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How can you look after your lumbar spine?

September 12th, 2021 by
Category: Back pain Dr. Linh Phan Spinal Health

By Dr. Linh Phan, Chiropractor at Total Health Chiropractic Rockhampton 

Close up image of female in activewear with hands on lower back

What is the lumbar spine? Where is it located and what are some conditions that may affect it?

The lumbar spine is made up of 5 vertebral segments and intervertebral discs which are crucial to the stability of your low back. These bones are larger and sturdier than the rest of their counterparts because they are at the very core of supporting the spine. At each segment, there are nerves that leave the joint on both sides that supply the muscles, skin, blood vessels, spinal cord and other organs surrounding the area.

What can sometimes occur when you’re born or while you’re growing up is the formation of an additional lumbar segment. Generally, this extra bone doesn’t have any particular advantage or disadvantage, but like anything else, it may cause spinal health complications [1].

Beneath the lumbar spine is the sacrum and coccyx, which connect your hips and legs to your body and is more commonly known as your tailbone. Rarely, sacralization can arise. This is when your 5th lumbar vertebra fuses with the top of the sacrum, which can increase the potential of lower back conditions [2].

Likewise, at the top of the lumbar spine is the thoracic spine. Lumbarization can occur where the lowest portion of the thoracic spine forms into a lumbar segment [2].

Low back pain is the second leading cause of disease overall in Australia with over 16% of Australians having suffered from this condition. It is estimated that 70-90% of people will suffer from low back pain in some form at some point in their lives [3]. 

The most common causes of lower back pain include facet joint dysfunction, degenerative disc/joint disease, otherwise known as DJD, spinal stenosis, and herniated discs [4]. These conditions can more often than not lead to spinal dysfunction. The spine functions to protect the spinal cord which lets our brain communicate with the rest of the body, whether it be picking up your coffee, reacting to touching a hot saucepan or when to digest your food. When there’s damage or dysfunction in the spinal cord it can lead to an interference with the rest of your body and affect the spine’s ability to move and interact the way it normally does. Some symptoms of spinal cord disorder include weakness or tingling throughout your limbs, back or neck pain, uncontrollable muscle spasms, loss in sensation and in some cases even the loss of bowel and bladder control [5].

A Chiropractor’s top tips on how to look after your lumbar spine

So how does this relate to Chiropractic? Chiropractors are allied health professionals who see patients that experience musculoskeletal issues, including issues related to spinal dysfunction and the lumbar spine.

Let me ask you this. If you were only able to drive one car for the rest of your life, how would you treat it? The same thing applies to us all. We’re only given one mind and one body, so it’s crucial that we maintain it and prevent the advancement of spinal degeneration or any other disease. Anyone can develop spinal degeneration, but we want to slow it down as much as possible to avoid back pain. Here are my top recommendations on how you can look after your lumbar spine that are simple to implement into your life: 

Good sleeping posture

A good sleeping posture may be be a simple fix to some of the neck or back stiffness you may feel in the morning. For all sleeping positions, you want to ensure that your pillow is supporting your neck in a way that it supports the natural C-shaped curvature of your neck. If you prefer sleeping on your back, try placing a pillow beneath your knees to relieve pressure off your lower back. If you’re a side-sleeper, place a pillow between your knees to support your hips from dipping. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach where possible. Give these a try, you just might solve some of your morning issues.

Strengthen your core

I cannot stress how important the muscles of your lower back and abdomen (abs) are in stabilising your entire body. By keeping these muscles strong, you may prevent the lower back pain that you’re getting and relieve some of compensation that the rest of your joints and muscles are doing to maintain your body. Some core exercises I suggest include the superman and planks, or even something as simple as a brisk walk or cycling.

Invest in an ergonomic chair

There are too many cases I’ve seen (especially with people who work from home) who have an improper work setup. Slouching or hunching forward can place increased pressure on your discs throughout your entire spine and may accelerate the deterioration of your spine. The comfort and ergonomics behind a proper chair can prevent slumping, while also helping to align and support your spine.

Posture, posture, posture!

Although mostly subconscious, one of the best ways to improve your posture is by reminding yourself when you notice yourself slouching or stooping. You can can check for proper posture by ticking off this checklist: your ears should align with your shoulders, to hips, to knees and then to the ankles in one straight line. Try this with your partner, family member or friends!

Consider a visit to a Chiropractor or other trusted healthcare professional

My last piece of advice is if you’re unsure or if you haven’t had an assessment done before and are experiencing back pain, to see a Chiropractor or trusted healthcare professional. Chances are, if you are experiencing pain, the problem has been ongoing for some time and has reached tipping point.

The lumbar spine is such an important cornerstone to the stability and function of the entire body, so when it’s compromised with conditions such as lower back pain or degenerative joint disease, it can be extremely tough to maintain a normal lifestyle. We want to maintain optimal health for as long as we can, starting with implementing one of these tips may be a great start in working towards a healthy future.

 

Sources

[1] https://www.spinalcord.com/blog/the-sixth-lumbar-vertebrae-the-anatomy-behind-the-rare-extra-bone 

[2] https://scielo.conicyt.cl/pdf/ijmorphol/v33n1/art07.pdf 

[3] https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/0d9f8959-2a1c-4c99-8c7e-0c8a878f4d6c/Back%20problems.pdf.aspx?inline=true 

[4] https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/causes-lower-back-pain 

[5] https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/spinal-cord-disorder 

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