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person holding their back due to pain

image of the spine highlighting the lumbar vertebrae
   More and more people are having problems with their backs which is causing them pain on a daily basis. It is rare that someone relates their back problems to their lifestyle, but this is normally how back problems arise. Most people go through their day eating unhealthy food, not using proper posture when they sit in front of their computer or stand in line somewhere or get any daily exercise.  And they wonder why all of a sudden their back is hurting. Well if you take all the things that are bad for our health and compile then over the years its no wonder that you didn’t have back pain sooner. Everything that we do affects the body and the spine. The spine is the backbone to the body. Its centrally located and connected to every other part of the body.  If people took care of their body and spine half as much as they did about other aspects of their life (house, car, clothes, etc. ) everyone would be healthy. Health is more than just eating right. One has to consider mental health, environmental, and many other factors.

    When we start to have pain symptoms this is a warning sign. Our body is telling us that it is having a problem and we need to do something to correct the problem. Most often than not people will use pain medication to relieve the symptoms. However, pain medication although good for the time being will not heal the problem. Pain medication will only mask the symptoms of the underlying problem. Therefore it is important to find the underlying problem and heal it.

There are four major aspects to maintaining the spines health, posture, flexibility, strength and stretching.  By incorporating these for areas into our daily regimen we can relieve pain symptoms and maintain a health spine more regularly.

    Posture is the proper position that we should hold our body when we stand, walk, sit or sleep. Most people do not have proper posture because they don’t know what proper posture is. Others don’t know have proper posture because they have stood, sat or slept that way all their lives and it is hard to change, or they are compensating due to muscle weakness or pain in a specific area of the body.  The body needs to be straight and in proper alignment to have correct posture. Take note of your posture. Are your shoulders rounded to the front of your body, or do your toes point outward when you walk or do you put your arm under your pillow when you sleep? These are definite signs of incorrect posture. To fix these types of posture problems will take time and remembrance. Your body has become accustomed to the way you stand, sit and sleep for years. Only you can retrain your brain and body to correct improper posture.

    Flexibility refers to the range of movement in a joint or series of joints that is attainable. Joints in the human body allow for all types of motions such as bending, stretching, swiveling, pivoting, and pointing. The human body contains between 200 and 300 joints. So when a joint becomes fixated or range of motion is decreased this is a sign that our joints are losing their flexibility. Flexibility can be regained through stretching, proper nutrition, increased exercise, drinking water, and taking care of the body. 

    Massage therapy and Chiropractic care are two alternative medicines that work in conjunction to increase and improve flexibility in the muscles and spine. Massage therapy is the manipulation of the soft tissues in the body to enhance function and well-being. Where as chiropractic care is the manipulation of the spine to restore the body’s functions. When muscles tighten in the body they pull upon the bone they are attached to. When vertebrae shifts, rotates or moves slightly in any direction this puts pressure on the nerves that come out of the spinal cord. In layman’s terms we get a ‘pinched nerve’ and our body relays this through pain and other symptoms ie. Numbness, tingling, tightness, stiffness, burning, aching, shooting, etc. This is where massage therapy and chiropractic care can benefit. Through massage and chiropractic care we can relieve the symptoms and retrain the body to maintain proper alignment for functional health.

    However there are still many people who are skeptical about chiropractic care and alternative medicine, which is completely normal and fine. There are other ways to regain flexibility within our body and spine. The most obvious is to take up yoga.  There are many different types of yoga and not all of them require you to twist your body up into knots. Check out different styles of yoga to find which one is right for you. There are usually beginners classes for people who have never taken yoga before. Yoga positions are good for the spine to develop flexibility. 

    Additional ways to increase flexibility include exercise, relaxation and stretching.
Stretching is very important for maintaining our spinal health. Stretching is that act in which specific muscle groups are elongated to its fullest length. There are many forms of stretching including static, dynamic, ballistic, isometric, contract/ relax, etc.  Most people don’t think stretching is important, however they are completely wrong. Stretching is actually very important to maintain muscle elasticity and tone. It is also an important tool to prevent injury. By stretching before and after exercise our muscles are given the appropriate warm up and cool down period to perform to the fullest capacity. Exercising without proper warm up can cause muscle tears or quick muscle fatigue. Without a proper cool down lactic acid can build up in the muscle tissue causing painful knots within the muscle fascia which can cause spasm, tightness, and soreness. Come up with a set of stretches that you can do daily. By stretching everyday we can increase our flexibility two fold.

    Almost as important as stretching our muscles is strengthening them.  When muscles weaken and atrophy we loose the ability to lift, and in extreme cases move. It is important to strengthen your muscles daily. Our activities of daily living only maintain our muscle strength. To increase muscle strength we have to do strength training. Strength training uses the resistance from muscle contractions to build muscles. Through weight training, isometric training and resistance training you can build up the strength of your muscles. Take strength training slowly. It isn’t a race to get the biggest muscles the fastest, plus your more likely to injure yourself if you overdo it on the first day. Pace your body, if you start to hurt that is a sign to slow down.

    In strength training it’s important to remember to train the muscles in the front and back of your body equally. For example, if your abdominals are very strong and your low back muscles (thoracolumbar fascia, erector spinae and gluteal muscles) are weak more than likely you will have low back pain because your body is imbalanced.  Therefore strengthening all musculature in your body and not just the ones that people recognize as making someone physically attractive is very important.

    The key to back health is keeping your spine actively flexible and strong. Each person is uniquely different in many ways so never think what worked for someone else is going to work for you. You may have to build on someone else's information and work it into your own personal program.