Thursday, July 22, 2010
An estimated 80 percent of American adults will suffer from chronic back pain at some point in their lives. While it seems like a “pain in the neck” to deal with, lower back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. There are a few important things to keep in mind regarding your spinal health:
· While sleeping: Thought to be a common “cure” for back pain, sleeping with a pillow between your knees is purely for personal comfort. It is not harmful or helpful. Memory foam pillows and mattresses are highly advertised and could be considered very comfortable to sleep on, but there is has no scientific evidence to suggest it has an impact on back health. Some people prefer a firm mattress and some prefer a soft mattress; it’s just what you personally like. My recommendation is that if a mattress is helping reduce your back pain, keep using it. In my experience, I’ve never seen a mattress cause any serious back pain issues, so if you wake up with soreness, it might be from muscle or ligament strain caused by your particular sleeping position.
· At the office: The long eight (or sometimes more) hours a day sitting at your desk looking at the computer screen can be uncomfortable, so you listen to your body. Your body should tell you when it is comfortable and when it is not. At the end of the day, whatever you can tolerate is what you should do. If your back starts to hurt, try sitting with better posture, take a break or take a quick walk. Ergonomically designed chairs can also help if you frequently experience discomfort.
· In the car: People often have back discomfort when they go on road trips or sit in a plane for long hours. The spine itself is the shape of a lazy “S”, and that’s the shape it wants to stay in. Some chairs and seats are straight-backed so they do not provide the support your spine needs. Lumbar pillows and inserts are a good idea if you usually get uncomfortable on long trips. In fact, many cars are being designed with higher quality lumbar support now.
· Playing sports: With the summer season, we see lots of back injuries related to water sports such as water skiing or riding on a jet ski. Back injuries can occur during any sport or activity where trauma is a risk. Football and other contact sports have a high risk of injury, so it is important to wear the proper protection while playing, and visit a doctor if you are injured.
As a general rule of thumb, if you have chronic back pain, you need to get an adequate diagnosis to determine the cause of your pain. Many physicians will recommend an MRI or X-ray scan of the affected areas to determine the cause of your pain. The mistake that most people make is that they don’t exactly know what is causing the pain. Once you know the source, steps can be taken to correct the problem or reduce your discomfort.
Many new technologies in spinal health are helping people diagnose and treat their chronic back pain. Surgeons are now able to insert artificial disks in the spine to correct damage, along with other surgical techniques. Minimally invasive surgeries are also being perfected to allow patients who have greater risk during traditional surgeries, such as seniors, to undergo more advanced surgical therapy.
If you would like help finding a physician who can help with back pain issues and spine health, please call Centennial Medical Center’s physician referral line at 1-800-330-3819.
Dr. Paul Salinas is a neurosurgeon fellowship-trained in spine surgery on the medical staff at Centennial Medical Center.