80 percent of people will experience low back pain at some time in their lives that is serious enough to cause them to seek professional help. You might ask if there are there any particular occasions when people should be especially careful to protect their back?
Two Critical Times
The first instance is when we get up in the morning. We are actually measurably taller when we arise from sleep, due to our discs taking on extra fluid during the night. Therefore, our spines are stiffer in the morning. If we twist or bend quickly after we’ve just gotten our of bed, we run the risk of hurting our back.
The second occasion is after a prolonged period of sitting – perhaps after a long car trip or airplane flight. The reason we’re more vulnerable at these times differs, however, from the risk we have after sleeping. The many ligaments and muscles in our back lengthen as our back is “stretched” after being seated – think of how your shirt tail is pulled out when you bend forward to pick something up off the floor. The ligaments and muscles similarly stretch slightly when a person is seated for a long period. This temporary stretching is called “creep.” Because of this, they don’t provide the same support and protection to your spine as they typically would if they were their normal length.
Who is at Risk
If you have a healthy back, none of this may matter. But if your back is vulnerable – perhaps due to aging or previous injury – it certainly could lead to a problem.
What is the Take Home Message?
While you’re still in bed, before you get up, do some gentle stretching. Roll from side to side. Slowly pull each knee to your chest a few times. Then get up slowly.
After sitting for a prolonged period, don’t bend over immediately after getting up. Whenever you’re driving or sitting in an airplane, take advantage of opportunities to walk and gently stretch. Aim for stopping the car and taking a break every 90 minutes, likewise get up and walk around when it is safe to do so in an airplane. Also sit up straight. Grandma was right here. Slouching creates greater creep in the ligaments and tendons in your back.
What to do if You Run into Trouble?
Simply put, conservative care should be your first choice for back or neck care. And chiropractic, specifically, has been recommended by the National Low Back Pain Guidelines of the US, Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark and Australia. Furthermore, the American College of Physicians recommends chiropractic for chronic, subacute and acute low back pain.
Yours for better health,
Jon Mills, DC