“If you’re one of the nine out of ten adults in the United States who suffers from low back pain, I have good news for you!” states Dr. Nathan Wei, a board-certified rheumatologist and Clinical Director of the Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center of Maryland.
“Low back pain is the most expensive work-related injury as well as the third most common reason for a surgical procedure,” Dr. Wei adds.
The spine is a complex collection…
It consists of bones, called vertebrae, and the joints that allow them to interact; discs that separate the vertebrae from each other; the spinal cord and nerves; the soft tissues such as muscles and ligaments that help hold the spine together. Your spine has 3 major functions including protecting the spinal cord, supporting the body in an upright position, and allowing the body to move freely.
The four major categories of low back pain are:
o Mechanical- arising from either trauma or repetitive motion
o Degenerative- usually from arthritic causes
o Systemic- arising from medical illnesses
Mechanical causes are responsible for more than 90% of back pain and the most common cause of back pain is probably muscle injury due to strain or sprain. Other common causes include disc herniation, spondylolisthesis (a condition where the vertebra slips on the one below it), spinal stenoiss (narrowing of the canal that carries the spinal cord), scoliosis (curvature of the spine), osteoporosis (a disease where the bones become fragile and break), and arthritis. Bone tumors are another potential cause.
“Treatment is entirely dependent on diagnosis!”
Dr. Wei says, “There are simple ways to help your back. For instance use the log roll technique to get into and out of bed. Think of your body as a log, and make sure you move it as a unit… rolling into and out of bed.”…
He says, “use the same idea when getting into and out of your car. Don’t twist or stick one leg one way and the other leg a different way. Move your body as a unit…”
Check your work area
Make sure your computer, chair, and other parts of your work environment are “friendly” to your back. Good support for your low back as well as your legs is important.
Dr. Wei reminds us, “…Stretching is important for your spine…Since rotation is a key movement and the upright position is part of our daily routine, we need to incorporate exercises that stretch and strengthen those muscles that are important for twisting and for posture.”
Space Age Treatment
“A new addition to our low back pain tool kit is a procedure device called intervertebral disc decompression or IDD. It helps decompress the vertebrae non-surgically, and non-invasively. Studies to date have shown a response rate of up to 86%,” adds Dr. Wei
Dr. Wei concludes, “Surgical procedures are a last ditch effort…and should be reserved for patients who have pain unresponsive to conservative treatment or who have a progressive neurologic problem.”