Healthy Spine in the New Year

Low back pain is one of the most common symptoms experienced by a person. It can be mild and last only a few days or it can be disabling and become a life-long problem. There are many reasons for the back to become painful. Some, like hereditary and genetics cannot be changed. Others are within each individual’s control. The most common controllable factors that can lead to low back pain include smoking, obesity, inactivity and improper activity. We will consider each of these factors and their impact on spine health.

Smoking is one of the most harmful habits that lead to poor spinal health. The nicotine and the carbon monoxide in the smoke leads to decreased ability of the spine to heal itself. The cushions (“discs”) between the spinal bones (“vertebrae”) can get brittle, dried and damaged. This damaged disc can burst out into the spinal canal and cause severe pain. The degenerated disc in itself is a cause for back pain as well.

Obesity is another factor that negatively affects the spine. Each extra pound of weight translates to roughly three-four extra pounds on the spine. This makes the spinal joints wear out quicker and can cause mechanical low back pain.

Inactivity is another cause of low back pain. The lack of activity causes the back muscles to get weaker. This leads to inadequate support of the spine and more chances for injury.

Improper activities may include poor posture, unsafe exercises or heavy lifting. These can directly injure the structural integrity of the spine.

Paying attention to these important parts of day to day life can increase the health of the spine and decrease chances of needing a spine specialist.

Mudit Sharma, MD, FAANS,                                                                                                  Founder, Virginia Spine Specialists