back brace, back pain

Your Quick Guide to Back Care

The back is one of the most neglected parts of our body, given the sedentary lifestyle that most of us lead. A pain in the back could reduce productivity and make a busy day seem longer and unbearable. Fortunately, a basic awareness of how your back works could help you make amends that would serve you well in the long run.

Here’s all that you need to know about your back:

The back is a complex structure consisting of the spine, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves. The spinal cord is as thick as your thumb and about 18 inches long, and runs all the way from the brain stem to the lumbar vertebra. Towards the end of the spinal cord, the cord fibres continue down to your tailbone and branch out into your legs. The spinal cord is comprised of 33 bones, known as vertebrae, and is protected by the spinal column that supports the body and protects the spinal cord from injury. Each vertebra is prevented from rubbing against each other by tyre-shaped intervertebral discs that are filled with gel at the centre.

Two main groups of muscles known as extensors and flexors influence and stabilize the spine and its movements. Extensors are connected to the back of the spine and enable you to stand up and lift objects. Flexors, on the other hand, are present in front of the spine, together with abdominal muscles. These muscles let you twist, bend and play a crucial role in lifting and determining the S-shaped curve on your back.

The spine is naturally curved in an S-shape. While the neck and lower back have a concave curve, the thoracic and sacral regions feature a convex curve. Together, the curves serve as a coiled spring that absorbs shock. It also helps maintain balance and enables bodily movements.

What to watch out for:

Adults over 60 years of age are more likely to suffer from degeneration of spinal joints. This could lead to pain, stiffness and loss of flexibility in the back. Elderly people are also more likely to develop conditions such as spondylosis which refers to a type of degeneration of the spine. Spondylosis could cause individuals to experience sharp pain during activity and pain in the lower back, neck, legs and arms.

Excessive body weight, weak muscles and an incorrect posture can distort your spinal alignment and the natural curve of your back.

Continuous slouching and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to the shortening and stiffening of muscles. As a result, one side of your body could pull down more than the other, thereby shifting your posture in that direction.

What you can do:

While a poor posture can’t be termed as unhealthy, it still pays to have a good posture. A good posture helps you have better balance, stronger athletic abilities and lowers your risk of injuring yourself during physical strenuous activity.

Simple workouts that focus on your balance and loosen tight muscles can go a long way in improving your posture. Similarly, stretching, walking and yoga could also improve the flexibility of your back, in addition to correcting a bad posture. Back conditions such as spondylosis could also be avoided with regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight.