Mr. Lamide had problem with his waist as a result of repeated use of his back at work. According to him, he works with a very busy company in Ogba industrial layout, Lagos. His work involves packaging and loading. One day, as he leaned forward to carry a load of 30kg, a load he used to lift regularly, he had a twinge, which became unbearable and was admitted in the company’s clinic. With repeated lifting, he has created a point of weakness on the spine, which finally became evident when he contracted pain as result of slipped disc.
Mr. Aliyu Lanre, a worker with a multinational plant generator company at Ikeja, contracted back pain in 2009 and was first treated in the company’s medical outfit by the in-house doctor. When it was difficult to manage his case by the company’s medical outfit, he was referred to their retainer’s clinic in Apapa where he spent three months as in-patient and was treated conservatively.
Mr. Aliyu Lanre works with the steel fabrication/welding section of the company. According to him, the effect of the treatment was unsatisfactory. He said any day he stops his drugs, the pain would recur in a greater measure, giving him so much distress and discomfort.
Short term solution with pills is not the best. The drugs simply mask the pain. They deal with symptoms only. A combination therapy is advocated. There is need for targeted treatment at the source of pain. It is physiotherapy skillfully performed with professional adroitness that can bring appreciable and long lasting relief to the victim.
Millions of people are ignorant of the fact that the human back is the power house for the entire body supporting the trunk and making of the movements of the head, arms, and legs possible. When the spine is injured and its functions impaired the consequences can be very painful and even disabling!
The spine provides strength and flexibility. This strength and flexibility is very important since your spinal column provides vital postural support to all other body parts while at the same time it allows you to move in many different directions. The spinal column is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae with discs that act as shock absorbers in between. These bones are given a letter and a number depending on where they are located in the spinal column:
• C (cervical) followed by a number from 1 to 7, refers to the vertebrae in the neck.
• T (thoracic) followed by 1 to 12, refers to the thoracic spine (where the 12 ribs are attached).
• L (lumbar) followed by 1 to 5, refers to the lumbar (or lowest) section of the spine.
• S (sacral) followed by 1 to 5, refers to the lowest vertebrae, although these vertebrae are fused together, forming the sacrum.
• Coccyx (or tail bone), formed out of 4 fused vertebrae at the very bottom of your spinal column.
The shape of the vertebrae in your neck is different from the vertebrae in your lower spine. For example, the vertebrae at the bottom are much bigger and heavier since these support almost your whole upper body while the ones in the neck only support your head. Secondly, the shape of the vertebrae determines in what directions you can move; you can move your neck much more freely than your lower spine.
The vertebrae have a small gap (called the ‘foramen’) through which the spinal nerves run. The spinal nerves (which are part of the central nervous system) run all the way from the base of your brain to the bottom of the spinal column. The nerves exit the spinal column at the level where they need to be, for example the nerves that go to your arms, exit the spinal column in the neck area (cervical), and the nerves going to your legs exit much lower and run along the whole length of the spinal column.
The discs (the structures between the vertebrae) are made up of a soft jelly like substance (the nucleus), which is held inside a tough, elastic and fibrous outer casing (the annulus). The official name of the discs is intervertebral discs.
The spinal column (consisting of the vertebrae and discs) is supported by numerous muscles, tendons and ligaments. These provide strength and stability to the ‘chain’ of vertebrae and discs. The muscles are connected to your bones with tendons; when a muscle contracts the forces are passed on to the skeletal system via the tendons. This ensures that a muscle contraction results in a movement of a certain body part. The ligaments provide stability to joints, but are also somewhat flexible so they can stretch or contract when the joint moves.
You will notice that your spine is not straight, but is actually an ‘S’ shape. Not all backs are the same ‘S’ shape but they are usually curved with a hollow in the base of your neck and another in the lower part of your back (lordosis).
From the above you can see that your back consists of many different structures; vertebrae, discs, nerves, muscles, tendons, ligaments. But this does not fully explain how they all work. Similarly, you may know all the parts of the engine in your car, but in order to really understand the engine, you will also have to know how they work. In other words you need to know about the structures (the anatomy) and the working mechanisms. This is called physiology.
One of the key elements of how the structures in your body function is blood flow. Your blood provides the various parts in your body with oxygen and nutrients (‘energy’). Furthermore, your blood also provides a ‘waste-removal’ service by taking away the waste that is being produced when body structures use the available oxygen and energy (for example carbondioxide, CO2). One of the factors that may restrict the blood flow to the discs is smoking. This is especially important in the discs that have a very minimum blood flow (due to the high pressure in the discs it is difficult for the blood to enter the discs). Research has now shown that smoking can indeed be one of the factors that contribute to back pain.
Nerves pass on messages from your body to your brain and back. A second element of how your spinal structures work is how the various functions are being coordinated. This is done via messages that travel through your nerves.
Always guard your back during any physical activity you do, whether sitting, standing, lifting, etc. Always assume the proper ergonomic position at any given activity. If you are confused about which posture to assume at your workplace, ask questions. Handle your back with care and it will last a life-time.
As a corporate social responsibility, the Back Pain Care Foundation shall be organising a seminar and free intervention treatment on common neck pain, mid back pain and lower back pain (waist pain), on Saturday, June 1, 2019 for Catholic Women Organisation (CWO) at Saint Mulumba Catholic Church, Whethral Road, Owerri, tagged “Better Back for mothers.”