Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy is a Phoenix physical therapy provider with locations all across the Valley. We are dedicated to helping our patients achieve fulfilling, pain-free lives by providing them with high quality, individualized care. To schedule a free assessment with one of our expert staff, you can go online here today. For more news and information about Phoenix physical therapy, follow our blog!
Melissa Miller holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise & Wellness and an associate’s degree in Physical Therapy Assisting, and she is a passionate member of our Downtown Phoenix physical therapy clinic. Her focus is in orthopedic cases, giving her lots of experience with patients’ back issues. She explains why back injuries are so common, and what people can do to prevent them.
Back injuries are an increasingly common diagnosis seen in the field of physical therapy today. They can be frustrating, time consuming, and costly to fix. Many individuals become unable to work, perform daily activities, or even care for their families due to this unfortunate disorder. This is why it is vital to our community to not only treat this injury, but to provide education that will prevent these injuries from occurring.
Our spine has three major jobs: to maintain the structure of our trunk, to protect the nervous system, and to act as a shock absorber. It is made up of bones (vertebrae), intervertebral disks and ligaments, muscles, and nerves. Vertebrae provide structure for our back, discs allow flexibility in our spine, ligaments are elastic bands that hold bones together, muscles contract to allow the body to move, and nerves provide energy to make the muscles work.
There are many common causes of back pain. Some of these include poor posture, faulty body mechanics, stress, loss of strength and flexibility, or a decline in fitness. Rarely is back pain a result of one specific incident or injury. Injuries actually tend to develop long before an episode of pain comes on; which is why a twist, slip, or sneeze may seem like a minor injury at first, but can lead to a debilitating condition.
There are many different types of back disorders. Muscle guarding and spasms are tender muscles that cause a lot of pain, which can be alleviated by heating pads, muscle relaxant medications, electrical stimulation, soft tissue massage, flexibility, and strength training. Another common diagnosis is a herniated disc, which generally takes months to develop and is usually caused by sitting or standing in a forward slumped position, as well as forward bending or lifting. The jelly-like intervertebral disk is squeezed through the cartilage rings, causing the outer wall of the disk to bulge. This becomes extremely painful when there is pressure placed on the nerves and disc wall. Treatment for this includes strengthening the core muscles, stretching the musculature surrounding the spine, educating the patient on correcting faulty body mechanics, correcting posture, and avoiding forward bending and slumped sitting for a while. Another issue, postural strains and sprains, are caused by overstretched and irritated muscles and ligament fibers as a result of many hours, days, and years of strain placed on the joints and muscles due to poor posture. A simple flexibility and strengthening home exercise program is beneficial in treating this disorder.
Having good postural awareness at home, in the car, and at work are essential in providing care for your own back. It is very important to be cognizant of the correct body mechanic techniques if you are working in an environment that requires you to lift heavy objects. Always remember to keep the object close to your body, tighten your abdominals, and lift with your legs – NOT your back. Avoid any twisting of the spine, lifting with your legs straight, and lifting an object that may be too heavy for you. If you have a desk job, it is important to take frequent walking breaks, keep your computer screen at eye level and sit in a chair that has adequate lumbar support. These are just a few examples of proper posture and body mechanics that can be used in the workplace.
If you are suffering from a back disorder, successful treatment from a physical therapist is possible. However, everyone should take care of their bodies to prevent this from happening or reoccurring, so they can live a pain free life. Recognizing proper body mechanics, having postural awareness, and exercising can aid an individual greatly in a having a successful treatment and outcome, and preventing pain in the future.