Back Pain - Are You At Risk?
|Your Family History
Back injuries are most often caused by various mechanical issues, and the tendency to get such injuries is not inherited.
On the other hand, people do have family-related behavioral tendencies, and while these particular behaviors are not literally "inherited", they are often passed down through the generations. These are the various habits of daily living we learned from our families, that can become ingrained and may eventually contribute to back injuries.
A lack of interest in sports or exercise, poor posture, and a tendency to be overweight can be some of the behavioral patterns we learned from our family. As adults it's important to become conscious of and evaluate these unhealthful patterns, and to take an active role in developing a new more positive set of behaviors that can increase our health and overall well-being.
In addition to these habits we picked up from our family, we may also have various health challenges that include a genetic component which can make us more susceptible to back problems. Your chiropractic physician can help you identify such additional risk factors.
Have you ever wondered what the risk factors are for back pain? Why some people suffer from it and some people don't? What you can do to avoid being one of the millions of Americans who suffer from chronic back pain? Your Millar Chiropractic physician can help answer these very important questions.
One major risk factor is related to exercise. We have all been admonished by health authorities to either "use it or lose it". If you fail to get regular exercise, your back muscles can become deconditioned rather quickly. When that happens, you are more vulnerable to the strains and sprains that can cause or contribute to back pain.
When your muscles are required to do work, they become stronger. Another related benefit is that exercise helps to "train" the tendons and ligaments surrounding your joints. These are crucial joint-supporting tissues, and regular exercise increases their ability to withstand mechanical stresses and loads without becoming injured. Basically, when you engage in regular vigorous exercise, your body gets "smarter", stronger and more resilient, and you're less likely to suffer from those annoying back problems.1
Another major risk factor for back pain is weak abdominal muscles. When you were a young kid in gym class, did one of your teachers tell you to "suck in your stomach"? As it turns out, that's not bad advice. Your abdominal muscles support the muscles of your lower back. If you commonly let it "all hang out" letting your abdominal muscles droop rather than keeping them activated and engaged, your abdominal muscles can become weak and deconditioned from this continual lack of use.
When this happens, your lower back muscles end up having to hold up the weight of your torso, without the normal assistance of your abdominal muscles. Your lower back muscles are not designed to for that. Their normal job is to help move your spine through its normal ranges of motion. They're not designed to rigidly support your body weight without the assistance of your abdominal muscles. And if they're left as the sole support for your body weight, they will eventually give way under the continual excessive strain. The result is usually a very painful lower back injury.
Abdominal exercises are easy to do and don't take a lot of time. The key is to make sure that you actually do them several times a week, in addition to your other regular vigorous exercise. It is also very important to make sure to use your abdominal muscles as you go about your daily routine. Imagine these muscles are being pulled in and lifted up. Think of "activating" your abdominal muscles rather than tightening them. Your body will know what to do, once you've started adding consistent abdominal training to your exercise routine. You should also notice your posture improving as you get in the habit of keeping your abdominal muscles activated. Your body will breathe a sigh of relief at finally being properly supported.
There are other back pain risk factors that may also be found in your personal and family medical history.2 During your initial chiropractic visit, your doctor will ask you about surgeries and accidents you've experienced, and talk with you about any significant elements in your family history. For example, a surgery to remove your appendix or galllbladder or to repair a hernia may have weakened your abdominal muscles. Accidents involving a motor vehicle or a serious fall may have caused injuries that either healed incompletely or with soft tissue scarring, which can contribute to back pain.
Knowing about potential risk factors and taking appropriate action will help you have a healthier, stronger and more flexible lower back.
1Jones MA, et al. Recurrent non-specific low-back pain in adolescents: the role of exercise. Ergonomics 50(10):1680-1688, 2007
2Plouvier S, et al. Biomechanical strains and low back disorders. Occup Environ Med 2007 (in press)