Last updated 5 months ago
Do you suffer from back pain? You are not alone! Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain, the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work, not to mention general life disruption. Back pain, the second most common neurological ailment in the United States, is surpassed only by headache pain.
Does Extra Weight Cause Back Pain?
Excess body weight, especially around the waist, may put strain on your back, although this has not been proved. While there is no definitive research that proves being overweight causes back pain, it makes logical sense based on clinical evidence. Medical experts will testify that they have not seen an overweight patient fail to find some relief simply by virtue of losing excess pounds.
According to the American Obesity Association, episodes of musculoskeletal pain, and specifically back pain, are prevalent among the nearly one-third of Americans who are classified as obese. Obesity doubles or triples the risk. But statistically, losing just 4 pounds takes 16 pounds of pressure off your spine. In a new study from Hong Kong (the obesity problem is worldwide), scans of 2,599 women and men revealed that piling on pounds increases the risk for degenerative disc disease by 30% to 79%. Overweight children are twice as likely to have early signs of disc disease -- putting them on track for serious back problems in the future.
Why Does Extra Weight Cause Back Pain?
Consider that the spine is forced to support extra upper body weight. The spine is made up of more than 30 small bones called vertebrae stacked one on top of the other. A spongy piece of cartilage, called a disc, sits between each vertebra. It acts as a shock absorber, preventing the bony vertebrae from grinding against one another. The proper functioning of all of that anatomy is thus compromised by excess weight.
In an ideal situation, approximately 50% of the weight of the upper body rests on the lower back, while the other 50% is supported by the abdominal muscles. Extra pounds add strain to the muscles and ligaments in your back. Excess weight, specifically in the stomach area, can shift your center of gravity, causing your spine to become tilted and stressed unevenly, resulting in what is called lordosis (an increased curve in the lower back). Also, belly fat pumps out inflammatory chemicals that weaken discs. Other back conditions resulting from extra weight can include sciatica, a herniated disc, and pinched nerves.
What Can You Do?
First, make an appointment with your doctor. Your medical professional can provide a diagnosis of your back pain, as well as assist you not only by prescribing a safe weight loss program, but also in assessing other factors that may contribute to your pain. These range from genetic causes, to posture, and excess sitting/lack of general movement.
Losing weight is key. While it may be a challenge to lose weight, doing so will effectively reduce strain on your spinal column and on your back muscles. These structures will work less hard to help you perform everyday tasks. To this end, the North American Spine Society recommends staying within 10 pounds of your ideal weight in order to keep your back healthy.
Exercise is recommended for people with nearly all types of back pain, but some conditions warrant certain modifications for safety’s sake. Your medical professional can guide you in an exercise program. In addition to cardiovascular health, strength and flexibility exercises work toward developing balanced strength in the muscles that control the pelvis and trunk. This, in turn, can protect your back by facilitating an even wear and tear on your joints and by taking load off your spine.
In addition, movement through gentle exercise stimulates healing and a flow of nutrients within the spine. This is especially important for the spinal discs. Physical activity causes the discs to swell with water and then squeeze it out, which exchanges nutrients between the discs and other spinal structures. In those who fail to undergo sufficient physical activity, the spinal discs are deprived of these vital nutrients they need to stay healthy and functional.
Doctors, qualified trainers and physical therapists are great resources for an exercise plan. A routine of back-healthy activities may include stretching exercises, swimming, walking, and movement therapy to improve coordination and develop proper posture and muscle balance. Yoga is another way to gently stretch muscles and ease pain. Any mild discomfort felt at the start of these exercises should disappear as muscles become stronger. In the event of any continuing pain or difficulty, close consultation with your doctor and other experts can advise you and assure you are performing any exercises correctly.
Last updated 5 months ago
If you have ever been laid out by horrible back pain (and 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives), you know how debilitating it can be. No one wants to go through that. It may seem counterintuitive when most pain advice includes rest and inactivity, but the best way to solve back pain and/or prevent a back injury is through exercise. In fact, exercise can help relieve the pain of many back conditions. This occurs for several reasons.
Spinal discs receive nutrition through movement. Engaging in exercise and fitness activities helps keep the back healthy by allowing these discs to exchange fluids. A healthy disc will swell with water and squeeze it out, similar to the action of a sponge. This sponge action distributes nutrients to the disc.
