Your spine is essentially the chain that forms the ‘backbone’ of your entire body. Without it you would be a blob of muscles, organs and soft tissue piled on the floor.
Your spine commands respect because it is the pillar that supports your body, allows you to walk, stand and sit, as well as touch and feel; because it forms the canal connecting the nerves from your body and limbs, to your brain. While your heart may be the vital organ that keeps you alive, without your spine you wouldn’t be able to move.
There are three natural curves in your spine that give it an "S" shape when viewed from the side. These curves help the spine withstand great amounts of stress by distributing your body weight. Between the bony vertebra are spongy discs that act as shock absorbers. The lumbar spine (or lower back) connects the thoracic spine to the pelvis, and bears the bulk of your body's weight.
Your spine is not rigid though. It allows movement through the intervertebral joints connecting the bony vertebra. These joints allow you to twist, to bend forward and backward, and from side to side. Large groups of muscles surrounding the spine, pelvis, hips and upper body all interact to allow for movements like walking, running, jumping, and swimming.
However, there are also muscles deep in your body that work constantly just to maintain your posture when you’re sitting and standing. It is essential that all elements of the spinal ‘chain’ work harmoniously together to ensure fluid movement without overloading structures resulting in injury and pain.
Any link in the chain that becomes ‘stuck’ will not only affect that spinal level but also the movement and strength of the chain above and below it. If the muscles around the spine are uneven in strength and length (flexibility) this too can affect the ‘chain’, altering the alignment and motion of the links.
Taking care of your spine now will help you lower the chances of experiencing back pain later. Many of the steps you can take to improve the overall health of your spine involve nothing more than practicing better body mechanics, or how you move and hold yourself, when you do daily tasks and activities.
Taking Care of Your Spine
Pay attention to early warning signs or pain. Although back pain is very common and nearly every person will experience at least one episode of back pain in a lifetime, it is essential to address any symptoms promptly.
It has also been shown in studies that early treatment and rehabilitation can prevent recurrent bouts of back pain and prevent the development of chronic lower back pain which can be very debilitating, stressful and depressing. It can affect your ability to work, play sport, socialise and sleep, all of which can further compound your pain cycle.
Your back pain could be due to inflamed ligaments, damaged intervertebral discs, nerve irritation, bony formations on the spine, muscle imbalances such as weakness or a lack of flexibility, leg length differences, or muscle strains, to name just a few. Even the way we move (or don’t move) at work, school or sport can all be an underlying cause to the current pain.
How Osteopathy Can Help with Back Pain
Your Osteopath can treat the pain or stiffness experienced from back pain using massage, soft tissue mobilisation, spinal manipulation, heat, acupuncture and other devices.
It is important that you, together with your Osteopath work through a rehabilitation programme (specific exercises and stretches) to correct underlying muscle weaknesses, flexibility issues, and the sequence in which the muscles around your spine work to provide stability. An Osteopath can also give you advice on correcting posture / technique for work and sport.
Should you need referral to another professional your Osteopath can also help with this, for example, a dietician to counsel on a meal plan to achieve a healthy body weight. Being active can also help prevent as well as cure back pain.
Chat to us today about what we can do to help.
Back Pain and Sleep Issues
One of the most common issues back pain sufferers experience is sleep disruption so we have put together an interactive Back Pain and Sleep Guide to help you banish those sleepless nights and wake up feeling refreshed.
The guide includes:
Click this link to find out more and download the guide.
Disclaimer: This information is intended as general guidance and information only and should not be relied upon as a basis for planning individual medical care or as a substitute for specialist medical advice in each individual case.
Degenerative Disc disease (DDD) is a long-term condition that develops over many years, it is characterised by a reduction in disc height and a reactive change of the joint line. As seen in the picture below. To be clear here, everybody will have degenerative changes at some point in their lives. Recent evidence is showing that from as early as 21 people can have what would be termed degenerative changes on X-ray or MRI (now just because this is “normal” does not make it optimal but that’s a post for a later date) without any pain what so ever. Pain from degenerative changes is only termed DDD when it starts to cause pain.
Although degeneration can be present from a young age, 90% of those with DDD are 65+ this is due a lifetime of mechanical “wear and tear” on the discs and joints but also from around 50 years of age there are collagen changes (the substance that makes up your connective tissues) that result in the tensile strength of the collagen diminishing. Females tend to suffer more than men likely due to hormonal differences, but their may also be a genetic component.
The symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease are: -
- Pain in the lumbar or buttock region, sometimes referring down towards the knee
- Pain often comes and goes and can range from a nagging ache to sharp and severe.
- Pain can last for days to months
- Aggravated by sitting for long periods
- Relieved with general movement especially walking
- Bending is often a problem and can aggravate symptoms
- Lying down can also relieve pain
Many people especially runners experience pain down the front of the shin and have either self diagnosed or been to their GP who have given them the diagnosis of "shin splints".
So what exactly is shin splints? many medical professionals use the term shin splints as an umbrella term for pain down the front of the shin either due to lack of real understanding or perhaps just simple misdiagnosis.
This mis understanding is not the fault of the medical professional, but rather because of the vague definition given to shin splints and so shin splints has been used as more of an umbrella term rather than defining it as the specific condition it is. The American Medical Association of Nomenclature of Athletic Injuries state that the term shin splints should be confided to conditions of musculoskeletal origin, However this definition would mean that conditions such as tibial stress fractures, chronic exertional compartment syndrome, Tibialis Anterior strain etc are all put under this umbrella term. Krenner, 2002 on the other hand describes shin splints as micro tears in either the origin or insertion of the tibialis musculature which may also include interosseous membrane pain and tendonitis alongside periostitis, which I believe is a far better and more specific definition.
So how do you know if you have shin splints or Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CECS). People with CECS can go months if not years before they are properly diagnosed, as some of the symptoms are similar to shin splints i.e. pain usually starts in the front of the shin. However, there are a few other symptoms that will differentiate CECS. First of all pain usually starts at a predictable distance into a run and will gradually get worse the further you try and run. Second, numbness and pins and needles will start to develop if you continue to push through the pain to the point where your entire shin and foot will go completely numb. Stopping will usually relieve the symptoms. Please note: If you experience these symptoms and stopping the activity does not relieve your symptoms within a few minutes then you should seek immediate medical attention.
Andy has been involved in the health & fitness industry for over 10 years, specialising in corrective exercise, injury prevention and rehabilitation of low back, neck and shoulder pain. He also has an interest in the use of Osteopathy for the management of headaches.