek help if it does not resolve fully in five to seven days. The Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Center at Northern Nevada Medical Center offers comprehensive evaluations and well-researched treatment methods that will ensure a rapid return to your active lifestyle.
The state-of-the-art facility features a large gym and three private treatment rooms, as well as advanced equipment that include a passive motion table for the lower back and a Pilates reformer, as well as a treadmill, bike and arm bike. Our staff is experienced in treating chronic back and neck pain, joint pain, arthritis, bursitis and tendonitis, degenerative disc disease, fractures, sprains or strains, among many other conditions. The center is located on the Northern Nevada Medical Center campus in the Sparks Medical Office Building at 2385 E. Prater Way, Suite 301. To schedule an appointment, call 356-4960.
Steven Hallan has 15 years of experience as an outpatient physical therapist. He is a credentialed McKenzie therapist, specializing in disorders of the spine and peripheral joint problems. Hallan bases his treatment on a detailed dynamic evaluation of the spine or joint involved. Therapy includes manual techniques, stretches and exercise to resolve the problem plus educating the patient on preventing a recurrence of the injury.