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Back Health - Taming the Fire Breathing Dragon


Posted by Dr. Michael Raeburn, April 1st, 2011


As a Chiropractor I’m often asked the obvious question, why does my back hurt and what can I do about it.  This is a great question considering the National Institutes of Health estimates that 8 out of 10 people will experience back pain at some point in their life 1.  So congratulations if you’re one of the lucky 20%, but if you’re not there may be something you can be doing.

I know it’s corny, but it helps to think of back pain as an unpredictable fire breathing dragon.  You can be proactive and gear up, charge in and attack it, or you can wait for it to eventually come out of its cave and burn you.  Outside of genetics and pathologic process there is a lot that can be done to combat and even prevent back pain.

  • Maintain proper nutrition.  Diet and exercise to reduce excess weight, increase mobility and decreases mechanical stress on all structures.

  • Drink lots of water and less caffeine and alcohol.  Staying hydrated helps to prevent degenerative disc disease by maintaining disc and muscle pliability.

  • If you don’t exercise start.  Even mild exercise increases the amount of oxygen and nutrition the discs receive and provides support to spinal structures.

  • Quit smoking.  Smoking causes spinal discs to degenerate by reducing blood flow and oxygen to the lumbar spine.

  • Don’t forget to stretch before strenuous activity.  House chores and yard work can be as demanding as a trip to the gym.

  • Listen to your mother and “Don’t slouch” when standing or seated.

  • Wear shoes that fit well and are comfortable with low heals.

  • If you work at a desk maintain good ergonomic position, use a chair with lumbar support or place a rolled up towel or pillow behind you. Get up from your seat and move around at least once an hour and don’t forget to stretch.

  • Learn the proper way to lift things and get help when you need it.  It’s easier said than done but using your legs and core will save your back.   Bending at the waist, twisting then lifting is a great way to damage a disc…don’t do it!

  • Core, core, core.  Core strength is a major contributor to spinal stability and is the x-factor in the predisposition to injury and the ability to recover from it.

  • Learn how to perform plank exercises, quadruped exercises and abdominal strengthening in a safe and efficient manner.

This list is far from complete but it’s a good place to start.  According to an epidemiologic study published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, “In the USA, back pain is the most common cause of activity limitation in people younger than 45 years, the second most frequent reason for visits to the physician, the fifth-ranking cause of admission to hospital, and the third most common cause of surgical procedures “2.  That’s some heavy information to take in but the good news for most of us is that we do have a choice.  Lack of information and motivation may be the two biggest hurdles to cross when it comes to battling or preventing back pain.  But if you don’t want the tempo of your life to be controlled by pain you do have help.  There’s an army of chiropractors, physical therapists, personal trainers and MD’s ready to cover your back while you go slay that fire breathing dragon.


Article by: Dr. Michael Raeburn
Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician
Ph: 503-719-7742

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it




1.)    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/backpain.html 

2.)    Epidemiological Features of Chronic Low-back Pain;
Although the literature is filled with information about the prevalence and incidence of back pain in general, there is less information about chronic back pain, partly because of a lack of agreement about definition. Chronic back pain is sometimes defined as back pain that lasts for longer than 7–12 weeks. Others define it as pain that lasts beyond the expected period of healing, and acknowledge that chronic pain may not have well-defined underlying pathological causes. Others classify frequently recurring back pain as chronic pain since it intermittently affects an individual over a long period.
Gunnar BJ Andersson MD,
Aug 14, 1999. The Lancet, Vol. 354 No. 9178 pp 581-585.

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