Correct Posture Looks Great! Learn How To Correct Bad Posture With These Easy Home Exercises.

 

Correct Posture Looks Great!

 

'When the body is in optimal alignment, you will stand taller, feel better, look better,

and even your breathing becomes easier and deeper.'

 

Correct posture not only makes a good first impression, it also does wonders for your health and self confidence! Once you know how to correct bad posture with the easy home exercises below, you will see and feel the incredible difference that it makes!

 

Having a nice, upright posture is essential for looking and feeling good.  Standing tall and not slouching will automatically give your body a leaner, more attractive shape, as well as the ability to move better! And it is not that hard to achieve, just some simple exercises and the time for your body to change. Learning to use and move your body in a correct manner, so all its parts are in alignment, is really all there is to good posture. When the body is in optimal alignment, you will stand taller, look better, and your breathing also becomes easier and deeper.

Good posture also helps to prevent injury and ill health. If you have poor posture, your bones are not properly aligned and your muscles, joints and ligaments take more strain than nature intended. Faulty posture may cause you fatigue, muscle strain and in later stages, pain.  If your shoulders are slouched, there’s less room for your body’s internal organs, which hinders flow of oxygen into the body, affecting digestion, circulation, and other basic functions.

According to researchers reporting in the American Journal of Pain Management, "Posture affects and moderates every physiological function from breathing to hormonal production. Spinal pain, headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse, and lung capacity are also among the functions influenced by posture."

 

One of the first things to pay attention to is how you stand.

1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, making sure both legs are facing forward.

2. Your legs should be straight but your knees should not be locked.

3. Let your arms rest naturally at your sides.

4. Feel your weight being supported in the middle of each foot. You may want to see how it feels to rock onto the ball of your foot and then back on your heel. Finally, find a balance in the middle.

5. Press your shoulders down your back. A good way to do this is to take your shoulders up to your ears and then rolling them back to relax away from your neck.

6. Make sure your head is centred directly on the top of your spinal column.

  

The same applies to sitting.


Many of us spend more than half our waking life sitting in chairs behind desks. So finding a comfortable chair is essential for good posture. When you’re looking for a chair to support your back and allow a proper sitting posture, check for the following:

1. You should be able to place both of your feet flat on the floor.

2. The seat of the chair should support your entire thigh.

3. The back support of the chair should be as high as your shoulder blades.

 

 Easy Home Exercises For Better Posture.

 Chair exercises

Sitting straight, reach around to take hold of the back of your chair. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 2 minutes while taking long, deep breaths.

Health benefits: this move encourages flexibility of the muscles around the shoulder joints, shoulder blades, breastbones and spine. It can also help reduce shoulder pain and ease headaches.

Seated forward bend

From the sitting straight posture, bend your body forward so your torso is resting on your thighs. Your head and neck are relaxed, hanging loosely while your arms can rest on the ground or your elbows can be clasped with either hand. From this position, slowly rise with a flat back to sit up nice and tall. Repeat this movement 10 times.

Health benefits: This exercise releases tension in the shoulders and back while enhancing circulation. It also balances the joints of the shoulders and hips.

Simple twist

Clasp your hands behind your neck will pressing your elbows back so you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulder blades. Twist your torsos gently to the right, hold for three deep breathes then twist to the left for three breathes. Repeat on both sides 3-5 times. If you need to rest, come back to the centre, rest your hands on your knees and do some easy neck rolls, and then resume the exercise.

Health benefits: The twist realigns the spine and its surrounding muscles. It also helps to eliminate shoulder and back pain.

Standing exercise

With your feet hip-distance apart, stand with your head in line with your spine and stomach muscles pulled in. Think about standing correctly as described above, though your knees may be bent slightly. Drop your head down to your chest and let the curve continue into your shoulders and back, then slowly to your waist and hips, so your arms are hanging or your hands may be touching the ground. Stay in this position for a few long breaths. Then, one vertebra at a time, roll gently up. Keep your stomach tucked in and the muscles of your buttocks tightened as you roll up. Your head is the last to come up, directly in line with your spine. Repeat this exercise several times to get a feel for the proper alignment of your body.

 Prone exercise

Lie face down on the floor, keeping your neck straight, with your legs extended and arms straight overhead. Slowly raise your left arm and right leg about 6 inches (15 cm) off the ground. Hold for five seconds and lower. Repeat with the right arm and left leg. Repeat five times on each side.

Supine exercise

Lie on your back. Bend your knees and draw them into your chest to stretch the lumbar vertebrae. Place your feet back on the floor, keeping your knees bent and your entire lumbar back and pelvis in contact with the floor. Lay your arms across your chest and clutch your ribs while rocking from side to side to elongate your torso. Move your hands to the back of your head and pull forward to lengthen your cervical spine. Gently lower your head and neck to the floor.

No Back Pain

 

These simple exercises will only take you a few minutes a day to do. If you continue to do the exercises daily for around 4-6 weeks, you (and your friends!) will actually see your posture start to change. But you will start to feel much better for doing the exercises a lot quicker!! Make it a part of your daily routine (like brushing your teeth) and enjoy the benefits!

