Tag Archives: spine

What to do when you get a back spasm

Ever been caught with a back spasm? Here’s tips on how to deal with the pain.

  1. Stop and rest. Carefully move to a bed or flat surface to remain immobile. Your spasm is a warning sign from your body that you must not continue to move. Stop the activity that triggered it.
  2. Relax the muscles. Try and relax your muscles with slow, controlled breathing. The muscles are trying to keep you from moving. This is to protect your body from injury. As you try to relax, do not allow the muscle to contract more. Instead, try to extend it with gentle bending and extending movements opposite to the contraction. Take it slow and gentle.
  3. Stretch slowly and carefully. Extend the muscle that has the spasm. Do not overstretch it. Move slowly and gradually. By increasing the length of your muscle, you decrease the amount of pain in that muscle. Alternative periods of stretching with rest.
  4. Treat the area. Gentle massage can help soothe the pain and allow the muscle to release. Do not aggravate the muscle or be too forceful. If the pain is still severe, an anti-inflammatory or anti-spasmodic medication may be used. Apply a cold pack to the area 48-72 hours after the spasm. Protect the skin from ice burn with a thin towel. After 72 hours, apply moist heat like a wet towel or warm shower. Make sure you are drinking enough fluids to prevent dehydration.
  5. Targeted exercise. When you can resume normal activity, follow a low back pain exercise routine designed for the back and to prevent the spasm. Prevention is key to long term healing and recovery.

Why your back really isn’t ‘bad’

Is your back really “bad”? Does it smoke? Sneak out of the house at night? Is it really that baaad? This humor shows that we talk a lot of smack about our bodies. For instance, “too short”, “too tall”, “too wide”, “too narrow”.

But be careful what you say, because most physicians are now acknowledging that the brain and body are connected. Studies show stress can make you susceptible to illness, or good social relationships can improve your cardiovascular health.

Slapping a negative label on your back means you are dismissing it without really understanding it. “Bad” also implies it deserves punishment. Being conscious of the language we use to describe our bodies can lead to something more profound… maybe having it hurt less.

Judith Orloff, M.D. and author of The Ecstasy of Surrender says, “Putting negative labels on your body is just an overactive mind that has lost track of how to see things with heart. Saying wonderful things to your body is more than a linguistic issue. It is a deeply spiritual issue and the point is to learn to love your physical form and revere it.” That means rebellious ankles, naughty knees and all.


What Does a Back Muscle Spasm Mean?

Ever experienced a muscle spasm in your back? For some, they can be so painful that you feel like you should head to the emergency room.

What are back spasms? Muscle spasms occur for two reasons:

  1. As a result of muscles trying to protect themselves from a muscle sprain or strain or…
  2. In response to an underlying condition

Sometimes a muscle will seize up if it senses it is about to be torn as a result of a sudden movement as a form or protection. With some rest and recovery, you should be back to your old self in about 1-2 weeks.

If after 1-2 weeks, your back spasm doesn’t get better, you may have an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Some of those issues include:

  • pain from a herniated disc
  • facet joint osteoarthritis

For these cases, the muscle is reacting to the pain from the disc or joint disfunction.

How can you treat a muscle spasm? The goal is to get the muscle to relax. You can do that by the following:

  • massage therapy
  • hot and cold therapy
  • muscle relaxants

If the muscle spasm is a result of an injury, it will take a while for the muscle to heal. If it is a result of an underlying issues, these treatments will help treat the muscle spasm pain, but will not fix the issue long-term.

10 cool facts about your spine

Your spine is actually more interesting than you think. It is also considered one of the most important parts of the human body, if not THE most important. Check out these cool facts about the human spine and its interesting characteristics:

  1. It’s Not Very Thick – Surprisingly the spinal cord is only 1 centimeter thick. It stops growing after the age of five.
  2. It Has Great Memory – The spinal cord has excellent memory, which is why it is so important to treat it right. Having proper posture and making sure your back is well taken care of at an early age is important to your spinal cord’s long term health.
  3. It Works By Itself – The spinal cord can work independently. It doesn’t always need to receive signals from the brain to do its job. In certain circumstances it can work on its own and send important muscles directly to the muscles.
  4. We Lose Vertebrae As We Get Older – As babies, we are born with 33 vertebrae, but only end up with 24 by adulthood. Why? We lose nine to other parts of the body. Four vertebrae form the tailbone, and the other five create the back of a person’s pelvis.
  5. Humans and Giraffes Are Actually Very Similar – Humans and giraffes actually have the same amount of vertebrae in our necks.
  6. It Is Very Flexible – The spinal cord is unbelievably flexible. If it were removed from the body, it could form at least two thirds of a perfect circle when bent.
  7. The Spine Is Strong – The spine is extremely strong, and can support hundreds of kilograms worth of pressure before breaking.
  8. Spinal Disorders are Common – The highest percentage of injuries to the disabled population include spinal-cord related disorders.
  9. Gravity Affects Height – The spinal cord is roughly 25 percent cartilage. This can actually affect our height. For example, an astronaut may grow an inch or two after returning from space due to the expansion of their cartilage disks. For those of us on Earth, we are tallest when we first awake, due to gravity’s shrinking effect throughout the day.
  10. It Contains Many Working Parts – With over 100 joints, 220 ligaments, and 120 total muscles, the spinal cord has many working parts.

Do girls have weaker backbones than boys?

A new study suggests that girls are born with smaller and weaker backbones that boys. Researchers took magnetic imaging studies of 70 healthy newborns, 35 of which were girls, and measured fat, muscles, and bone. Boys had slightly less fat and slightly more muscle than the girls, but there wasn’t a big enough statistical difference. There also was not a statistical difference in weight, body length, head circumference, waist circumference or spinal length.