In addition, this fluid exchange helps to reduce the swelling in the other soft tissues that naturally occurs surrounding injured discs. When there is a lack of exercise, swelling increases and discs become malnourished and degenerated.
Another important effect of exercise is that it stretches, strengthens, and repairs muscles that help to support the back. The back and abdominal muscles, often referred to as the core, act as an internal support system for the vertebrae discs, facet joints and ligaments. When back and abdominal muscles are weak they cannot properly support the back. Strengthening the back helps these supporting muscles to prevent straining soft tissues (e.g. muscles, ligaments, and tendons). This process is true not only for back muscles, but for the other supporting body structures, such as the stomach and legs.
Even in the event of most episodes of back pain, most experts recommend no more than one or two days rest. Prolonged inactivity can actually increase back pain as the back becomes stiff, weak, and deconditioned. Often the instinct is to reduce activity and exercise levels as pain levels increase. However, this frequently results in even more back pain and aggravates the cycle of inactivity and back pain recurrence. In conclusion, research shows that the sooner patients with minor back pain begin exercising, the quicker the recovery.
In addition to traditional exercise, in a gym or on a field, exercises to reduce low back pain need not be complicated and can be done at home without any special equipment. For patients experiencing higher levels of back pain, exercise may be more comfortable in the water than on land. You can also consider alternative forms of exercise, such as yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi.
Beginning a Safe Exercise Regime
If you suffer from back pain, it is always advisable to first consult with a health professional before beginning any exercise or fitness program. Working with a physician or experienced spine specialist will ensure that your activities are safe for your back and overall health. With back pain, it is particularly important to get an accurate diagnosis for the cause in order to rule out possible types of back pain that may be aggravated by exercise (such as spinal instability).
Make an appointment with a spine specialist who can provide you with an individualized exercise program and specific instructions designed just for you.
Last updated 5 months ago
Dr. Jonathan Lewin, the official spine surgeon of the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association, has been featured in Becker's Spine Review’s list of "11 Spine Surgeons for NBA Teams." The list is comprised of spine surgeons and neurosurgeons who serve as official medical providers for National Basketball Association teams. The surgeons included on this list provide care to team athletes, as well as youth athletes and the community at large. Members of this list were selected based on editorial research. Physicians do not pay and cannot pay to appear on this list.
Becker's Spine Review is a Chicago-based online and print publication focused on news and analysis of the business and legal issues related to spine surgeons and practices. The publication includes electronic newsletters, additional web content and a quarterly print publication sent to spine surgeons and practice decision-makers across the country.
Last updated 5 months ago
The spinal column – or backbone – is a complex structure, with many interconnected parts. It is crucial to the strength, support, flexibility and range of movement of your body. It supports your head, shoulders and upper body. It provides the ability to stand up straight and the flexibility to bend and twist. And it protects your spinal cord.
Here are some interesting facts to illustrate the complex structure of the spine:
At birth, our spine consists of 33 individual vertebrae. As we age, some of these vertebrae fuse together.
Over 120 muscles are located in the spine.
The spinal column includes approximately 220 individual ligaments.
Over 100 joints allow for the spine’s extreme flexibility and range of movement.
Over one-fourth of the spine’s total length is created from cartilage, the sponge-like substance that separates one vertebral disc from the next.
It’s no wonder then that constant stress, repetitive or high impact injuries, diseases and arthritis can cause a number of problems that change the structure of the spine or damage the vertebrae and surrounding tissue. These conditions can cause pain, degeneration, and lack of function.
Some spinal disorders include:
– A herniated disc can cause confusion by the number of terms used to describe it: herniated disc, pinched nerve, bulging disc, torn disc, collapsed disc, slipped disc, disc protrusion, disc disease, black disc. A herniated disc occurs when a portion of the vertebral disc ruptures or tears, allowing the central portion of the disc material to bulge out. This ruptured portion may push on nerves leading to numbness and pain. Learn more about Herniated Disc
– The sciatic nerve runs from the lower part of the spinal cord, down the back of the leg to the foot. Injury to or pressure on the sciatic nerve can cause a sharp or burning pain that radiates from the lower back or hip, possibly following the path of the sciatic nerve to the foot. Learn more about Sciatica
– Stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal, the opening through which nerve roots pass. Degenerative changes in the spine, a collapsed disc, bone spurs, or cysts can cause the spinal canal to narrow in any area of the spine. This narrowing puts pressure on the nerve roots and/or spinal cord, often resulting in pain. Learn more about Stenosis
– Kyphosis, also called roundback or hunchback, is a condition of over-curvature of the upper back. It can be either the result of degenerative diseases such as arthritis, developmental problems (such as Scheuermann’s disease), osteoporosis, or trauma. Learn more about Kyphosis
To inquire about about spinal disorders and their treatments, call the Center for Spinal Disorders at (201) 510-3777.
