As 2016 kicks off, many of us have resolutions to be healthier. If exercising more is part of your goal to better health, be mindful of your back. A back injury can put that goal on hold.
It’s important to realize you can injure your back in most physical activities if you don’t recognize your limitations and experience level.
In particular, when playing sports, keep your back in mind. To play sports, the body must jump, dodge, sprint and more, which makes for a fun form of exercise, but also means we must stay within our body’s limits. Accidentally tripping or making contact with another player can lead to back injury.
Also, though you may not realize it, gym exercises often indirectly involve the back. Regardless of whether you’re toning legs, core or arms, remember your back. Lifting weights that are too heavy, executing a move with poor form or repeating a move too many times can result in back injury.
One way to prevent back injury is to maintain optimal spinal health. A spine that is ideally aligned will be more apt to withstand everyday wear and tear, and flexibility of the neck, legs and back is the key to doing so. Physical therapists Drs. Evan Johnson and Rami Said at The Spine Hospital at the Neurological Institute of New York recommend several stretching exercises that involve the back, legs and neck to improve flexibility and maintain optimal spinal health.
However, if a back injury does occur, hold off on exercising until you see your physician or physical therapist. Types of back injuries include strain, sprain, herniated disc and even spinal cord injury. When a muscle tendon is torn or stretched, it’s known as a strain, and when connective tissue called a ligament is torn or stretched, a sprain.
The more severe injuries are herniated discs and spinal cord injuries. A herniated disc is when one of the donut-shaped cushions between each vertebral body is shoved out of place, which often causes pain, numbness and tingling. When part of the spinal cord is bruised, partially or completely severed, a spinal cord injury occurs and can lead to permanent loss of function.
With time and rest, most sprains and strains will heal on their own. And typically, conservative care, such as medication, rest and physical therapy, are effective treatments. However, sometimes surgery is required in more severe cases of any back injury. If you have relentless back pain or symptoms listed below, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor.
- Back pain that doesn’t improve with rest
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart rate and blood pressure problems
- Muscle weakness and difficulty walking
- Numbness and tingling in legs or arms
If you experience loss of bladder and bowel function, you should see a doctor immediately.
Resolve to make 2016 the year you not only exercise more but also the year you keep your back healthy and injury free.
Learn more about our neurosurgeons who specialize in spinal injury at their bio pages below:
- Paul C. McCormick, MD, MPH, FAANS
- Michael G. Kaiser, MD, FACS, FAANS
- Donald O. Quest, MD, FACS
- Peter D. Angevine, MD, MPH
- Alfred T. Ogden, MD, FAANS
- Christopher E. Mandigo, MD
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