Summit County’s weekend warriors need to understand back pain to achieve optimal health
Special to the Daily
walk with a doc
Dr. Arthur Lawrance, D.O. practices family medicine at High Country Healthcare Breckenridge. He will discuss “Keeping Your Back Healthy and Pain-Free” on Saturday, Aug. 24 from 9-10 a.m. as part of High Country Healthcare’s “Walk with a Doc” weekly education series. Walkers of all ages and abilities (plus well-behaved, leashed dogs) should meet at the Summit Medical Building (360 Peak One Drive) next to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center for a walk-and-talk on a nearby recreation path. For more information, visit http://www.highcountryhealth.com.
Back pain is practically universal: Up to 80 percent of us will experience it sometime during our lives. You may have overdone it as a weekend warrior, “twisted something” as you bent over to tie your shoe or awakened with pain after sleeping. Traumatic back pain might emerge from a car accident or an unexpected fall while biking, skiing or snowboarding. Pain can also be the result of a medical illness. According to the Institute of Medicine, the nation’s independent, nonprofit health sciences and medical research organization, more than 630 million people worldwide suffer from low-back pain, and it is a leading cause of disability. Because the musculoskeletal system is a key element in maintaining wellness, understanding how to keep our backs healthy can help us achieve optimal health.
The anatomy and physiology of the human body consists of many parts that make a unified whole. That is why when you visit with your health care provider about back pain, he or she will review not only your medical history and past traumatic events, but also a number of critical physical and lifestyle factors that might account for your discomfort. First, an exam might begin with an evaluation of your physique (i.e., body type, height/weight proportionality). Additional questions will consider whether you engage in extended periods of sitting or driving, wear improper footwear, use ill-fitting gear or accessories (like a too-large bicycle or heavy backpack or purse) and the quality of your diet and exercise habits. In addition, one of the biggest and often unacknowledged factors contributing to any type of pain is physical and mental stress.
Dr. Bruce Latimer, an anthropological anatomist at Case Western Reserve University, compares the spine to a tower of 24 cups (representing the spine’s vertebrae) separated by 24 saucers (representing the cushioning discs between the vertebrae). The vertebrae protect the spinal cord, and interlock to provide spinal stability. The vertebrae and discs are surrounded by numerous muscles and ligaments, which provide strength and support for bodily movements like lifting, twisting and bending.
Injury and Degeneration
Many people fear they’ve injured their spine or discs when they experience back pain. This is far less common than simple muscle strains, sprains or other soft tissue injuries that can heal in a few days or a few weeks. There are also some degenerative disorders such as osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis that can result in back pain.
Oftentimes, there is no single, structural cause of back pain and no one-size-fits-all treatment. Many people find relief quickly as the body embraces a healing orientation. Your health care provider may decide that it is best to obtain an X-ray or other type of imaging before or after initiating one of the numerous treatment modalities that are available. These treatment options range from anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and neuromuscular injections to acupuncture and Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (a hands-on technique involving muscle and ligament movement to stretch and loosen restrictions). Beginning with less invasive remedies always makes sense as it’s very likely that symptoms will resolve over time. However, some people with back pain may require further testing or surgical consultation, or both. Talk with your health care provider about creating a customized treatment plan that is best for you.
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