"Just as home repair, restoration and renovation summer projects are taking shape around the county, so too is it important to realize the phrase "putting your back into it" shouldn't be taken literally. When tackling the toughest work around your home, remember taking a little caution now when lifting and twisting can spare you ample pain later.
"Back pain comes in different flavors. The back pain many of us might experience in the summer with more yard work, home projects and sports activities usually results from the stretching and sometimes tearing of ligaments and muscles known as strains and sprains," said Dr. Richard Donze, senior vice president for medical affairs and occupational health center medical director at Chester County Hospital in West Chester. "Typically this will come on within 24 hours of the activity and resolve on its own in anywhere from a few days to a week or two, assuming the person doesn't keep aggravating it."
This kind of pain is what Donze said is generally referred to as "acute" or "episodic" back pain. A person who experiences some degree of backache or pain most days is experiencing "chronic" back pain, he said, noting this may be accompanied by a chronic cause that could include poor posture, arthritis, repetitive strain or a combination of any of these symptoms.
The most common causes of back pain can include lumbar strain, or a stretching injury to the lower back's tendons, ligaments or muscles; irritation of the lumbar spine nerves; bony encroachment, a condition resulting in movement or growth of the lumbar spine, limiting spinal cord and nerve space; and lumbar radiculopathy, or nerve irritation caused by wear-and-tear damage to the discs between the vertebrae, according to Dr. Anish Patel, medical director of Phoenixville Hospital's Pain Management Institute at Limerick.
"From the evolutionary perspective, some experts feel we're all at risk because we haven't yet fully adapted to the erect posture, and if you've ever seen anyone with an acute back strain crawling out of bed and navigating to the bathroom on hands and knees, it'll seem like nature forcing us to return to walking on all fours," said Donze.
In addition to people who work in fields that require lifting, bending or twisting, people who lead a sedentary lifestyle are at risk for developing back problems, said Patel, as are those who mismanage stress.
"Warehouse workers, long-distance drivers, cyclists, golfers (both occupational and recreational), computer operators, nurses and gardeners (and) grounds people all have more incidence of lower back disorders than the general population," he said.
People with pre-existing arthritis are also at an increased risk of developing back problems, according to Donze.
"We've also recently learned that the risk factors for heart and circulation problems may influence the risk for low back pain as well," he said. "Obesity has been a well-known risk factor for years, but we thought it was only for the mechanical reason of accentuating the curve in the low back, as what occurs with pregnancy; however, newer research suggests that it's a circulation problem with narrow spinal arteries unable to deliver enough blood, so things like smoking and high cholesterol can now be considered risk factors as well."
Taking steps to protect your back when performing heavy lifting is the best method of injury prevention.
"Acute lumbar muscle strain/sprain is the most common cause of backache after lifting," said Dr. Ken Aksu, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Paoli Hospital. "Certainly, disc pain such as a herniated disc is in the differential diagnosis, especially if the backache is accompanied by leg pain."
If at all possible, people experiencing chronic back pain should avoid all heavy lifting, explained Patel." (Continued via Daily Local News, Tara Munkatchy) [Ergonomics Resources]