For many people, back pain is a complete mystery. Even when the cause is pretty obvious--you were carrying something that was too heavy--the precise location of the injury can be rather opaque. Yes, you hurt your back, but… what part of your back? In other cases, back pain can be more subtle: a constant ache or aggravation that’s with you day in and day out.
Often, the cause of back pain can be traced back to your spinal health. And because September is National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month, now is a great time to clear up some of the mysteries surrounding the spine, the back, and the best way to avoid spine injuries.
How to Maintain Spine Health
The spine, or backbone, is composed of a series of small bones, called vertebrae. And it’s one of the most important structures in your body. Your spine protects your spinal cord--responsible for communication between body parts--and also creates your body’s central support structure. This means that it’s incredibly important for you to maintain good spinal health!
Luckily, there are a few things you can do at home to improve spine health. This includes:
- Make sure to stretch: Your spine loves a little bit of stretching! Doing this every morning can help the supportive tissues around your spine be flexible and limber, which helps prevent injuries.
- Limit your time sitting: And if you do have to sit for long periods, make sure you’re adopting good ergonomic posture (in other words, sit up straight). And remember to get up and stretch frequently.
- Stay hydrated: Good hydration can promote tissue elasticity, and that can help keep the spinal disks between your vertebrae from herniating.
- Sleep with your back in mind: Putting a pillow between your knees and investing in a supportive mattress can take some of the pressure off your spine and prevent discomfort when you wake up.
- Lift carefully: Be careful when you lift. Be even more careful when you lift and twist. Even a small amount of weight, over time, can damage your backbone when you aren’t lifting properly.
If you notice pain in your back, you could be suffering from a spinal injury. So it’s important to seek medical treatment--ignoring your back pain will likely only lead to worse outcomes in the long run. You’re more likely to avoid, for example, spine surgery if you find treatment sooner.
Common Spinal Injuries
- Herniated Lumbar Disk
- Herniated Cervical Disk
- Spinal Infections
- Spinal Tumor
Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury is a special and significant type of spinal injury and occurs when the spinal cord itself has been damaged or compromised in some way. This can interfere with your body’s ability to function. Spinal cord injury symptoms can include muscle weakness, breathing problems, and loss of sensation and motor control. Spinal cord injuries often occur due to a traumatic event, such as a fall or a car accident. But that’s not always the case--some spinal cord injuries may appear gradually.
Whether your spinal cord injury appears abruptly or overtime, seeking immediate medical attention is essential.
Spinal cord injury treatments usually involve three stages: medication, immobilization, and surgery. Some physicians may also try some experimental procedures to promote healing of the spinal cord or recommend spinal cord injury pain treatments.
Spinal Injury Treatments
Because injuries to the spine can take many forms, from herniated disks to pinched nerves, treatments will vary considerably as well. The best approach will depend on the nature of your spinal injury. Problems with the backbone are usually divided into two categories:
- Conditions caused by use (essentially, by wear and tear)
- Conditions caused by something acute (for example, whiplash from a car accident)
Treatment may involve physical therapy, medication, or even surgery.
Can You Avoid Spinal Surgery?
Because the spine is such an important part of the body, many people are hesitant to undergo spinal surgery for injuries. In some cases, surgery may be unavoidable--especially when you are dealing with a serious and mobility-limiting injury.
However, you may be able to avoid spine surgery for common injuries, such as herniated disks or sciatica. Alternatives to surgery may include physical therapy or lifestyle changes. When surgery is required, you may be able to opt for less invasive approaches. In these cases, your spinal surgery could take place at an ambulatory surgery center as an outpatient procedure.
You can talk to your surgeon about your spinal surgery options--and whether Iowa City Ambulatory Surgery Center may be a good fit for an outpatient spine procedure. The more aware you are of your spine, the better you’ll be able to promote your own good spinal health.