Category: Spine Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi
We stress and strain our spine with each step we take. Sometimes this pressure is beneficial because it can help us strengthen certain structures of our spine, while other times pressure can serve to slowly or swiftly cripple the integrity of our spinal column. Today, we take a closer look at four ways pressure, or lack thereof, affects our spine.
Acute pressure is pressure that is exerted due to a great force being channeled to the spine. The most common causes of acute pressure exerted on the spine are from a car accident or a fall. When a great force is exerted on the back in an instant, common injuries to the spine include spinal fractures and injuries to the spinal cord. Oftentimes, there’s little you can do to prevent acute pressure to the spine because they typically involve accidents.
Repetitive pressure occurs when you do a certain action for years on end. For example, a factory worker who moves boxes for a living will be straining the same muscles and structures in his back over his career. Hopefully he’s using proper lifting techniques, but even if he does that repetitive pressure eventually wears down your spine. The most common injuries for individuals who put a lot of repetitive pressure on their spine are bulging or herniated discs, which can be treated with either conservative or operative options. These injuries are best prevented by practicing healthy movement techniques or by wearing a device like a brace to help shoulder some of the pressure.
These are the everyday actions that put pressure on our spines. Actions like leaning forward to check a text message on your phone or going for a run with your dog. Although the spine is never overloaded by this pressure, these tiny traumas slowly wear down the intervertebral discs between your spine’s vertebrae. Common injuries caused by micro-pressure include degenerative disc disease and inflammation. Prevention techniques like physical therapy and posture awareness can help strengthen the spine and protect it against these daily micro-pressures.
The Absence of Pressure
Believe it or not, the absence of pressure can also take a toll on your spine. As we mentioned in a recent post, astronauts are more prone to back injuries after returning from space. That’s because even though they try to exercise their muscles in space, the absence of gravity – earth’s natural pressure source – means the muscles of their spine are more prone to atrophy due to lack of use. So while you may think you’re avoiding stressing your spine by laying on the couch, but you’re actually weakening the muscles in your spine which can increase your likelihood of injury when you actually need to stress your spine, like during work or athletics. Micro-pressure in the form of exercise is much better for your spine than the absence of pressure!