09 March 2007

Is your back killing you?

Is your back killing you? Are you aware of it all the time? So what can you do to prevent or minimise this agony?


You bench-press, carry crates of wine, bear partners across thresholds and still expect it to operate without complaint. If we all bent our knees when lifting things and walked around all day, we’d probably be fine. Sadly that’s just not so.

Here’s a quick guide to what’s making your back hurt and what you can do about it.

Neck and shoulder. Those of us who don’t spend all day steering plastic mice and tapping keyboards are likely to do a lot of driving, which is also not the best exercise for backs. Using a phone can hurt, especially if your jam the receiver between your cheek and shoulder. Get yourself a headset and keep your head straight.

Upper neck and shoulder. You might find that pain here is caused by over-enthusiastic devotion to your favourite hobby, especially golf or tennis. You might find pain elsewhere in the area too. one of the few muscles that swimmers injure is the so-called rotator cuff muscle, which you use when swinging your arm in the crawl stroke. To remedy it, switch to some other discipline for a while then slowly start again.

Pain and swelling on the spine itself. If you get serious pain on the spine between the shoulder blades and your buttocks it could mean a slipped disc. The term refers to the pads of cartilage between your vertebra. It’s bad. See a doctor.

Pain to the side of your lower back. This can vary from a dull ache to a serious discomfort that prevents you from bending. This can happen when your sacrum (Basically the triangular formation or five vertebra fused into one) shifts away from your pelvic girdle. It’s painful because there are big nerves running through that area. If it shifts from its usual place by as little as 5mm, you’ll walk funny. You won’t be alone. In our industrialised, automated, sedentary world, lower back pain has reached epidemic proportions.

What’s the solution? Look at your spine as a flexible column, like a vertical suspension bridge. The spine can stay in its place easily enough until you wash the dog, bend to pick up a sheet of paper, bowl a googly or try the Congress of the Bull and the Lotus (Or whatever) as depicted in the Kama Sutra.

Simply put, the stronger the muscles that hold up your spine are, the less chance you have of back trouble. Walking is good exercise for the lower back. Just try putting your hand on your lower back while walking to feel how much exercise it gets from walking. Swimming is good too. The underutilised rowing machine at your local gym will help strengthen your back and stomach muscles, which play a vital role in keeping you upright. Seeing a chiropractor is likely to be able to fix most injuries, but he or she is likely to advise you to warm up thoroughly before any exercise in future.

(William Smook, Health24)

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