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“Oh, my aching back.” We have all uttered or heard this phrase many times in the course of our lives. Whether the ache is short-lived or chronic, mild or crippling, the underlying cause of the symptoms is often the same and, with proper back care, preventable.

The pain may occur suddenly and be gone within a couple of days or weeks, or it may occur repeatedly, never completely going away. Either way, back pain can have a major impact on the quality of our lives and our ability to enjoy the activities we love, or just try to function with our normal activities of daily living.

The back consists of a complex system of interlocking components:

• The vertebrae
• The spinal cord
• The ligaments and muscles that support the spinal column

Causes of Back Pain

More often than not, back pain is the result of poor posture and bad habits. The accumulated wear and tear puts us at risk of experiencing back pain. Age and the loss of flexibility of the spine can increase this risk. Acute back injury can occur from routine activities such as gardening, housework, reaching for an object, or picking up a child. Even coughing can trigger significant back pain.

Posture – poor posture stresses your spine. Muscles tire, soft tissue stretches and joints, and nerves are under pressure.

Muscle strains – minor strain improves quickly. Prolonged and more severe strains require physiotherapy intervention.

Disc Injuries – discs are the shock absorbers of the vertebrae. Normally they are anchored to the vertebrae to prevent them slipping out of place. However, the soft jelly-like interior can bulge, herniate (squeeze out between the vertebrae) after having stress placed on the spine through lifting and twisting. Age alone, depletes the plumpness of the disc, leading to degenerative disc disease.

Arthritis – is an inflammation within the joint that is caused by an underlying disease process.

Preventing Back Pain

The most important factor in avoiding back injury is your general physical condition. Regular aerobic exercise such as walking or swimming maintains the tone and structure of the back. However, additional specific exercises may be required to improve muscle tone required for adequate back support.

Things to Remember to Prevent Injury

Lifting – your feet should be shoulder width apart and pointed in the direction you want to go. Your back should be straight, stomach muscles tight with the load held close to your body. Your legs should be bent before you lift so that it is the muscles in your legs that do the lifting, as you straighten, and not your back muscles.

Posture – think tall, shoulders relaxed, head up and natural and your chest lifted.

Sitting – is something we do too much of. Get up periodically and move around, go for a short walk or stretch to relieve the tension sitting builds up within the body.

Driving – your seating position should support the back and the legs should be relaxed and slightly bent.

Sleeping – your mattress should be firm to support your spine in a neutral position – no sagging.

Exercise – improper exercise can do damage. If in doubt about your exercise regime, consult your physiotherapist for guidance.

The goal of physiotherapy is to help people of al ages and lifestyle gain and maintain their optimal level of active daily living and physical mobility. Dorval Physiotherapy in Oakville not only treats injuries, but also teaches you how to prevent injuries, increase mobility, reduce pain, build strength and have cardiovascular fun.

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