 

Remember that regular activity and exercise are essential to naturally promote good posture. Walking, swimming, dancing or bicycling will help your body stay aerobically conditioned, will strengthening exercises will help the muscles surrounding your back stay strong. These benefits of exercise promote good posture, which will in turn further help to condition muscles, prevent injury and keep you looking and feeling great.

 

Also check out our Total Back Pain Solution for naturally treating your own back pain right at home!

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

Do You Have Severe Spinal Stenosis Symptoms? Try This Easy Treatment For Spinal Stenosis!

 

 

Spinal Stenosis

 

Severe spinal stenosis symptoms are not very common. Usually the symptoms are mild to moderate, but they can affect both the lower back and legs. If you are suffering with severe back pain, there are probably other problems on top of any spinal stenosis that might be present. Treatment for spinal stenosis in most cases can only offer a temporary fix, and it really depends on the underlying cause as to how effective any treatment will be. Read on to find out why.

 

What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal openings or canals for the nervous system become narrowed. This can either affect the central spinal canal, where the spinal cord descends from the brain, or more commonly it will occur where the spinal nerves exit from the spine. This canal where the nerves exit from the spine is called the neural foramen.

 


Because the spinal cord and nerves are totally encased by bone, if the Central Spinal Canal or the Neural Foramen become too narrow, the bone can start to compress the nerves.

Central canal stenosis symptoms are rare, as it needs to be moderate to severe narrowing before it will compress the spinal cord.

Most commonly it is foraminal stenosis that causes problems as the bone encroaches on the spinal nerve.

 

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

There several different causes that can lead to narrowing of the spinal canals.

  • Spinal Degeneration. Most cases of spinal stenosis are a result of degenerative changes as we get older. This is basically a result of wear and tear of the spinal structures. Degenerative disc disease decreases the space between the vertebra, therefore narrowing the neural foramen. Formation of bone spurs (particularly around facet joints) can grow into the spinal canal, encroaching on the nerves.
  • Herniated or Bulging Discs. If the disc is pushing into the spinal canal or neural foramen, it can create nerve pressure and irritation. Read more about the discs here.
  • Hereditary. Some people are born with a smaller spinal canal. This may cause symptoms from an early age, but more likely just makes you more susceptible as you age.
  • Spondylolisthesis. This condition occurs when one vertebra slips forward on the one below. This can be the result of degenerative changes or an injury. The forward slippage can create a narrowing of the spinal canals.
  • Tumours. Although not common, abnormal growths can invade the spinal canals, creating spinal stenosis.

 

 Spinal Stenosis Symptoms.

Spinal stenosis can cause lower back pain as well as pain in the legs. Leg pain can be cramping, achy, or even like sciatica. It is often aggravated by extended periods of activity, such as walking or standing.

Lumbar nerve compression from stenosis can affect the nerves that control muscle power and sensation in the legs.

This can lead to weakness, tingling or numbness. In severe cases it can even effect bowel and bladder function. This requires immediate medical attention.

The symptoms of spinal stenosis can often be relieved bending forwards. This helps to open up the spinal canals and reduce nerve pressure. Sufferers will often need to sit for a few minutes if they have been walking or standing for a while.

Lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms are also medically known as 'neural claudication'. This means leg pain when walking, and can also be caused by vascular insufficiency (problems with the blood circulation). It is important to get a correct diagnosis if you have claudication. But as a general idea, stenosis pain can be worse when walking down hill, but not as bad going up hill (as you lean forwards slightly, decompressing the nerves!) Vascular claudication is often worse going up hill as it requires more exertion.

 

Treatment For Spinal Stenosis.

Although there is no cure as such for spinal stenosis, the following treatments are the most common. Depending on the severity and site, one of the following options can be considered.

  • Medications. NSAID's (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) drugs, painkillers and muscle relaxants are often prescribed for spinal stenosis. They may help to temporarily relieve the pain, but do not correct the cause and carry side effects.
  • Injections. Cortico-steroids may be injected to reduce inflammation and reduce nerve pressure around the swollen and irritated nerves. See above.
  • Surgery. Surgery may be considered if more conservative treatments haven't helped or if you're disabled by your symptoms. The goal is to relieve the pressure on your spinal cord or nerve roots by creating more space within the spinal canal. Most commonly a Laminectomy, which is where the posterior, or back, part of the spine is removed to allow more space for the nerves. Often the affected vertebra will also be fused to the vertebra on either side.
  • Activity Modification. For most spinal stenosis cases, the pain is relieved when bending forwards, and aggravated when bending backwards. Being aware of this allows you to modify your behaviours and avoid activities that cause pain, for example working over head such as hanging out washing. Diet and nutrition also play a roll. Maintaining a healthy weight means less stress and strain on the spine, and overweight people tend to have to lean backwards slightly which can increase nerve compression.
  • Exercise and Physical Therapy. Activity can aggravate spinal stenosis, so it is common that sufferers will become less active to reduce their pain. This can lead to muscle weakness and further spinal instability. So it is important to maintain a reasonable level of exercise to maintain strength and fitness. An exercise program such as Total Back Pain Solution, which is designed specifically to improve long term spinal stability, is of the most benefit.

