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.
Sciatica is one of the most common diagnosis given by medical professionals for pain that radiates down the thigh.
So what is sciatica?
True sciatica is classified as pain that radiates down the back of the leg pass the knee and down to the foot. Sciatica is typically caused by a pinching of the sciatic nerve at the intervertebral foramina (the part of the spine where the nerves exit) this pinching can be caused by a number of structures both directly at the exit point of the nerve but also at various stages of the nerves path as it travels down the leg. However, it is usually due to a pinching at the nerve root that causes true sciatic pain.
Common symptoms include
- Pain in one leg that travels down to the foot
- Pain is usually described as sharp, burning or stabbing
- Pins and needles can sometimes accompany the pain
- Walking and movement can be difficult due to the pain
- Sitting often causes pain
- Bending forwards can give some relief
The good news is that sciatica is usually straight forwards to treat and permanent damage is rare. However if the pain begins to radiate into both legs that is accompanied by numbness around the anus and saddle region with incontinence then you should seek immediate medical attention as this is a sign of a condition called cauda equina which is a medial emergency.
How to treat sciatica
How sciatica is treated depends largely on the cause which your osteopath will be able to determine with an examination. but will usually consist of manual therapy and exercise, alongside possible lifestyle advice to prevent it from happening again. Below are several exercises that may give you some relief in the meantime.
If you currently have sciatica symptoms and would like to talk about your pain then I can be contacted on 07500059064 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on facebook messenger.
Yours in Health
Andrew Graves, Osteopth & Sports Therapist
Serving Pontypool, Cwmbran, Usk & Abergvaenny
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.