Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Back Pain – Taking a Natural Approach to a Painful Condition

by guest blogger Jody Perrecone

Nearly  80% of Americans will have back pain in their lifetime. Americans spend at least $50 billion a year on back pain. Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010. Various back disorders include sprains, strains, herniated disc, sciatica, spinal stenosis, and degeneration of disc.

The spine consists of 30 vertebrae and is the body’s main support structure. The vertebrae protect the spinal cord running through the central opening of the vertebrae called the vertebral canal and the nerve roots that extend from the sides of the vertebrae to various areas of the body. Muscles and ligaments that move and stabilize the vertebrae attach to the spinous process located at the backside of each vertebrae and to the transverse process located on the side of each vertebrae. Discs are flexible cushions located between each vertebra and hold the vertebrae together. They allow the vertebrae to bend and twist and minimize stress on the spinal column.

The risk of lower back pain increases if a person:

  • Is overweight
  • Does not exercise
  • Feels stressed or depressed
  • Is pregnant
  • Smokes
  • Works at a job requiring lifting, bending, twisting, or involves vibration such as a truck driver
  • Has a job requiring sitting all day

Acute pain generally gets better on its own without treatment. Aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen may be taken to relieve pain. Chronic pain is often treated with muscle relaxants to reduce swelling and painkillers to relieve pain. An epidural injection may be given if other methods of alleviating pain are not effective. These treatments can relief back pain, but they don’t address the root cause of the problem. Surgery is not always successful, but may be considered if there is damage to the vertebrae, nerve damage, or if pain does not improve with other treatments. Starting by taking the least aggressive form of treatment is the safest way to treat back ailments.

Alternative treatments that are less invasive include chiropractic, massage therapy, hot and cold packs, acupuncture, physical therapy, and yoga.

Prevention is the best medicine. Practice these safeguards to avoid back injury or back pain:

  • Wear comfortable low-heeled shoes.
  • Bend your knees and use your legs when lifting weight, keeping the back straight.
  • Maintain an optimal weight. Excess weight pulls the pelvis forward, causing strain to back muscles.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking restricts blood flow to the back, reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the back and increases the rate of disc degeneration.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep discs well hydrated. Spinal discs are composed of 80% water.
  • Sit in chairs with good lumbar support. Switch positions periodically if sitting for a long time.
  • Stretch before exercise or other strenuous activity. Exercising regularly reduces pain and stiffness and strengthens muscles and bones.
  • Reduce stress. Stress causes the muscles to be tight and can cause back pain.
  • Maintain good posture. It will put less strain on muscles and ligaments.

 There are many reasons people experience back pain. Including alternative methods of treating the condition will offer relief and can prevent the need for surgery in the future.

Jody Perrecone is a corporate manager for the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP). CHIP is an international wellness program focusing on lifestyle interventions to create a healthier workforce and reduce overall healthcare costs. Jody works with hospitals, corporations, and communities to offer CHIP programs throughout the U.S.

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