 

This exercise is well known to relieve the symptoms of spinal stenosis because it opens up the spinal canal space. Start by lying on your back, them simply pull both of your knees to your chest and hold them there for 10-30 seconds. This brings your spine into a flexed posture and widens the space for the nerves. Easy and effective!

This simple treatment for spinal stenosis can give quick relief from back pain, even if you have severe spinal stenosis symptoms. But the real key is working towards improving your spinal control and stability.

 

Always seek professional advice when suffering from back pain, as there are many different causes. Mostly these will be a mechanical problem (read more here), but can sometimes be the sign of something more sinister.

Fortunately, many people successfully manage the symptoms of spinal stenosis with the non-surgical therapies. For others, symptoms may become disabling and surgery may be considered.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

What Causes Sciatic Pain? Can Exercises For Sciatica Help?

 

 

Sciatica

 

Sciatica is the name that is given to a common type of pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve, a large nerve that runs down the back of the leg. This article will help to explain what causes sciatic pain, and guide you to which exercises for sciatica may be of benefit.

 

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is not a medical diagnosis as such, but rather a way to describe a particular set of symptoms that can occur due to an underlying medical condition that causes compression of the sciatic nerve.

sciatic-nerveThese symptoms of sciatica are usually only on one side, and may be one of, or a combination of:

  • Pain that runs from the lower back down the back of the leg or buttock. The pain can vary from a mild ache to a sharp, burning or shooting pain that can become debilitating.
  • Pain that is worse when sitting.
  • You may experience numbness, tingling or weakness in the affected leg.
  • The pain can be made worse by coughing or sneezing.
  • Sharp pain that can make it difficult to walk.

 

 

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and is about the diameter of your thumb. It runs from the lower back all the way down your leg and as well as being the biggest, it is also the longest nerve in the body. It is derived from the spinal nerves that exit the spine from L4 through to S3 joining together.

The symptoms of sciatica occur when the any one of these nerve roots that form the sciatica nerve is being compressed or irritated in the lumbar spine. This is what people classically think of as a 'pinched' nerve. It is not usually the result of a single injury, but an accumulation over time.

 

sciatica

 

Most cases of sciatica will do away over time. How ever you should seek urgent medical attention if the pain has a sudden onset, is the result of a bad injury such as a car accident, it is not getting better after a week, or if you ever have trouble controlling your bowel or bladder.

 

What Causes Sciatica?

Compression of the sciatic nerve is most commonly caused by a herniated disc at the L5-S1 spinal level. You can read more about herniated discs here.

Other causes of sciatica are:

  • Degenerative disc disease (breaking down of the spinal discs, read more here.)
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal nerve canals in the lumbar spine, usually as a result of calcification/bone spurs.)
  • Spondylolysthesis (a condition where one vertebra slips forward on the vertebra below.)
  • Piriformis Syndrome (a muscle in the buttock that can compress the sciatic nerve if it spasms.)
  • Sacro-iliitis (Dysfunction of the sacro-iliac joint can irritate the L5 nerve root)

Rarer causes of sciatica may include pregnancy, spinal tumour, scar tissue, or infection.

 

Exercises For Sciatica

It is important to obtain an accurate diagnosis from your health care professional before starting any exercises, particularly if you are suffering with sciatica. There is not much point in stretching your Piriformis muscle if you have a disc herniation! And this is exactly why you have to be very careful before attempting any exercise regime. There is a real possibility that you could aggravate your condition if you do the wrong thing.

The next article will guide you through the exercises that will help to relieve sciatica, relevant to the cause. Try to start exercising as soon as possible, within a few days of the sciatica flaring up. The longer you leave it the worse the condition becomes. You can find the article that covers the exercises (with diagrams) by clicking this link.

 

Before beginning any exercise program, particularly exercises for sciatica, you should see a health professional to get a correct diagnosis for your pain to rule out any potentially serious problems. We would like to stress again the importance of a correct diagnosis, that way it will give you the best chance to really find out if sciatica exercises relieve pain.

The proper exercises differ based on the underlying condition that is causing the sciatic pain, so patients should not try to self-treat their sciatica before consulting a health professional or spinal specialist such as a chiropractor.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

What Does Herniated Disc Lower Back Pain Feel Like?

 

 

Herniated Disc Lower Back Pain

 

When it is bad, herniated disc lower back pain is probably the most painful thing that could ever happen to you! The level of pain can become debilitating. And it might not be just limited to your back. The pain can be shooting down your leg in severe cases (known as sciatica).

Fortunately, these sorts of severe cases are not that common. But most herniated discs in the lower back (the L4-L5 spinal level is the most common) are going to be uncomfortable.