However, the girls’ vertebrae were 10.6 percent smaller, on average, than the boys. There was no other difference in the size of other bones between the boys and girls.

As adults, women are four times as likely to suffer vertebral fractures than men. However, this depends on the size of the vertebrae and less on the density of the bone.

Radiologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Dr. Vicente Gilsanz says that a girl’s bendable and slender spine may be a mixed blessing. He says it allows for upright walking during pregnancy when the weight of the baby stretches and bends the spine. However, this also can increase the risk for vertebral fractures later in life.

Fairy Tale ending for woman after paralysis procedure

Before she could even reach the pedals, 22-year-old Jesi Stracham wanted to drive fast. The professional motor sports racer went from Power Wheels Jeeps to go-karts. She told the TODAY Show, “My dad built me a custom mini Grand Prix car all DuPonted out, ’cause I love Jeff Gordon. It was great.”

But her love of racing took a turn for the worse this past January as she woke up paralyzed from the chest down after a serious motorcycle accident.

However, while she was unconscious, her family opted for her to receive an experimental surgery in which she was only the second person in the world to undergo.

The first person to receive the surgery was 26-year-old Jordan Fallis who was paralyzed after attempting a back-flip on his dirt bike. “I saw it as my only shot,” Fallis said. Fallis had no nerve signals in his spinal cord, but can now move his legs and walk in the pool, following his procedure.

Stracham has also taken great steps in her recovery. She can move her hips fully and can feel all the muscles in her legs. “I get charley horses in my calves,” she said.

The spinal procedure involves inserting a device called a Neuro-Spinal Scaffold into the wound in the spinal cord. The scaffold allows the cells that are remaining and viable in the spinal cord to hang on and potentially grow. The best-case scenario will allow the patient to regain normal function as the spinal cord has an environment to repair itself.

But this is just part of the fairy-tale ending for Stracham. When she found out Fallis had also received this procedure, she reached out to him to discuss their surgery and injuries. Fallis said, “We kept it professional.”

But that all changed. Stracham said, “When I found out that his [injury happened] with a  back flip, I was like, ‘Oh, gosh, back flip on a dirt bike? This is my kind of guy.” Their FaceTime dates become nightly and they’d fall asleep talking to each other on FaceTime. Stracham added, “I’ve never connected with somebody on the level that I do with him. It’s my fairy tale. Get paralyzed and fall in love.”

These days, Jesi Stracham is back in the driver’s seat racing in a modified ATV with Fallis cheering her on from the side.

Lower back pain linked to chimp spine shape

A new study published in BMC Evolutionary Biology suggests that people with low back pain are more likely to have a spine similar in shape to the chimpanzee, our closest ape relative.

The only difference is a lesion formed in the disc between the bones of the spine which caused humans to evolve from using four legs to two. Researchers believe they can use these findings to help doctors predict who may be at risk for back issues.

The lesion, known as a Schmorl’s node, is a small hernia which can occur in the disc between the vertebrae. This node is thought to be linked to stress and strain on the lower back.

Professor Mark Collard from the University of Aberdeen says, “Our study suggests that the pathological vertebrae of some people may be less well adapted for walking upright.”


How did a Baltimore Man Die of a Spinal Injury while in Police Custody?

Six police officers in Baltimore have been suspended without pay after a 25-year old black man died of a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody. The man in custody, Freddie Gray, was arrested April 12 as charging documents say Gray “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence.”

Gray’s death has been clouded with mystery as one lawyer states, “his spine was virtually severed, 80 percent severed, in the neck area,” and police have no explanation, no physical or video evidence to show what happened.

Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said, “He did suffer a very tragic injury to his spinal cord, which resulted in his death. What we don’t know, and what we need to get to, is how that injury occurred.”

Protests erupted three days ago as the case is drawing national media attention as the latest example of a black man dying at the hands of police.

For more on the story, visit New York Magazine at http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/04/freddie-gray-dies-baltimore-arrest.html

4 Tips to beat back pain on your lunch break

Studies show that more days of work are lost to back, neck and muscle pain than any other cause. While many of us are working longer and harder hours, here are a few tips to help beat back pain during your lunch break:

  1. Eliminate Email: Smartphones mean we’re never more than a glance away from our emails. During lunch, keep an email free zone to give your muscles a rest. Looking down at your phone or computer causes neck flexion and can lead to a stiff and aching neck.
  2. Go for a stroll: It may be difficult to get away from your desk, but a 10 minute walk is essential for keeping back pain at bay. Movement helps strengthen muscles while supporting the back and joints. Just 20 minutes of walking a day can even increase life expectancy.
  3. De-stress: Prolonged stress can lead to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol and increases muscle tension. To reduce stress, take 10-15 minutes each day to practice mindfulness or meditation in a quiet environment.
  4. Eat well: Being overweight adds strain to the lower back and contribute to inflammation. Skipping lunch can have negative effects on your stress and energy levels and leave you making unhealthy choices for the rest of the day. Make time for lunch and choose healthy options.

Low back pain risk factors

New research presented at the 2015 AAOS or Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, identified the following risk factors for low back pain: nicotine dependence, obesity, alcohol abuse, and depressive disorders.

This study is extremely important since nearly one-third of U.S. adults reported that they had suffered from low back pain during the three previous months. Determining these risk factors can help many Americans diminish the financial and emotional strains with back pain.

For details about the study visit Medical Xpress at http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-03-pain-factors.html