The back is one of the most common sites of injury in the human body. That’s unsurprising when you consider its complex structure.
The spine, comprising 33 bones called vertebrae, forms a major part of the skeleton. Twenty-four of the vertebrae are moveable, and these are what provide the back with its impressive flexibility. Some of the vertebrae are located in the neck (cervical region) and some in the lower back (lumbar region), while the majority are in the middle back (thoracic back).
A shock-absorbing disc lies between each vertebra. Each disc cushions and protects the adjacent vertebrae from damage.
In addition to bones and discs, the back contains many muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Each of these structures has the potential to become injured, leading to pain and immobility.
When all the components of the back remain undamaged, they work together to provide us with the flexibility and fluid movement that so many take for granted. But injuries such as strains, herniated discs, and much more can put us out of action for the short- or long-term.
Some of the most common back injuries and complaints include:
Because back injuries can be so debilitating, it’s a good idea to take steps to protect and support your back whenever possible. Luckily, there are many ways to do this, ranging from simple techniques such as changing the way you cough and sneeze, to various therapies, exercises, and supportive devices.
For a flexible and healthy back, exercise regularly. Exercise gets the blood flowing, which ushers fresh oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, discs, and other structures in the back to encourage healing. Some of the best exercises for the back involve stretching and strengthening movements. Examples include yoga, chair-based exercises, and Tai chi.
In addition to exercise and targeted therapies, there are a number of devices that can support and heal your back. Some devices—such as back braces, waist belts, and posture correctors—directly stabilize the structures in the back to prevent injury. Others, including massage roller balls and heating pads, loosen up stiff muscles that aggravate symptoms, while TENS units and pain relief creams target the source of the pain.
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