"Doc Savage" on: Back Injuries, and How to Avoid Them

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Back pain is the second most common complaint, following headaches, of patients visiting doctor’s offices today. Activities such as heavy lifting, twisting while holding a weight, or lifting at odd angles frequently trigger the onset of back pain. Unfortunately, these are the exact activities that could occur while trying to hurriedly load a vehicle to evacuate or while pulling a 72-hour kit out of the trunk of your car. A back injury during an emergency would suddenly limit your ability to respond effectively. This report will list the most common types and causes of back injuries followed by preventative measures to minimize the chances of suffering a back injury.
The straw that broke the camel’s back is an adage that applies to most back problems. Many people have heard someone say that they “just bent over to pick up a (insert your own light object here) and my back went out.” It usually isn’t the activity that causes the problem, but the years of lifting improperly with a weak back, sitting with poor posture, repetitive lifting, and normal degeneration of the spine. Lifting injuries can be classified in three ways:
Muscle Injuries: These occur when too much weight is lifted from the wrong position causing more stress than the muscle can bear. This force causes tiny tears in the musculature known as muscle strain. Muscle strain can be very painful and make moving extremely difficult. Generally, muscle strain repairs itself in a few weeks to months.
Disc Injuries: The discs are located between the bones of the spine called vertebra and act as a shock absorber or a ball bearing. Discs are composed of fibrous rings that can bulge or even rupture when injured. Pain is usually sudden and may radiate down into the leg. Numbness may also occur in the leg. Disc injuries may resolve themselves after a few weeks or may require surgical intervention in severe cases.
Joint Injuries: The spine consists of numerous bone-on-bone joints. If one of these joints is overstressed, the joint can slip and often times become locked. These joint deformities frequently pop back into place on their own. They may require physical manipulation via physical therapy or chiropractic care.
The best treatment for a back injury is to avoid having one. Here are a few suggestions to help avoid a back injury. First, plan what you are going to do and then do it in the safest way, which is not necessarily the quickest or easiest way. Get help with objects that are too large to lift alone. This seems extremely simple, which is why so many people often fail to even consider it. Always lift with a straight back, lifting with your legs. Remember to keep your chest pointed forward, as just bending the legs can cause a bend in the spine as you lift an object that is low to the ground. Feet should be shoulder width apart with one foot slightly in front of the other.
After the lift, keep the object close to your body. A simple experiment to show the importance of this is to hold a gallon of water to your chest and walk around your living room. Next, do the same thing but hold the water at arm length in front of you. It makes quite a difference. While turning with the weight lifted lead with the hips and not the shoulders so that your body will stay in line. While carrying the weight remember to keep good posture and do not stoop.
Good physical conditioning is also important to maintain back health. Activities that improve core muscular strength such as walking, sit-ups, leg raises, and alternate arm/leg lifts while lying on your stomach are excellent strengthening activities. Another lazy man’s way of strengthening core musculature is to sit on an exercise ball--the large ones used in Pilates classes. I sat on one while watching an hour long television program one night and found muscles that I had forgotten the next morning.
If you are currently experiencing any back problems, seek treatment now. Doctors, physical therapists, and chiropractors can all give advice and treatment for back injuries.
I hope that this article has given you some thoughts on back care and will motivate you to study the subject further as I have only scratched the surface. During times of stress and hectic activity is not the time to learn about such things the hard way. Take the time now to start strengthening your core muscles and practice safe lifting techniques each day. - "Doc Savage"

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Rawles published on December 2, 2005 8:56 PM.

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