peninsula-chiropractic
183 Woodland Rd

Hampton, VA 23663
(Corner of Pembroke Ave & Woodland Rd)

Call 757-723-3893

• 50 years of combined experience

• Same Day appointments available

• Most insurances accepted, including auto insurance

• We file accident claims

• M.D. on staff

• Mention this site and speak directly with a doctor!

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Your back is a remarkable evolutionary triumph in design that allows for great strength while at the same time housing a delicate conduit for almost every nerve in your body.   With the proper conditioning it can withstand a clean-and-jerk weight lifting competition and rugby football game.  With the proper neglect it can “go out” picking up your beer from the coffee table. Your back is separated into two major sections.  The Thoracic spine or your upper and middle back, and the Lumbar spine your lower back. The Thoracic spine is composed of 12 bones or vertebrae. The Lumbar spine has 5 vertebrae. The vertebrae provide the bony strength of the spine and house your spinal cord.  The spinal cord in essence connects your brain to every part of your body. Each nerve that exits your spinal cord does so through a hole between the vertebrae.  Between each bony vertebrae there is also a cartilaginous disc or the shock absorber of your spine. The complex layers of ligament and muscle overlying the spine provide additional support and integrity for the structures underneath. This ingenious design allows us to bend and twist with amazing agility and still stand up-right. Problems arise when one or more parts of this complex system fail.

For example, we have all heard someone say they have arthritis in their back.  Well, they would actually be unusual if they didn’t.  Over time we all develop some degree of Degenerative Joint Disease, which sounds horrible but its not.  It’s life. The bones in our spine begin to wear and change shape near the edges or margins around the age of 25.  This change in the bone is termed degenerative or arthritic change. This is different from an actual Arthritis, which means an active inflammation of bones and joints. When the vertebrae begin to show signs of degenerative change, the framework of our spines begin to do a progressively poorer job of supporting our back! The same problems arise no matter what is affecting the vertebrae, whether it is a fracture or Osteoporosis (A loss of bone density). When the framework is bad the support is bad. The person can not bend, twist and stand up-right without compromising those delicate nerves underneath. Your body reminds you with Pain!  Granted this a vast oversimplification but it illustrates a point.  We are mechanical beings that can only perform if the machine is healthy.  Unfortunately the back machine breaks down a lot. It is estimated that 80% of the adult population in our country will experience some form of low back pain in their life time (Tribune media services, 91-92-93).    The probability that you will experience a bout of low back pain is extremely high.  For example, the prevalence of low back pain in the USA in any given month, is 41.7% in females, and 34.5% in males (Spine 1995;20:1889-1894).  These statistics taken as they are, produce a certain anxiety in most, myself included. But, keeping the spine healthy is not really difficult.      

     

If you want to keep those vertebrae healthy you have to eat well balanced meals and keep up your intake of Calcium and Vitamin D.  For Calcium, you want 1,200 mg/day to age 24 and 800 mg/day as a healthy adult over age 24. For Vitamin D, you want 10ug/day to age 25 and 5ug/day as a healthy adult over age 25.  Another important aspect of keeping all your bones healthy is the need for exercise.  Believe it or not, your bones do continue to grow after puberty.  They do not grow longer, that’s determined by genetics, but they do grow thicker. If you do some form of weight baring exercise on a regular basis you significantly decrease your likely-hood of developing Osteoporosis whether you are male or female. The weight bearing exercise increases the bone’s density and thickness over time.

 

What about those discs providing shock absorption and flexibility in your spine? You may have heard of someone with a slipped disc or hernitated disc.  These are serious injuries requiring medical intervention.  These injuries are, in simple terms, what happen when that cartilaginous disc material moves under the presser of our weight.  The displaced disc material places pressure on one or more nerves exiting the spinal cord.  The symptoms are painful to say the least.  The single best thing we can do to help the health of our discs is drink water.  The disc needs nutrients as much as any part of the body but it has less direct blood supply as for example a muscle.  A dehydrated disc can not perform its functions because it looses elasticity. If you keep yourself well hydrated the disc can bring in the things it needs by osmosis.  It makes a huge difference!  Would you believe that your discs actually absorb enough water to change your height?  If you don’t believe me, measure your height in the morning and then again before you go to bed.  The example works better in children than adults but one actually becomes shorter during the day as the weight of our bodies squeeze out the water from our discs.

 

The last, and maybe most important part of maintaining our back health is maintaining our musculature.  The muscles of our back provide a large part of the support of our spines and all of the movement.  We can effect great change in the health of our spines and the whole back by simply maintaining muscle tone. Although experts debate how much exercise we need and how much it will save us from back injury, they all agree on one thing. We need it.  Most low back exercises are EASY.  You do not have to work hard or for hours!  For back health most experts just suggest muscle tone not muscle bulk.  It is far more important to exercise a little every day than to over do it.  For your lower back there are four major groups of muscle you want to work to maintain tone.  They are all centered around your pelvic ring.  Imagine your pelvic ring as a belt that goes around your waist.  If you tighten up your stomach muscles the front of the ring goes up.  If you tighten up your low back muscles the back of the ring goes up. If you tighten up your buttocks or hamstrings the back of the ring goes down.  If you tighten up the muscles in the front of your thighs the front of the ring goes down.  The goal then becomes finding a balance of all of these four muscle groups. You want to be strong enough and flexible enough to move the ring at will.  For your upper and central back you want to exercise the trunk of your body and your shoulders.  There are many muscles that span both your upper back and your shoulders.  To set up a good back exercise program you should really consult a trainer, physical therapist or doctor.  Let them know you are not looking to bulk up you just want to maintain muscle tone throughout your back.  In one or two sessions you can get the basics for a home program that should take you no more than 20 minutes a day. You will be pleasantly surprised after just a few weeks when you really feel stronger and stand taller. It only takes a few minutes a day to avoid becoming a statistic. If you have questions about back health any member of our staff would be happy to speak with you.

 

Dr. Kevin S. Steele, D.C.

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