Walking upright on two feet has advantages, but it also puts concentrated pressure on the spine and other muscles and bones. Add to this improper sitting, lifting or reaching and the normal wear and tear of working and playing and you have the perfect recipe for back pain.
That’s why back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections. In fact, some experts say as many as 80 percent of us will experience a back problem at some time in our lives.
Back injuries are a part of everyday life. They can cause a sharp pain or a dull ache and can be accompanied by a tingling, numbness or burning sensation. You may also feel weakness, pain or tingling in your pelvis and upper leg — a condition known as sciatica.
The spine is quite good at dealing with back injuries. Minor injuries usually heal within a day or two. Some pain, however, continues. What makes it last longer is not entirely understood, but researchers suspect that stress, mood changes and the fear of further injury may prevent patients from being active and exacerbate the pain.
Here are some tips for back pain prevention:
* Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
* Remain active. Find some physical activity you really enjoy, and do it three times a week.
* Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest.
* Warm up or stretch before exercising or doing other physical activities such as gardening.
* Maintain proper posture.
* Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
* Sleep on a mattress of medium firmness to minimize any curve in your spine.
* Lift with your knees, and keep the object close to your body. Don’t twist when lifting.
* Quit smoking. Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues and the body as a whole.
* Ensure that your workstation is ergonomically correct.
If you experience back pain that isn’t getting better with time, check with your physician or chiropractor. Spinal manipulation — the primary form of treatment performed by chiropractors — is a recommended option for back pain treatment. Research has shown that manipulative therapy and spinal manipulation are both safe and effective.
The following is a list of the top 10 most “back-breaking” jobs:
10. Auto mechanics work in physically-awkward positions all day long, bending over cars, sliding under cars, etc.
9. Nursing-home workers have to lift elderly people into and out of bed. The workers’ bodies can become twisted and off-center.
8. Delivery drivers are always running, often carrying heavy and awkward packages. Packages shipped via UPS, FedEx, etc., have increased in weight over the years. The job also involves a lot of driving.
7. Firefighters/EMTs deal with fire, water pressure from hoses and have to chop obstacles with an axe. They often carry people to safety, which is particularly difficult if the victim is obese or incapacitated.
6. Shingle roofers are always twisting their bodies.
5. Farmers lift heavy equipment and bags of feed and grain. When doing fieldwork, they have to constantly turn backward to watch equipment that is pulled behind a tractor.
4. Police officers sit in their cars for long periods, which is rough on the lower back. When called into action they have to make sudden movements and often face resistance from those they’re arresting. Police officers also wear belts that can weigh up to 40 pounds, which can cause chronic back pain.
3. Landscapers lift heavier objects than any other profession. Wheelbarrows can twist and turn, wrenching the workers’ backs.
2. Construction workers’ jobs can involve hammering, lifting, steelwork or ironwork — all in very awkward positions. Moving steel beams can wreak havoc on the entire body.
1. Heavy-truck and tractor-trailer drivers endure constant compression and vibration from trucks. This can damage the back. Prolonged sitting puts pressure on the spine, which can result in disc degeneration.
Liquid-carrying trucks are particularly bad. When this type of truck comes to a sudden stop, the fluid in the truck’s tank slams back and forth, and the driver feels the impact.
The information and recommendations in this article are appropriate in most instances, but they aren’t a substitute for a diagnosis by a specialist. For specific information concerning your health condition, consult your medical or chiropractic physician.
Dr. Joseph Tansey is a chiropractor in Groton. He lives with his wife and daughter in Pepperell. For information call (978) 448-2800 or visit www.nvchiropractic.com.