Back Basics

Your back is the main supporting structure of your entire body. Along with your muscles and joints, it allows you to move (sit, stand, bend, etc.) and to bear weight. But the

back is also a delicate, finely balanced structure that can be easily injured if we don’t care for it properly. Knowing the basics of back care can make the difference between a healthy back and an aching one!

A Healthy Back

The back (or spinal column) is composed of twenty-four movable bones called vertebrae. Between each vertebra is a cushion-like pad called a disc which absorbs shock. These vertebrae and discs are supported by ligaments and muscles which keep the back properly aligned in three balanced curves. When any of these various parts becomes diseased, injured, or de-conditioned, back problems and pain are almost certain to follow.

A Balanced Back

A healthy back is a balanced back — your cervical (neck), thoracic (chest), and lumbar (lower back) curves are all properly aligned. (You know your back is aligned properly when your ears, shoulders, and hips are “stacked” in a straight line.) A healthy back is also protected and supported by flexible “elastic” discs and well-conditioned muscles.

An Aching Back

A number of physical conditions, such as curvature of the spine (scoliosis), arthritis, and herniated (ruptured) discs, can cause back pain, but the majority of backaches are due to poor posture and weak supporting muscles. Improper posture places excess stress on the spinal column. Over time, poor posture can lead to sudden or recurrent back pain. Weak muscles contribute to, and are often responsible for, poor posture since they cannot adequately support the spinal column.

Preventive Back Care

Once you understand how your back works, and what can go wrong, you’re ready to start taking care of your back -for the health of it. By using proper posture (when you sit, stand, lift, recline, and move) and by exercising the muscles that support your back, you can prevent the most common causes of back aches. The result is freedom from back pain, and a stronger, healthier back.

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