TODAY | February 22, 2012
>>> this morning on today's health, preventing back pain. according to the centers for disease control and prevention back pain is the most common source of discomfort and women in particular are at risk. dr. raj is a today contributor and contributing editor to women's health magazine. good morning.
>> good morning.
>> 5 million americans go to the doctor's office every year with back pain, particularly women.
>> why are we vulnerable?
>> the back is the support system for the body. women in general tend to carry too many things. i was looking at the sidewalk right now. the men are walking around, not a care in the world. the women have the purse, shopping bags , lugging kids around. we carry too much weight.
>> we do. three common back issues i think that doctors see most often. first is muscle strain , herniated disks and osteoarthritis. starting with muscle strain .
>> muscle strain implies a slight tearing or over stretching of back muscles causing stiffness or soreness made worse by sudden movements or a jolting or awkward movement. often gets better on its own, with ice, stretching or anti-inflammatories.
>> herniated disk ?
>> right. the disks in the spine are cushions in between the vertebrae. they help protect it. with aging and other wear and tear it can sometimes bulge out or even rupture. if that rupture or bulge then compresses a nerve that can cause shooting pain in the back sometimes down the leg. sometimes a herniated disk doesn't cause pain. you may not be aware of it.
>> when it does cause pain it's excruciati excruciating. and then osteoarthritis.
>> this is part of the general wear and tear of the joints. it happens in the hips, knees, lower back. it causes pain and soreness.
>> with all of these you say if you are experiencing back trouble you should go to your doctor's office and make sure you get a thorough check.
>> get it checked out especially if you have numbness, tingling, bowel or bladder problems. it could be a sign of something serious.
>> there are tips to hopefully help prevent the visit to the doctor's office. you recommend we shape up our core.
>> why are the muscles here so important to ensure that you don't hurt your back?
>> you really want to strengthen the muscles that protect your spine including our abdominal muscles and back muscles. yoga and pilates are ways to include core strength in exercise. also low impact aerobic exercise is important to strengthen muscles in the body. the core is important to make sure it's really maintaining a good cushion for the spine.
>> and if you are carrying weight around the middle, a good idea to be fit and strong.
>> the more over weight you are, the more pressure on your back. that will lead to pain eventually.
>> you say to adjust your work space. what may contribute to the problem?
>> so many people are looking at a computer screen for eight hours or more a day. you want to be sure the screen is in the right position. it should be at eye level. your neck should not strain up or down. that will lead to a full curvature of the spine . the spine should be in an s position, not a c. you want lower back support in the chair. keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. no crossing your legs, unlike us.
>> no putting your leg under you. that throws you off as well.
>> it causes mislimiemt. imagine a straight rod in the back. stay in that position most of the time.
>> next you say to stretch it out.
>> stretching is important. especially before and after exercise. everyone should be stretching in the morning, the evening and middle of the day , especially if you are sitting for long periods of time. stretch out your spine. that will help with posture, too.
>> and lighten the load. you mentioned we carry a lot of weight with the big purses.
>> you don't need all those things. keep a second batch of hair spray or whatever at the office. use a bag that's right. some of the heavy leather bags are heavy. use canvas or faux leather. have it over your stomach like a messenger bag or a backpack style is better. lift with your legs when lifting, not your back. your back should be straight.
>> don't bend down. great reminder for us all. thank you.
>> thank you.