BACK TO basics

WAYS TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR BACK AND AVOID LOWER BACK PAIN

BY DAVID BUICE

According to recent research, lower back pain is a very common and often debilitating ailment. Reports in The Spine Journal and the Journal of the American Medical Association found that lower back pain accounts for more than three percent of ER visits. Back pain and headaches are often cited as the number one causes for missing work.


Many people seeking medical care for lower back pain suffer from muscular strains caused by overdoing physical activity, especially “weekend warriors” who cram a week of physical exercise into a couple of days. Back injuries also occur when people take on physical tasks without knowing the proper body mechanics. However, with a few simple steps and precautions, you can significantly reduce your chances of suffering lower back pain.

BASIC PRECAUTIONS INCLUDE:


Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, losing a few pounds could help most types of back pain.


Brisk walking, riding a stationary bike, and swimming are all excellent low-impact ways to improve your overall fitness level.


LUMBAR STRETCH


At home, this exercise is a good way to relax your back and keep it more limber, but if it makes your back pain worse, don’t do it.


Lie on your back, knees bent and both feet on the ground.


Slowly raise one knee to your chest as you flatten your lower back against the floor. Hold for five seconds.


Relax and repeat with the other knee.


Do 10 of these for each leg.


AT WORK


Practice good posture while sitting, standing, and walking. Avoid sitting for long periods as this puts more stress on the lower back thanstanding and walking. Get up and move around periodically. Avoid standing for long periods. If you must stand at work, shift your weight from one leg to the other every few minutes.


Foot and ankle alignment can affect back symptoms, so wear quality shoes with good arch support and avoid high heels when possible.


LIFTING HEAVY OBJECTS


Don’t bend at the waist. Instead, bend your knees and hips into a squat to lift things. Keep your back straight and head upright. Hold the object directly in front of you and lift with your legs. Lower the object to the floor in the reverse fashion.


SLEEPING


It’s best to sleep is on your side with a pillow between your legs to help relax your lower back. Avoid thick pillows that bend your neck to one side.


If sleeping on your back, place pillows under your knees to slightly flex your legs.


GETTING MEDICAL HELP Call your healthcare provider if:


The pain spreads to your arms or legs.


You have weakness or numbness in your arms or legs or numbness in the groin area.


If your back pain is severe or ongoing.


TODAY’S ADVANCES IN SPINE SURGERY


Nowadays, back surgery doesn’t necessarily mean you’re facing a long, painful recovery along with an ugly scar. Modern medical science and cutting-edge techniques provide alternatives with smaller incisions that typically mean shorter recovery times and barely noticeable scars.


MINIMALLY INVASIVE SPINE SURGERY


This procedure can be performed using traditional laparoscopic methods or, in some instances, robotic-assisted surgery using the da Vinci Surgical System. During this type of spine surgery, a scalpel is used to make the initial incisions. Then an endoscope and operating instruments are inserted to allow visualization and repair at the surgical site.


LASER SPINE SURGERY


Minimally invasive techniques are often used with laser spine surgery. After making an incision with the laser, the surgeon uses it to remove soft tissue that’s compressing nerves and to remove tumors from the spinal cord or bone.


MAKING YOUR CHOICE


Both procedures aim to treat back problems, but they’re also important differences between the two.


For one thing, lasers are straight beams of light that don’t bend or allow adjustments for the body’s curves, so scalpels and other instruments may be needed to remove ligaments and bone. And a scalpel in the hands of a highly-skilled surgeon provides a high degree of flexibility and the ability to make minute incisions, not always possible with a laser.


Each surgical technique has its proponents. Consult a surgeon familiar with both before making a decision. Ask questions and carefully study all options. Consider getting more than one opinion, and don’t give in to any pressure while making your choice.






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