Hey joint supporters! We’re going to talk about the spine tonight!!! About 50% of my patients are seeing me for back pain. Yes, PTs treat back pain! In fact, we see more back pain than post surgical problems. So let’s dig in!
Spondylosis is just a fancy term for arthritis. Then you have the “dreaded” DDD (Degenerative Disc disease) which is a problem with the discs between the spine. Usually, the two go hand in hand. So what do you do about it?!!!
Let’s talk about the where back problems start and go into a little anatomy. We have bones, discs, nerves and muscles. Without muscles and nerves we would just be a pile of bones on the floor. Nerves give muscles energy and muscles make bones move. So without muscles, bones would never break down to begin with! Yes, I ended with a preposition, this is my blog and I can do what I want! 🙂
Now let’s talk about muscle. How many muscles do you think we have? 100? 300? 500? We actually have over 700 muscles in our body! Over 40 attach to the pelvis alone! Muscles provide tension to bones, and in a perfect world, they provide equal tension to all sides of the bones. When those muscles become unbalanced, some will become weak and some too tight. The tight muscles will pull on the bones and cause them to change shape, rotate, move, or break down. Stay with me now…we’re adding another layer!
Next we have the nerves, the electricity. Think of nerves like an electric cord for a lamp. If there is a kink in the cord, the lamp will flicker or not even turn on! So if a nerve is being pinched or crowded, it will stop the power to the muscle, causing weakness. Muscles being too tight can crowd or pinch off the nerve. Secondarily, a nerve can also get pinched between bones that get too close together. But what would cause the bones to get too close together? You got it! Tight muscles!
Did I lose you yet?
In a nutshell, our bones and nerves are the poor victims of this whole problem, but yet they get blamed over and over again. Our muscles are actually the culprits. They determine the forces that get put on our bones and nerves.
Repetition of movement causes continued force on our joints. Poor standing and sitting posture is simply repetition of muscle forces. Fix the balance, fix the problem. Simple. Not easy. In PT, I work to correct muscle imbalances between the muscles in the front of the body and muscles in the back of the body. This creates better forces on the spine. Better forces = less pressure = happier spine = less pain!
Look at yourself right now and think about what muscles you think are the weakest? Abdominals ring a bell? How about your butt muscles? Think they may play a role in your back pain? Absofreakinlutely.
So what does this mean? Does this mean you shouldn’t play golf? Shouldn’t keep doing your 5k walks? Shouldn’t garden? Absolutely not! We need to move! However, if you have a back issue, you have to be more mindful about your muscle balance. Are you overusing your back muscles and not spending enough time on your abs and glutes? Are you only turning one direction and not the other? Do you keep standing a certain way and not changing your position regularly?
I hope this explanation helps you understand your body a little better. I will discuss treatment options later including physical therapy (of course!), chiropractics, injections, surgeries, massage, and others! Until then, keep moving!