The American Chiropractic Association has grim statistics regarding back pain affecting the world population. Years lived with disability caused by lower back pain have increased by 54% between 1990 and 2015. Back pain also results in the most workday absences in the world, with an average two-day loss per person. Its commonality has not led to greater awareness as one may assume. It is the supposedly tolerable forms of pain that are the most ignored, and back pain is no expectation of this rule. But back pain, if left untreated, can immobilize an individual and threaten their quality of life. Being in a constant state of discomfort hinders the ability to function to the fullest capacity. If a population is aware of the severity, cause, and solution to this crisis, individuals will live a life of greater happiness, productivity, and health.
As soon as a baby is born, they interact with their surroundings, learning to sit, walk, and finally stand. As soon as a baby learns these motions, they exercise the varied muscles in their bodies and equally distribute pressure in all areas of the spine and back. After these children go to school, however, long periods of sitting cause an imbalance of muscle usage, resulting in the strengthening of some back muscles and the weakening of others over time. This strain is reinforced by the repetitive nature of the adult muscular activity, leading to back pain. Unhealthy movement habits increase susceptibility to back pain.
As a student studying from home during the pandemic, I actively take standing breaks during my classes. Moreover, I always sit on the floor, which has forced my core to work harder for stabilization. By instilling habits from a young age, I will hopefully prevent pain in the future.
People incorrectly assume that the place of the pain is the cause of pain, when in fact every part of the body is interconnected and therefore can influence each other’s function. A relevant example is the back pain caused by rampant stress among the populace, as lives and livelihoods are lost due to the pandemic. During a perceived danger, the body’s adrenal glands – located above the kidneys – release cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine into the bloodstream. As they travel across the body, they increase muscle tone to respond to a perceived threat. However, this extra energy is not used when the threat is physiological, resulting in an accumulation of tension in the spine that exerts an additional force on associated joints. Couple this existing tension with the prolonged periods of sedentary life when working from home, and excruciating back pain is the result. Many bodies attempt to release this tension in unhealthy ways such as teeth grinding, which strains the neck and all of the spine. Stress-induced back problems have only gotten worse over the years.
As someone who gets stressed and anxious frequently, I learn to moderate my emotions with tea, breathing, and exercise. Stress is necessary for survival, but proactively taking control of my response to it will lessen the tension over my body. I understand that one’s health is like a row of dominos: if one system struggles to function, then the rest tumble down as well. Therefore, to avoid back pain, one needs to avoid the initial push that stress causes.
Improper heavy lifting can lead to back strain as well. So whenever lifting, instead of curving the spine, one should squat down with their legs and keep the spine straight. Workers of physical labor struggle with this, as their occupations require excessive force, lifting, and awkward and repetitive motions. Once again, this is a result of overexertion of certain muscles. However, there could also be the wearing down of the discs, which are cushions between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine.
Stress injury of bone wearing and stress fracture causes certain muscles to work harder than others. I take special care when lifting things, making sure to completely squat down rather than arching my back over. Whenever we transport heavy groceries from the car, my entire family goes out to carry them into the house, to distribute the weight.
Chiropractors work with the nervous system and spine to help ebb back pain. They may perform spinal manipulation, which is a controlled force on specific joints – using their hands or a device – to move them into desirable positions (some patients may prefer the gentler spinal mobilization counterpart). The chiropractor’s philosophy is to position the body for self-healing, rather than relying on medication or surgery. Therefore, they may recommend nutritional supplements, a change in diet, physical activity, hot and cold packs, and electrical stimulation to stimulate the body accordingly. Also, cupping is used to break open blood vessels under the skin. The body treats the cupping area like an injury and sends more blood to the area to stimulate the natural healing process. Acupuncture has the same effect. Chiropractors target both direct and indirect factors to ebb back pain, as healing is a holistic process. Back pain is no exception.
Pain does not only affect physical well being but mental well being as well. Back pain may be tolerable during the initial stages, but if left unchecked for long, leads to severe pain and discomfort, ultimately impacting one’s quality of life. Understanding where the problem stems from is the first step in targeting the issue. Then, strategic lifestyle changes implemented slowly over time – ultimately becoming a habit – ensures targeted attention to bodily needs. Finally, if all else fails, reach out to specialists and their proven treatments will allow for a population that is not in a constant state of discomfort and pain.