With 540 million people suffering from lower back pain, it remains the leading cause of long-term disability. That's why World Spine Day on Oct. 16 will raise awareness about spinal health with its theme, BACK2BACK.
"BACK2BACK will focus on highlighting ways in which people can help their spines by staying mobile, avoiding physical inactivity, not overloading their spines and adopting healthy habits such as weight loss and smoking cessation," according to World Spine Day.
Locally, orthopedic spine surgeon Nima Salari with Desert Institute for Spine Care helps people identify the causes of neck and back pain, learn effective ways to prevent it, and offer options for treatment if the pain is chronic or debilitating.
"The reasons for the pain can be related to a multitude of sources," Salari says on the DISC website. "The treatments can vary just as much and we make every effort to customize our treatment plan to the individual patient. Some answers remain universal, however. Those answers relate to steps patients can take on their own to either prevent neck and back pain or help improve their symptoms."
Common causes of back pain include herniated discs, facet joints, muscle spasms, sprains, scoliosis, degenerative disc disease and sciatica. To avoid problems, here is what the experts at DISC recommend for maintaining spine health.
Lift and bend properly
Muscle strains and sprains are the most common causes of back pain.
"A sprain is when a ligament tears or stretches, while a strain happens when a muscle or tendon gets pulled or twisted," DISC orthopedic spine surgeon Justin Field says on the DISC website.
These movements might occur when you lift a heavy object from the ground or overhead while twisting. Sudden impacts and repetitive motions can cause similar stress on back muscles, according to spine-health.com. Poor posture or weak core muscles may also make your back susceptible to injury.
To avoid injuries, use proper lifting techniques, including planning your route before lifting an object, warming up beforehand, standing close to the object, bending your knees and keeping your body upright, and leading with your hips and shoulders, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Make healthy choices
When your overall health is better, your spine health will be, too, In fact, research shows that restful sleep can lower stress, in turn reducing lower back and neck pain, Salari says.
"Furthermore, reducing simple sugars and artificial sweeteners may lend to an improvement in the body's ability to reduce inflammation," Salari says.
Treat any problems
Back pain tends to worsen with age because of wear and tear to discs between the vertebrae in the spine. Each disk has a soft center and a tougher exterior and, when worn down, the soft center can push out and irritate the nerves around the spine.
"For 90% of people, a herniated disc heals on its own," Field says. "Sometimes, a herniated disc can lead to chronic back pain. In rare cases, an untreated herniated disc can cause permanent nerve damage."
Another common problem associated with age is spinal stenosis. This disorder is characterized by the narrowing of the spinal cord because of osteoarthritis or disc degeneration.
"Treatment for spinal stenosis generally focuses on relieving symptoms," Field says. "If the condition causes difficulty walking or poor quality of life, patients might explore surgical treatment options. Spinal stenosis is the leading cause of spinal surgery in people over 65."
Learn more about spine health and make an appointment for your spine care needs at DISC by visiting sciatica.com.