Get Back In The Swing

Incorrect posture, improper lifting and twisting and incorrect or excess training are among the likley causes of back and neck pain.

Published February 07, 2012 02:41

Get Back In The Swing
Virginie Razzano

Most back and neck problems are caused by the weakening of spinal tissues that occurs with years of wear and tear, and are rarely the result of one incident or injury. Incorrect posture, improper lifting and twisting, incorrect or excess training, loss of flexibility and poor core stability are the most likely causes of back and neck pain.

Early warning signs can range from mild discomfort and stiffness, to sudden onset of acute pain, such as when you twist as you pick up a bag. Many episodes of back pain can be prevented. You can get back to winning form when you make simple postural improvements, use good lifestyle habits and train correctly.

BACK ACHING SITUATIONS
Many people have experienced one or more of these situations:
• Carrying and lifting heavy bags.
• Long international flights, squashed on the plane, maybe with delays and hours in airports.
• Sitting in cars for extended time in heavy traffic
• Waking up with a stiff neck or back due to a too soft or hard hotel mattress or pillow.
• Tightness or pain in your neck or back after sitting at the computer or watching TV.
If you have experienced any of these, it is time for some preventative action to get back into the swing!

WHAT CAUSES BACK PAIN?
Muscle guarding and spasm
• A muscle spasm is when the muscles tighten around the spine to limit movement and protect strained or sensitive areas from further damage. They are quite painful.
• Muscle spasms often occur after an injury or when the spine is repeatedly in poor postural alignment.
• The muscle may continue to spasm even after the underlying problem is gone, or remain "twitchy" - easily returning to spasm - for a long period.
Muscle Strain
• Muscles are highly elastic and can absorb a lot of force without tearing completely.
• Sudden over-stretching or over-loading of muscle can micro (small) tears and damage the fibers within the muscle, called a "strain". A rupture (a complete tear where all the muscle fibers are torn) may occur in rare circumstances.
Ligament Sprain
• Ligaments are not very elastic, and only stretch to about 25% of their length.
• If stretched beyond that point, they may tear and result in an unstable joint. Ligament sprains are most common in other joints, such as the knee and ankle; it is rare that there is enough force to directly cause a sprain in the back.
Loss of Facet Joint or Sacroiliac Joint Mobility
• Facet joints link all spinal vertebrae; sacroiliac (SI) joints attach the spine to the pelvis.
• Stiffness in these joints can cause pain, loss of function and can also refer pain into the arm and/or leg.
• Sometimes, stiffness can be a result of a structural or anatomical variation that has existed since birth.
Disc Strain, Bulge or Herniation
There are various stages of disc injury. The disc is a soft structure and acts like a 'cushion'. There is one between each bony vertebra.
• The first stage of a disc problem is weakening of the fibrous outer layers of the disc (annulus). Once these outer layers give way, a bulge forms as the inside (nucleus) is pushed through the weakened fibers. Finally, the disc wall may tear, or rupture and disc material can escape.
• A bulging disc can put pressure on the adjacent nerve root, causing pain and other symptoms, in the arm or leg.
Stress Fractures or Stress Reactions
• Stress fractures are the result of tiny breaks (called micro-fractures) that causes a small crack in the bone structure.
• They arise from repeated over-loading of bone over time and can be related to poor technique, for example with the serve.

HEALTHY BACK CARE HABITS

BAGGAGE HANDLING
• Lifting bags correctly is important to minimize the risk of cause back and neck problems.
• Use luggage with wheels, in order to evenly spread the load or use backpacks.
• If possible, avoid heavy lifting immediately after a long drive or flight. Ask for help from the hotel bellman or airport porter.

GOOD LIFTING TECHNIQUE

When picking up your tennis bag, luggage, or anything heavy, use correct technique.
DO:
• Keep your legs shoulder width apart
• Bend your knees
• Keep a slight arch in your lower back (bend at the hip and not at the back)
• Tighten your core stabilizer muscles
• Keep the item close to your body

DON'T:
• Bend and twist using your back!

MOVE IT!
• During travel, change your position frequently. Stand, walk up and down the plane aisles, stretch and do circulation exercises.
• Sitting for long periods of time can reduce blood flow, increase disc pressure, stretch ligaments, and load up the muscles.
• Avoid hours on the computer on your social network pages or chatting to friends. Get up, move and stretch every 20 minutes.
PILLOW TALK
• If the hotel pillows are not right for you (too large, firm, soft or flat) ask housekeeping for a different one.
• Use a cervical roll to improve the neck support in the pillow (traveling tip: roll up a towel and put it inside the pillowcase).
• Use a cervical pillow on the plane and when sitting for long periods. You can purchase these at the airport.
• Sleep on your side or back. Sleeping on your stomach increases pressure on your neck and back.
PRACTICE GOOD POSTURE
• Most car and airplane seats provide little back or neck support. The constant vibration puts extra load on your spine as it attempts to absorb the force.
• Sit up straight with your chin tucked in and support your low back when sitting.

What are you waiting for? Isn't it time that YOU got back in the swing?

The contents of the Health site are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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