Herniated Disc

The spinal discs are often described as being like a jelly doughnut. The discs have a tough outer layer (annulus fibrosus) and a softer, jelly like centre (nucleus pulposus). A herniation occurs when some of the softer centre pushes out through tears or cracks in the annulus fibrosus. These cracks and tears can form as part of the degenerative process, or as a result of injury to the disc. 

 More details on the spinal discs can be found by reading  Spinal Discs. Are They Causing your Back Pain?
 
The North American Spine Society defines lumbar disc herniation with radiculopathy as “. . . localized displacement of disc material beyond the normal margins of the intervertebral disc space resulting in pain, weakness or numbness in a myotomal or dermatomal distribution.”

You can actually have a herniated disc in your spine without even knowing about it. They can even show up on spinal scans of people that have no back pain at all. However, if the ruptured disc is pressing on or irritating the spinal nerves, the disc herniation is likely to cause pain and possibly other symptoms. 

 

 

The most common signs and symptoms of a herniated disc in the lower back are:

Lower back and/or leg pain.

Depending on the size of the herniation, you may have a dull low back ache if there is only a small herniation (that can be hard to differentiate from Degenerative Disc Disease), through to intense shooting pain into the buttocks and leg. Pain down the leg is due to the herniated disc pressing on the nerves from the spine that run down the leg, it is usually referred to as sciatica.

Numbness or tingling.

Nerve compression as a result of a disc herniation can alter the nerve signals, resulting in a change of sensation such as numbness or tingling.

Weakness.

Muscles that are supplied by a nerve that is being compressed tend to become weak due to a loss of proper nerve messages. This may cause you to stumble or trip, and you may have difficulty getting out of a chair. 

If the disc herniation is extremely large, it can compress the nerves enough to cause a loss of sensation in the groin/saddle area, and bowel and bladder problems (for example, incontinence). This is known as Cauda Equina Syndrome. It is a medical emergency and you should seek medical attention immediately.

 

Diagnosis

Correct diagnosis of a herniated disc requires spinal imaging. X-rays show bone, but do not show the soft discs. So either a CT Scan or an MRI is required. This will allow your doctor to see whether you have a herniated disc, and exactly where it is in your spine.

Initially, your doctor should take a careful medical history to find out where you are feeling the pain, what the pain feels like, and how long you have been suffering. Your doctor should also ask how the pain started. Was there an injury or some kind of twisting, bending or reaching movement. They wil want to know if you have any weakness, numbness or tingling.

Neurological examination is also helpful, and you may have your reflexes, strength and ability to feel light touches, pinpricks or vibration.

 

Treatment For a Herniated Disc.

If it is determined that you have a herniated disc, you will have some choices regarding possible treatment strategies. Most herniated discs will resolve themselves over time, but this can take several months.

In severe cases where the herniated disc is compressing nerves, spinal surgery may eventually be an option. A Discectomy (removing the disc, or, usually, a small portion of it) can be performed to take the pressure off the nerves. However, all surgery is risky, and should only be performed in exceptional cases where all other options have been exhausted.

Medications such as pain killers, anti-inflammatories, or steroids (such as Cortisone) can relieve the pain, but do not fix the underlying problem.

Chiropractic manipulation can increase spinal range of motion, relieve nerve pressure, restore blood flow and reduce muscle tension. It is low risk and has a very good success rate.

Ultrasound and massage can help to restore blood flow and reduce muscle tension. Hot and cold therapy, losing weight and quitting smoking are all known to be beneficial as well.

A specific exercise program designed to progressively stabilise the spine and increase flexibility, such as the Total Back Pain Solution, is often the only way to achieve long-term healing for most sufferers of a bulging spinal disc.

 

Most people with a herniated disc can make a full recovery with the right help. Unfortunately, there is not usually a quick fix. Recovery periods vary from several days to several months, depending on the severity and other factors such as age, weight, whether or not you are a smoker, commitment to a treatment program, etc.

It is important to understand what causes the discs to wear and tear in the first place. You can read more about that by reading What Causes Back Pain?

The vast majority of treatments for herniated disc lower back pain are solely focused on pain relief. Whilst critical at the start, a more long term approach to rehabilitating and stabilising the spine is the only solution to prevent a recurrence.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

Do You Have Bulging Disc Lower Back Pain? What Are Your Bulging Disc Treatment Options.

 

 

 

Bulging Discs And Lower Back Pain

 

Although it sounds like a serious problem, bulging disc lower back pains are usually not severe, and bulging disc treatment options are often very effective at resolving any back pain that you might be suffering with.

Like all disc problems though, it can be very hard to determine exactly what is causing back pain, and often the differing terms (disc bulge, herniation, degeneration) are used interchangeably. In particular, a disc bulge is often confused with a disc herniation, but they are actually different things. We will be covering this in more detail as you read through. 

Another thing that might be somewhat of a surprise is how common bulging discs are, even if you are not experiencing any symptoms. A study that was published in the highly regarded New England Medical Journal in July 1994 by M.C. Jensen titled ‘ Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People without Back Pain.’ examined scans of people who had no symptoms of back pain.

