Prevention still best bet for spinal health

Do you suffer from lower back pain?  If you do, you’re not alone.


Recent estimates suggest that 80-90 per cent of the general population will suffer from at least one episode of low back pain during their life time.  For many it will be nothing more than simple muscle strain  as a result of over use and the pain will often pass within a few days with rest and light stretching exercises.


For others, however, the pain will persist, and in some cases be so severe as to make movement of any kind nearly impossible.  Aside from a very frightening experience, it can be made even worse if the pain isn’t just confined to the low back but also travels down the leg to the knee or foot.


In an acute episode of low back pain the person will often be bent forward and turned, unable to straighten up, complain of constant severe back pain, and occasionally experience pain down one or both legs.


Although the exact anatomical structures in the spine responsible for the pain will vary depending on the original injury, one of the most commonly injured areas of the back are small joints called facet joints.  These spinal joints carry from three to 25 percent of the superimposed body weight with the lumbar discs (the pads between the vertebrae) carrying most of the remaining upper body weight.  If the lumbar discs become worn and lose some of their height and shock absorbing capability, then the spinal facet joints must pick up the slack.  This  may partially explain why more people experience episodes of back pain as they enter their 20’s and beyond because the spine begins to show the effects of this accumulation of wear and tear.


There is no reliable evidence that prolonged bed rest or other avoidance of exercise brings about a reduction in back pain.


In fact, current researcdh clearly demonstrates that apart from a very short period of time immediately after an injury, bed rest has no effect on the natural outcome of an acute episode of back pain.


Prevention is still the best measure for long term spinal health and it should include regular stretching, exercises, lifting with the legs rather than the back and a periodic spinal check-up.

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