Raising children can be back-breaking work at times (hello lower back pain!), with all the lifting and carrying of those not-so-little rug rats. First there’s the infant car seat you need to lug around that’s way heavier than it looks, then suddenly you have a preschooler who STILL needs to be lifted in and out of well, everywhere, and—the strain goes on and on. Thankfully, Dr. Marc Arginteanu, Chief of Neurosurgery at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, shared his advice on how to protect our spine and avoid lower backpain. Just think about how important the spine is—it allows us to stand upright, supports our weight and enables movement. It also protects the spinal cord, which controls our mind and body. So read on for great advice on how to keep this vital piece of our anatomy in fighting shape—despite the little monkeys hanging off of you day in and day out.
Q: What are the most common spine and back issues you see?
A: The most common issue in younger people is a herniated disc in the lower back or neck, which can cause sciatica pain to run down the leg or arm. In older people, the most common issue is stenosis—pinching of the nerves. Stenosis occurs as the joints, spine and connecting tissue deteriorate over time, crowding the nerves that run through the neck and lower back. It can lead to sciatica and neurogenic claudication (inflammation of the nerves stemming from the spinal cord), limiting walking. It can also cause myelopathy, weakness in the arms and legs.
Q: So how can we be proactive about spine and back care?
A: First, maintain a healthy weight. Be especially mindful of belly fat, which pulls you forward, putting stress on the spine. Second, don’t smoke. Smoking decreases the oxygen that goes to the spinal discs. Third, exercise regularly, staying active 3–5 times a week. Those who do heavy lifting at work should also see if their employers offer a “back class” demonstrating techniques to prevent injury.
Q: With the winter weather and holidays approaching, what should we be aware of?
A: With all the holiday parties, we tend to eat more and exercise less. As you grab a plate, remember that extra weight puts stress on the spine, so make healthy diet choices whenever possible. It’s important to exercise, even when your schedule is busy. Also, wear appropriate footwear and be careful not to slip on ice. If you do slip and fall backward, try to tuck your chin and keep your shoulders, neck and head up off the ground. If you fall forward, throw your hands and forearms to the ground with palms facing down. Exercise caution before moving someone who’s fallen and has neck pain or weakness in the arms or legs. When in doubt, wait for emergency medical services.
Q: When should people seek help with back issues?
A: Pain is usually the body’s sign that things aren’t right. But certain conditions like myelopathy can be painless. Progressive weakness or numbness of the arms or legs can indicate a spinal problem—even without spinal pain. Neurogenic claudication can also be painless, but if you have it, you may find that you’re able to walk less and less, or experience cramping or weakness in the legs when you do.
Englewood Hospital and Medical Center
350 Engle Street, Englewood