They found that 52% had disc bulges! That is, over half of  people with no back pain had a bulging spinal disc! And this number increases with age.

 

128805-532318-30A bulging disc occurs when the discs inner material, the nucleus pulposus, starts to squeeze out into the outer ring of the disc (annulus fibrosis). This can cause the disc to swell and bulge. It is thought to be a natural part of the ageing process, like Degenerative Disc Disease. This process will happen quicker if their has been an injury to the disc through trauma, or long term spinal stress and strain as a result of things like poor posture and prolonged sitting. Smoking is also known to speed up disc problems.

It is worth mentioning that discs do bulge very slightly when we are standing as they absorb our body weight.

A bulging disc is not necessarily a sign that anything serious is happening to your spine, and they often do not cause any pain.

But, if the bulge is large enough it can press into the spinal canal. This can directly irritate the spinal nerves, resulting in pain. If there is any calcification or spurs (also known as osteophytes) in the area the problem can become much worse.

The easiest way to think of a bulge is as a generalised swelling of the disc. A herniation is different, and occurs when the gel like nucleus pulposus actually squeezes through cracks in the fibres of the annulus fibrosis and pushes out into the spinal canal. The gel like nucleus can even squirt out into the area behind the disc, and this can result in severe pain and neurological problems if it compresses the nerves.

The best way to diagnose a bulging disc is with an MRI. Because the discs are soft tissue, they can not be seen effectively on an X-ray.

 

 

This MRI shows a disc bulge at the L4-L5 spinal level. In the centre of the picture you will see the vertebra of the spinal column like a stack of blocks. The lighter coloured pancakes in between are the discs.

You will notice that one of the discs is darker in colour, and is bulging to the right, into the spinal canal where the spinal nerves are. This is a disc bulge. The darker colour of the disc is generally indicative of dehydration of the disc, a result of Degenerative Disc Disease. Bulging discs and degenerative change usually go hand in hand.

 

Symptoms of Bulging Disc Lower Back Pain

Like Degenerative Disc Disease, the symptoms of a bulging disc vary. As mentioned above, 52% of people with no back pain at all have a disc bulge. Some people may only experience occasional back ache in the mid-line. 

However, if the bulge is large enough to irritate a spinal nerve you can experience severe back pain on one side that may even extend into your buttocks or down your leg. You may even have some numbness or tingling, or muscle weakness. (Although the more severe signs are usually due to a disc herniation.)

 

Bulging Disc Treatment Options.

In severe cases where the disc bulge is compressing nerves, spinal surgery may be an option. A Laminectomy (removing the posterior, bony portion of the vertebra) or a Discectomy (removing the disc) can be performed to take the pressure off the nerves. However, all surgery is risky, and should only be performed in exceptional cases where all other options have been exhausted.

As per the treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease, there are several other, more conservative options.

Medications such as pain killers and anti-inflammatories can relieve the pain, but do not fix the underlying problem.

Chiropractic manipulation can increase spinal range of motion, relieve nerve pressure, restore blood flow and reduce muscle tension. It is low risk and has a very good success rate.

Ultrasound and massage can help to restore blood flow and reduce muscle tension.

A specific exercise program designed to progressively stabilise the spine and increase flexibility, such as the Total Back Pain Solution, is often the only way to achieve long-term healing for most sufferers of a bulging spinal disc.

Hot and cold therapy, losing weight and quitting smoking are all known to be beneficial as well.

Once you understand that spinal problems like a disc bulge, or facet joint pain are all the end result of an underlying spinal instability, it becomes obvious that it is ultimately up to ourselves to protect our spine by looking after it correctly. Only by doing this and making a little effort can we look forward to a life that is not limited by whether by the level of our back pain.

 

                               Next Page: What Does Herniated Disc Lower Back Pain Feel Like?

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

 

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Spinal Discs. Are They Causing your Back Pain?

 

 

 

 Spinal Discs. Are They Causing your Back Pain?

 
Chronic low back pain that originates from the spinal disc is very common. In fact it is estimated that spinal discs account for up to 45% of all back pain. That's a lot when you consider that 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some point!

But what are discs, and how do you even know if it actually is the problem that is causing your back pain?
It wasn't that long ago that any time you had lower back pain, it would have been diagnosed as a 'slipped disc'. It was the most common throw around phrase to describe back pain, and it is also entirely incorrect.

Firstly, we need to clear up that the spinal discs do not 'slip'. It is anatomically impossible for the disc to slip out of place, not even a millimetre. However they can degenerate, develop tears, bulges and even herniations.

What do Spinal Discs Look Like, And What Is Their Function.

The spinal discs are a unique structure. They are round(ish) in shape, with a flat top and bottom that attach securely to the vertebra above and below. The discs consist of 2 parts, a tough outer ring (anulus fibrosis) and a softer, fibrous inner  component (nucleus pulposus). 

