Tips for a Healthy Neck and Back

The vertebral bones, intervertebral discs, and ligaments of your spine are very strong, and durable enough to resist even high velocity collisions and traumas. These structures of the human spine give it the durability to protect the most important elements of the spine, namely the spinal cord and its nerves, as well as the flexibility to move and twist in every direction. On the other hand, these structures, like any other body structures, may become prone to injury due to trauma, disease, or improper nutrition. Other injury factors unique to the spine include muscular de-conditioning of the back and abdominal muscles, poor posture, and muscular tension. For all the things that may go wrong with the back, the body also has several mechanisms and processes to heal injured spinal structures in order for us to regain back health. The body also has several coping mechanisms to overcome structural changes in the spine that are irreversible, such as degenerative disc conditions. But for all of us, it would be best if these degenerative spinal conditions did not occur in the first place. Here are 3 tips for a healthy neck and back.

  1. Get an accurate clinical diagnosis. If you have back pain symptoms that are alarming enough to require a doctor visit, you should make an appointment to find out what's really causing your pain and discomfort. Upon your appointment, your doctor will want to first evaluate if your back pain condition requires emergency attention, or is the result of a more serious condition. Your condition may be considered serious if it includes weakness in your hands or feet that are significant enough to inhibit your ability to use them. Other serious symptoms include the inability to sleep at night to the loss of bladder or bowel control. Serious medical conditions that require immediate medical attention include spinal tumors and neurologic deficits (nerve damage in the extremities).

    In order to get an accurate clinical diagnosis, your doctor will want to examine your medical history and a full history of your back pain. the doctor will want to know when your pain started, where it is, and what makes your back feel better or worse. Your doctor will want to know if your pain is the result of an injury that you are aware of, or if it occurred spontaneously. Your doctor will have you walk around the room, and bend from your back in all positions to observe if certain movements cause pain over others. Your doctor will typically want to observe one or more medical tests in order to head in the direction of getting an accurate diagnosis. Blood tests may indicate more serious medical conditions, such as cancer rheumatic joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Medical imaging studies are standard as well. The X-Ray and MRI are the two most common types of diagnostic tests that are ordered in order to get an accurate clinical diagnosis.
  2. Once given a diagnosis, you should take advantages of the multimedia resources out there to learn about what your options are. The doctor, based on insurance or economic factors, or because of their specific education and clinical experience, may recommend one type of back pain treatment over another. For example, doctors are not trained in the arts of spinal adjustments/manipulation, as are chiropractors and osteopaths (Osteopathic Physicians D.O.). It won't hurt to learn more about the possible causes of your back pain, and what available options you have to treat it.
  3. Don't smoke. Any medical condition that causes a reduction of circulation in your blood vessels is more likely to cause back pain. Circulatory disorders that result in a constriction or stiffening of the blood vessels include diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Smoking is a lifestyle habit that constricts the blood vessels and deoxygenates the blood. People who smoke are 80% more likely to have lower back pain and develop degenerative disc disease than non-smokers are.