If you’ve been having back issues, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that over 80% of Americans will experience some sort of back pain in their life.
Back pain and problems are quite common in people of all ages, but that doesn’t make it any less painful or frustrating. Many people find that they are unable to work due to back issues, and many others report that their back pain is chronic.
But what can you do to prevent back problems and injuries? Are there any steps you can take to prevent the most common back issues?
Luckily, the answer to that second question is a firm yes. We are going to take you through the top 11 most common back injuries and exactly how you can take steps to prevent them from happening to you.
Inflammation of the muscles or other areas in your back can cause back pain, stiffness, tenderness, loss of range of motion, and more. Inflammation in your back can be caused by a few different things, including:
- Chronic disease
- Improper exercise
The good news is, there are also a number of ways you can reduce overall inflammation in your body to prevent this type of back pain. Try an anti-inflammatory diet high in natural foods (fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, etc) and cut out processed foods, fatty foods, and foods high in sugar.
Check with your doctor about whether your medications cause inflammation to see if there’s a big risk of inflammatory back pain.
Also, be sure to follow proper exercise routines, stretches, and form. Improper weight lifting form can cause inflammation in your muscles, which can lead to painful back pain.
2. Herniated Disc
According to the Comprehensive Spine Institute, a herniated disc is a condition where the fibrous outer ring of the spine tears, which allows the soft cushioning material (the nucleus pulposus) to leak or bulge out.
This can lead to inflammation, intense pain, and numbness in the limbs and neck.
While this can happen in any part of the spine, it’s most common in the lower back. You can’t always prevent it since it can be the result of a sudden accident, movement, or degeneration that you can’t control.
Prevention of this injury involves reducing your risk of it occurring. When lifting heavy objects, don’t bend at the waist. Follow proper lifting techniques by bending your knees and keeping your back as straight as possible.
You can also make sure to keep the muscles of your back and your core strong to add strength. This will also help you keep your weight in a healthy range since being overweight can increase your risk for this (and many other) types of back injury.
This common back injury often goes untreated, which can lead to complications. It’s caused by rapid acceleration-deacceleration that causes your neck/back to move forward-to-backward or side-to-side too quickly. It affects both your muscles and the vertebrae in your back and can lead to stiffness, pain, and loss of range of motion in your neck and back.
Most cases of whiplash occur after vehicle accidents, but it can happen from any rapid neck/back movement. Be sure to wear your seatbelt when in the car, as this can prevent whiplash even in the event of an accident.
You should also make sure your headrest is properly supporting your head and neck. Head protection during sports will also reduce your risk of whiplash.
4. Compression Fracture
A compression fracture refers to when the vertebrae in your spine “collapse” because of a specific type of fracture in the bone. This usually occurs because of osteoporosis, but not always.
Minor fractures might go unnoticed, but they can accumulate and become painful.
Your best shot at prevention is making sure your bones are strong. You can take calcium and vitamin D supplements to maintain bone health, especially as you get older.
You can also eat foods rich in these nutrients like milk, dark green vegetables, soybeans, tofu, and bony fish.
This is less of an injury as it is a condition. Scoliosis refers to an abnormal curvature of the spine. It often begins during early childhood, but it might not be noticed until adolescence.
It’s estimated that 3 out of every 100 people have some form of scoliosis, which amounts to over 200 million people worldwide.
While you can’t really prevent scoliosis from occurring since it’s thought to be genetic, you can prevent it from progressing quickly and prevent some of the negative side effects.
Many doctors recommend back braces to prevent further curvature.
6. Back Sprain and/or Strain
This injury is the one you’re probably most familiar with: you bend over or reach for something on the top shelf or trip on something and you pull something in your back when you instantly feel intense pain, stiffness, and general discomfort.
That’s a strain or a sprain. This usually happens in the lower back, but it can occur in the upper back and neck as well.
To prevent this type of injury, you need to be very aware and careful with your movements. We’ve already gon over proper lifting techniques, so keep those in mind.
Be careful not to twist your back abnormally, as this can lead to a strain or sprain. They can also be a result of improper exercise technique, job stress (sitting for too long, heavy lifting, etc), or accidents.
Keep the muscles in your back strong with stretching and exercise, especially of your core muscles. Strengthening your core will take some strain off your back and prevent these types of injuries.
This is the most common form of arthritis that affects mostly the lower back. This is a result of joint damage caused by inflammation, joint degeneration, and general wear and tear as you get older.
You can take steps to prevent the effects of osteoarthritis a few ways. If your job involves repetitive movements, physical activity, or excessive movement, you might need to find a way to reduce these activities. These can cause your arthritis to progress faster.
Low impact exercise is also a great way to maintain joint health as well as keep yourself at a healthy weight, which is another risk factor for osteoarthritis back issues.
9. Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve is one of the most painful back injuries you can get. When a nerve in your spine or back is compressed or pinched because of an accident, one of many vertebra injuries, or something else, it can cause pain that radiates throughout your whole back, neck, and even out to your limbs.
It can also cause numbness, weakness in the limbs, and tingling sensations in the hands and feet.
Usually, a pinched nerve occurs when alongside a slipped or a herniated disc. Following the preventative measures to avoid these conditions will likely prevent a pinched nerve as well.
10. Spondylolysis and/or Spondylolisthesis
This injury is common in athletes. It refers to when there’s a stress fracture in one of the vertebrae of the spinal column. This fracture can weaken the bones, which can then cause the vertebrae to slide over each other.
This causes intense pain in the entire lower back, buttocks, and even down to the limbs.
This injury is most common in people who repeatedly use their lower back for intense movements, which is why it’s often seen in athletes like gymnasts, football players, weightlifters, etc.
Following the proper lifting techniques can help you avoid this type of injury. You can also be sure to fortify your diet with calcium and vitamin D to maintain strong bones.
We mentioned this earlier, but you can also make sure to train your core well. Having a strong core will take tension and pressure off of your back during heavy lifts and strenuous activities, which can reduce your chances of back issues.
11. Muscle Pain
If you “threw out your back”, have a back sprain, or just went hard at the gym a few days in a row, chances are your back muscles are your problem. Stiff and sore muscles can make movement hard and can cause a significant amount of pain.
Avoid back muscle pain by doing proper stretches before and after exercise. You should also be careful with your movements and, as we mentioned a few times, make sure you’re lifting with proper techniques.
If you already have muscle pain, there are a few things you can try for some relief. Try soaking in a hot bath with Epsom salts to loosen up tense muscles. You can also try massage, hot-cold patches, and rest.
The Most Common Back Issues: Wrapping Up
Back pain is no small thing even though it seems to be one of the most common injuries. Just because something is common doesn’t mean it isn’t serious, which is why following these tips at preventing common back issues can save you a lot of stress and pain.
You should consult a doctor if you feel that your issue is chronic or serious, as they can figure out your best treatment options.
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