There are 23 spinal discs in our spinal column. Their primary function is to act as a shock absorber between the bones in our spine (the vertebra) to stop them banging or rubbing against each other. They also hold the vertebra together and allow movement between them.

The spinal disc itself has very few nerve endings and no blood supply. Without a blood supply the disc is unable to repair itself, and this means that pain coming from a damaged disc can last for years.
There are several different problems that can occur in the disc to cause back pain, and they can cause differing symptoms as well.

 

 Disc problems can generally be categorised as either:

 

 

Degenerative Disc Disease

Bulging Disc

Herniated Disc

Thinning discs and osteophyte formation are a progression of Degenerative Disc Disease.

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, spinal disc problems are often misunderstood for a variety of reasons.

Health professionals often have a hard time agreeing on causes of pain related to the spinal disc. Patients have a hard time understanding this complicated medical topic. On top of all that, there are many different terms used to describe disc related pain (slipped disc, pinched nerve, sciatica, bulging disc, etc.) No wonder it gets so confusing, and that's just for the doctors!

It's also important to note that you can actually have a problem with the disc (such as degeneration or a bulge) and not have any pain at all. In fact a relatively high percentage of the population over the age of 40  has a disc disorder that can be seen with MRI studies (disc bulges and annular tears are very common). This does not mean that you will experience pain or any other symptom.

The following pages cover the different disc categories in more detail.

 

Next Page: Degenerative Disc Disease

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

 

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Degenerative Disc Disease

 

 

 

Degenerative Disc Disease

 

As we age, the spinal discs start to dehydrate (the discs are 80{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} water at birth! Learn more about spinal discs here). As a result of this loss of water over time, the discs start to stiffen. This means they are less able to adjust to the compression forces of every day activities. Although this is considered a part of the natural ageing process, in some individuals, it can cause pain. 

This is known as Degenerative Disc Disease, and it is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. However it is also the most misunderstood.

That is partly because few medical professionals agree on exactly what a diagnosis of Degenerative Disc Disease means, and also when exactly, it is the cause of back pain. The symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease can be quite varied, and this just makes it even more difficult to diagnose.

Maybe not surprisingly, Degenerative Disc Disease is almost universal in the population. The discs can start to show degenerative changes as early as in our 20’s. Most people will have varying degrees of mild to moderate Degenerative Disc Disease by the time they are in their 30’s. Some are even severe by this age. 

Strangely though, not everyone experiences pain. One person may have crippling pain, whilst someone else may have no pain at all. This is one of the difficulties of knowing when, and how to treat Degenerative Disc Disease.

 

Signs of Degenerative Disc Disease:

Although it varies widely, signs of Degenerative Disc Disease generally follow a pattern.

  • Pain in the midline (not off to one side)
  • Intermittent back pain (flares up from time to time) but generally does not get worse over time.
  • Pain is often worse with weight bearing, and improves with lying down.
  • Pain aggravated by physically demanding activity.
  • Pain aggravated by forward bending, particularly for extending time periods (sitting, working at a bench).

 

The pain from Degenerative Disc Disease is due to a combination of inflammation and instability of the spinal segment (which puts further stress on the surrounding tissues).

As the discs degenerate, they lose water and start to shrink, losing height and the ability to flex and absorb pressure. This process is often sped up as a result of poor posture, sedentary lifestyle, lots of sitting, and incorrect movement patterns. It is even worse if there has been an injury, particularly if a twisting injury has damaged the disc at some point.

The shrinking disc is a telling sign of Degenerative Disc Disease. It is easily visualised on X-rays, where you can see a decrease in the space for the disc (as seen at the white arrow below, compared to a healthy disc at the black arrow).

 

Disc x-ray

 

 

 Treatment options for Degenerative Disc Disease.

Medications such as pain killers and anti-inflammatories can relieve the pain, but do not fix the underlying problem.

Spinal surgery, usually fusion, has unreliable outcomes and a long recovery time. Surgical intervention of any kind is fraught with risks and can lead to further complications down the line. In severe cases this may be the only option, but all other possible avenues should be tried first.

Chiropractic manipulation can increase spinal range of motion, relieve nerve pressure, restore blood flow and reduce muscle tension. It is low risk and has a very good success rate.

Ultrasound and massage can help to restore blood flow and reduce muscle tension.

A specific exercise program designed to progressively stabilise the spine and increase flexibility is often the only way to achieve long-term healing for most sufferers of Degenerative Disc Disease.

Hot and cold therapy, losing weight and quitting smoking are all known to be beneficial as well.

 

Next Page: Bulging Discs

 

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

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Facet Joint Pain or Facet Syndrome

 

 

 

Facet Syndrome, or Facet Joint Pain

 

Facet Joint Pain (also known as Facet Syndrome) can be debilitating. The patient can be in severe pain and have difficulty moving. It can be extremely unpleasant to say the least!

Although it is one of the main causes of back pain, facet joint pain only accounts for 5 – 10{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} of all back pain. But this increases to nearly 45{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} if you are between fifty and sixty years of age.

