House Calls

SUM 2017

House Calls Magazine is a quarterly publication that focuses on health and wellness. It includes a wide assortment of articles with topics on the latest health and wellness information, nutrition, safety, lifestyles, and more.

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ANATOMY OF THE BACK The spine is the backbone of everyday mobility, giving structural support to our upright posture while also protecting the spinal cord and nerves that control our muscles and organs. "The spine provides the pathway from our environment—everything we feel, see, and touch—to our brain," says Dr. Khoury. And to cushion this hard-working column of 33 interlocking bones (called vertebrae), 23 elastic discs made up of connective tissue around a jellylike center act as shock absorbers and allow for flexible motion. Orthopedists divide the spine into three distinct areas. The cervical spine, what we call the neck, has seven bones that hold up our eight- to 12-pound heads. The middle section, dubbed the thoracic spine, includes a dozen bones that attach to our ribs. The lumbosacral spine encompasses five lower-back, or lumbar, bones as well as the sacrum, a large, triangular bone at the base of the spine that attaches to the tailbone. As they carry the majority of the body's weight—sometimes hundreds of pounds—the lumbar vertebrae measure five times wider than those in the cervical spine and are most prone to pain. Ideally, the back should form a slight S shape when viewed from the side—though many of us forsake this natural shape when we slouch, sit, and incorrectly lift, putting undue pressure on the lower lumbar region and causing it to curve in the wrong direction. "The neck and lower back should curve in while the mid back curves out," explains Hard. "That's when we are in our strongest position." SOURCES OF PAIN Back pain is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of ailments, from pop-up injuries to chronic conditions. In the majority of cases, the pain is a result of overstressed ligaments, muscles, or spinal discs. This can be caused by age-related wear and tear—resulting in disc deterioration—or by low-grade trauma from lifting or twisting. The latter can lead to a sprain (a tear in the ligament), muscle strain, or disc injury like a herniated disc, which occurs when a spinal disc's jelly-like center pushes out, causing tremendous nerve pain. Less than 10 percent of back injuries involve damage to the actual vertebrae, notes Dr. Khoury, as bones are fairly solid. When vertebral fractures do occur, they are usually caused by trauma, such as a major fall or car accident, or by the bone disease osteoporosis. Certain lifestyle and genetic factors can increase a person's odds of experiencing back pain. One of the biggest? "More than half of back injuries occur among patients with a sedentary lifestyle," says Hard. Slouching in front of a screen all day can contort our spine into unnatural angles; a stationary lifestyle can also lead to weight gain— another risk factor for back pain. "Excess weight puts a chronically heavy load on our frame and can prevent back and abdominal 24 { summer 2017 } h o u s e c a l l s LIFT WISELY When lifting incorrectly, a load becomes 10 times heavier. So when you lean straight over to pick up a 10-pound object, the weight feels like 100 pounds at the base of your spine. For proper form, be sure to: • place your feet shoulder-width apart • bend your knees and use your legs to lift • keep the item close to your body Here, Dr. Khoury and Roper St. Francis affiliated physical therapist Michelle Hard fill us in on why our backs are prone to pain, what remedies are being prescribed, and how to ward off trouble before it starts. thoracic spine lumbosacral spine cervical spine Wanna play hooky? Cry back pain, which, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, is the country's chief contributor to missed workdays and job-related disability.

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