What Makes a Healthy Back?
Your back is your body’s main support. Along with your muscles and joints it allows you to move and carry weight. But your back is also a delicate, finely balanced structure that can be easily injured if not cared for properly. Knowing the basics of back care can make the difference between a healthy back and an aching one.
The Parts of Your Back
Your backbone (or spinal column) is composed of 24 move-able bones called vertebrae. Separating the vertebrae are cushion-like pads, called discs, that absorb shock. Ligaments and muscles support these vertebrae and discs and keep your back properly aligned in three balanced curves. When any of these various parts becomes diseased, injured or weakened, back problems and pain are almost certain to follow.
A Question of Balance
A healthy back is a balanced back when your cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back) and lumbar (lower back) curves are properly aligned. You know your back is aligned properly when your ears, shoulders and hips are “stacked” in a straight line. Flexible “elastic” discs and well conditioned muscles also help protect and align healthy backs.
When Your Back Aches
Understanding how your back works and what can go wrong is the key to taking good care of it. Certain medical conditions can cause back pain. But most backaches come from poor posture and weak supporting muscles.
Poor posture puts too much strain on your spinal column and over time can lead to sudden or chronic back pain. Weak muscles, since they aren’t strong enough to support the spinal column, can contribute to poor posture and back injuries. By using good posture when you sit, stand, lift, recline and move, and by keeping off excess weight and exercising the muscles that support your back, you can help prevent the most common causes of backaches.