Facet joint pain usually starts with a sudden onset, and often as a result of a specific activity. Sports and movements that involve rotating or twisting are common causes of facet joint pain (such as tennis and golf).

Often the patient will say something along the lines of ‘I just bent over to pick up my shoe, and my back went and I couldn’t move!’

 

So What Are Facet Joints?

The facet joints sit at the back of the spine (the spinal discs sit at the front aspect of the spine). The facet joints are synovial joints. Just like your knee or the knuckles in your hand, they allow movement between two bones. In the case of facet joints, this is the movement between each vertebra.

In a synovial joint, the ends of the bone are covered in cartilage, like you would see at the end of a chicken bone. This shiny smooth tissue allows the bones to slide against each other almost friction free. The joint is held together by ligaments and a joint capsule. The inside of the joint cavity contains synovial fluid, like all synovial joints. This fluid lubricates the joint for smooth movement.

Most of our spinal movements (bending, reaching, twisting) occur thanks to our facet joints. They come in very handy!

 

What Is Facet Joint Pain?

The facet joints can be become injured, and therefore inflamed, as a result of injury or arthritis. Injury usually results from the joint being over stretched as a result of a twisting or reaching movement.

Arthritis, which can be seen on X-ray, CT scan or MRI, is result of degeneration of the joint. It is my belief that degenerative change is the result of chronic inflammation due to the facet joint not moving correctly (incorrect movement patterns). This is usually the result of a previous injury to the joint.

I want to point out again that is very hard to isolate exactly what is causing your back pain, as different causes often have the same symptoms and usually there is more than one culprit at play simultaneously.

However, typical signs of facet joint pain are:

  • The pain is on one side only. Often the patient can point exactly to the involved facet joint.
  • The pain had a sudden onset with a specific movement or activity. If you are over fifty, the pain may have come on more gradually.
  • The pain is worse if you lean backwards (or extend your spine).
  • Stiffness or difficulty getting out of a chair.
  • Dull pain into the buttocks or leg (but never past the knee).
  • Increased pain when you twist your back, like turning to look over your shoulder.

A common diagnostic tool for facet joint pain is to inject the joint with a local anaesthetic and an anti-inflammatory. This often brings immediate welcome relief.

However this test is notoriously inaccurate and does not have much scientific proof! So what do you do?

When I diagnose facet joint pain it is using a thorough history and physical examination. But you can never be 100{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} sure, even with X-rays and the like.

If it looks like facet joint pain, then it probably is. But don’t rule out other possible contributing factors!

 

 

Treatment of Facet Joint Pain.

The most common medical approach, often after a diagnoses from injecting anaesthetic, is to inject steroids into the facet joint to reduce inflammation. This has mixed degrees of success in relieving the pain, and if successful it is usually short-lived (because it doesn’t fix the CAUSE of the facet injury). Steroid injections are also fraught with complications. Leg numbness and an increased risk of osteoporosis are known side-effects.

Another medical approach is Facet Rhizotomy or radiofrequency denervation or ablating. Basically, burning the delicate nerves to the facet joint! This has varying results at best, plus you want to be 100{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} sure of the diagnoses before you start killing nerves! They are there for a reason.

Physical Therapy. Although there is not a lot of research to support it, chiropractic adjustment (or manipulation) to restore normal movement to the facet joint is widely known to be a very effective method of treating facet joint pain. There is some research that suggests patients recover quicker, and enjoy longer lasting results under chiropractic care. For some this might be controversial, but I personally would rather try more natural avenues before I burn off some important bits, or put any risky chemicals in my body!

At the end of the day, facet joint pain is probably a lot more common than the 5-10{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} mentioned above. If you have injured a facet joint, the steps to recovery are essentially the same as for any back problem. Reduce inflammation, then strengthen and stabilise the area through following a suitable exercise plan. Simple as that.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

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Does Paracetamol Provide Relief For Back Pain? Latest Research Says NO!

 

 

Does Paracetamol Provide Relief For Back Pain? Latest Research Says NO!

 

ParacetamolIf you have ever suffered with a sore back, you will know that you will do almost anything to get relief for back pain. And that is fully understandable. Back pain can be a nagging annoyance at best, but it can also become debilitating very quickly.

So it's not surprising that most people turn to pain medication as their first line of treatment for back pain. The most widely used over-the-counter medicine for back pain in the world is paracetamol. But just how effective is it?

 

Well, it doesn't work at all according to a study published in highly regarded scientific journal The BMJ (British Medical Journal) in March 2015.  BMJ 2015;350:h1225

'Paracetamol is ineffective in the treatment of low back pain and provides minimal short term benefit for people with osteoarthritis. These results support the reconsideration of recommendations to use paracetamol for patients with low back pain and osteoarthritis of the hip or knee in clinical practice guidelines.'

And,

'evidence suggests that paracetamol is ineffective in reducing pain and disability or improving quality of life in patients with low back pain.'

You can read the full article here.

