OrthoVirginia Blog

Tips to Keeping a Healthy Spine by Joshua Herzog, M.D.

Healthy spines start with a good night sleep.  Your mattress, pillow and sleeping positions should be tailored for your medical conditions and preferences.  For example, patients with osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis may sleep better on their sides in a fetal position while patients with degenerative disc disease may be more comfortable sleeping on their stomachs.
Sitting increases the load across your discs by 3 fold. This is compounded when you are sitting at a desk looking at a computer screen lower than your natural horizontal gaze, this can create a natural tendency to slouch and lean forward, putting increased stress across your discs.  Be sure you have the correct office chair and our work station is set up ergonomically.  Get up and stretch every 20-30 minutes or work at a stand up desk for part of the day to help keep your spine moving and healthy.
Exercises focused on strengthening your abs, spinal and core muscles will help you maintain a healthy spine.  Keeping these muscles toned will help support your spine and take pressure off your lower back.  Most of us spend very little time using these muscles in our day to day activities, and we must do specific exercises to keep these muscles strong.
A little effort can go a long way in keeping your back healthy and fit.
While not common, certain back pain symptoms are a sign of a medical emergency that could be life threatening or result in severe disability if not addressed by an experienced physician.  If you experience any of the following symptoms you should contact your local health care provider immediately.
  1.  Progressive leg weakness/loss of bowel or bladder control.  This can be a sign of cauda equine syndrome, which is usually caused by severe compression of the entire nerve sac in the lower spine.
  2. Unexplained weight loss, accompanied by pain and neurological impairment.    Rapid, unexplained weight loss can indicate a serious medical condition, such as cancer.
  3. Acute, Severe stomach pain along with low back such that the patient cannot stand straight.  Quick onset low back pain that does not follow an obvious trauma, or movement associated with the onset of pain, can be a symptom of an enlargement of the aorta (large artery) in the abdomen, called an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
  4. Fever with increased pain which does not respond to common fever reducers.  Spinal infections can give rise to epidural abscess (a puss filled cavity in the epidural space) that can push on the nerve structures in the cervical spine (neck), thoracic spine (upper back) or lumbar spine.
Tags: Spine