Last updated 5 months ago
What’s golf without Tiger Woods? Just ask those who bemoan his loss with its immediate effect on the sport’s television ratings. Recovering from back surgery for a pinched nerve, Woods sat out the Masters, the opening major of the year, for the first time since turning pro.
"We miss Tiger, as does the entire golf world," Masters chairman Billy Payne said of the four-time winner of the tournament, which recently concluded in Augusta, Georgia.
Back injury isn’t new to Woods, or to golfers in general. In fact, recently back spasms have flared up for Woods time and again, especially since last year's FedExCup playoff-opening event, The Barclays.
Low back pain is the most common injury/complaint among both amateur and professional golfers. Golfers twist to hit a ball repetitively and generate a lot of torque at the same time. Based on the biomechanics of the spine, this type of motion is inherently stressful on the lower back. Research has found rotational forces to be associated with lumbar spine injury. Golfers also bend over continually, often practicing poor posture.
Additionally, not all golfers are in optimal physical conditioning. In fact, many golfers are in poor cardiovascular shape, have weak core muscles (abdominal and back muscles), tight hips, fail to warm up, play sporadically, and don’t have the best technique.
The modern golf swing is powerful, producing drives of nearly 300 yards. It is different in mechanics than the classic swing used in the heyday of Jack Nicklaus and by the great players like Tom Watson, Hale Irwin and Lee Trevino. In the classic swing, there are almost equal amounts of shoulder and hip turn, producing less rotational force in the lumbar spine. In comparison, the modern swing is marked by a large shoulder turn but limited hip turn. In the follow-through position, the modern swing produces what is called a reverse C, or hyperextension of the low back; however, in the classic swing no such position is seen, and the lumbar spine remains fairly neutral. In consideration of body mechanics, the best hypothesis seems to be that the modern swing puts the back in sub-optimal positions (excessive lumbar rotation and extension) leading to an increased risk of injury.
If, in fact, the modern swing puts a greater demand on the body, it stands to reason that for a golfer who uses that swing, he/should should prepare the body for the physical demands—which should obviously be done for any golf swing. That would include power training, mobility, strength and flexibility. If a golfer commits to this, a modern swing may be desirable. However, for those who are occasional players or lead a sedentary lifestyle, they may want to consult with an expert and perhaps stick to using a classic style swing.
In any case, the first recommendation might be to take lessons from a PGA professional to assess your swing and try to improve your technique.
Here are some further tips to enjoy your golf game and stay injury free:
Get in good shape. A qualified expert can help you establish a personalized golf conditioning program. In the meantime, any continuing spine or back condition or a serious injury should be evaluated by an expert such as Dr. Jonathan Lewin of the Center for Spinal Disorders.
Lose weight if you are overweight. Being overweight puts greater stress on the back in general, which is exacerbated by a sport like golf.
Warm up and stretch before playing:
You can stretch the shoulders and torso by holding a golf club behind the neck and shoulders and then rotating the torso.
You can stretch the hips by pulling the knee to the chest.
You can strength the hamstrings by bending over and trying to touch the toes (you can keep your knees slightly bent). Hamstring flexibility in golf is important since it allows more mobility in the pelvis, helping to alleviate stress on the lower back.
Practice your swing in the warm up. A smooth swing, facilitated by the act of warming up, will produce less stress on the back.
Maintain good posture. Do this whether bending over to strike the ball, putt, and when bending down to pick up your ball.
Good posture also includes your golf bag. Pay attention to your posture when bending down over the bag and/or picking it up. Also, if you want more exercise by carrying a golf bag, get one with dual straps to distribute the weight on your upper body.
For spine health, contact Dr. Jonathan Lewin at The Center for Spinal Disorders at 201-510-3777 or online at www.njspinaldisorders.com