 

So if you have been taking paracetamol to get relief for back pain, then unfortunately it seems that it does not help. This is quite concerning as it is often recommended as the first treatment for back pain. It is even more troubling when you consider the prevalence of back pain, which is widely acknowledged as a leading cause of disability worldwide. The study also found that taking paracetamol has negligible benefits for knee and hip osteoarthritis.

 

But it gets even worse! The BMJ study also found that:

'Patients taking paracetamol are nearly four times more likely to have abnormal results on liver function tests compared with those taking oral placebo'.

 

That is, taking paracetamol quadruples your risk of developing abnormal liver function, or put bluntly, it poisons your liver!

Not only does taking paracetamol not have any benefit for your back pain, it can actually be very harmful. So there really is no point taking it. According to this study, it simply does not help and may actually be harmful.

 

Why Taking Any Pain Medication Is Not The Best Idea Anyway.

In fact the whole idea of taking painkillers does not make sense when you really think about it. Sure, there are times when you need to get relief for back pain. Sometimes you just need a break, particularly when the pain becomes unbearable, and the right meds are certainly effective at bringing some relief.

But it is important to understand that the pain is not the problem. It is just a signal from your body that something is wrong. You can think of it as being like a fire alarm going off, letting you know that there is a fire somewhere. When you take painkillers, it is essentially the same as turning off the alarm. But the fire is still burning!!

Pain is also there to let you know what you can and can't do. If you move a certain way, and it hurts, that is your body saying 'Don't do that, you are going to make it worse.' So by taking painkillers (ones that work, not like paracetamol!) you are effectively numbing your body so you can't feel that warning alarm.

Sure, you might be able to do more things and move easier, but you can also be doing more damage. This is a really important thing to be aware of! By numbing the pain you could be setting yourself up for more problems. So please be extra careful how you are moving about and doing things if you have had to rely on medication to ease back pain. The last thing you want to do is make it worse, so really watch yourself.

 

Of course the best thing is to get to the underlying issue that is causing the pain. Once you fix the problem, you don't get the pain!  Check out this information on the real underlying cause of the majority of back pain.

If you have ongoing back pain, it is strongly advised that you seek professional advice. Just remember that taking paracetamol is not going to help. In fact, it could be harming you. You simply need to address the root cause to get lasting relief for back pain.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please support us and share so we can help more people! Thankyou.

 

 

If You Want Lower Back Pain Relief, This One Thing Is Making It Impossible!

 

 

If you have got lower back pain, there is one thing in particular that is making it worse.

 

And you are probably doing it right now!

 

And if you are doing this one thing a lot, you will always have trouble getting any lasting relief from lower back pain.

Well, you may or may not be surprised to know that it is sitting!

 

Couch potatoYes, that’s right. Sitting. Something we all do every single day, and it is creating chronic back pain.

If you sit for long periods, there is virtually no chance that you will ever have lower back pain relief.

A recent study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine and reported in The Washington Post has also found that prolonged sitting increases your risk of early death from health problems by 24{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} compared to people who sat less.

 

 

 

 

Why sitting causes back pain is actually quite easy to understand when you have a look at the basic mechanics of the spine.

 

 

Lat SpineLumbar lordosisAs you can see, the natural position for our spine is in an upright posture. Our lower back, or lumbar spine, has an arch in it called a lordosis. Between our shoulder blades, the thoracic or dorsal spine, curves slightly forward (kyphosis), and our neck curves back in a small lordosis like the lumbar spine.

 

 

 

This is the normal healthy shape of your spine. Whenever we are not in this posture for extended periods of time, it creates an increase in strain on your back.

 

 

 

In the sitting position, most people have a tendency to slump forward, particularly if you are sitting at a desk. When the spine curls forward in this slouched position, it compresses the spinal discs, and stretches the posterior spinal ligaments. No back pain relief when this is happening!

 

Bad sitting posture

 

 

This is fine for short periods of time, but the general consensus is that sitting in a slumped position for longer than 20 minutes is likely damaging your spine. That is not very long at all when you consider how long you sit for each day.

 

 

 

The key point to remember here is not to sit for extended periods of time. Ideally get up every 20 minutes and move around, even if it is just for few seconds, it will break the posture you are in.

 

Good Sitting PostureSitting postureAlso be aware of how much you are slumping forwards, particularly at the desk or computer (click here to learn how to set up your ergonomic desk properly). Try to sit up as straight as possible. This can be uncomfortable at first as your postural muscles may have weaken considerably if you do sit a lot. If you are a member of TBPN you will glad to know that the program will actually be strengthening your postural muscles again. This will not only help your back pain, but also improve your posture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I personally believe that sitting is the No.1 back killer and will severely limit your ability to get lower back pain relief. Extended sitting puts unnecessary stress and strain on the spinal structures and weakens the supporting muscles. Not only that, but with people becoming more and more sedentary, particularly in the work place, we need to really be conscious of the amount of time we are sitting for. You will have ongoing back problems unless you can change your sitting habits.

 

To find out what else can aggravate your bad back, click here.

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

 

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