Everyone wants to heavy healthy back and never experience backaches but not many people are aware even of what our back is made of and what can cause troubles.
The back – as well as any other part of our body – is a real engineering masterpiece. There’re three groups of muscles that work together to keep us straight. These groups are:
- Superficial – associated with movements of the shoulder.
- Intermediate – associated with movements of the thoracic cage.
- Deep – associated with movements of the vertebral column.
The superficial back muscles (trapezius, latissimus dorsi, levator scapulae and the rhomboids) are located underneath the skin and superficial fascia. They originate from the vertebral column and attach to the bones of the shoulder – the clavicle, scapula and humerus. Therefore zone of responsibility for these muscles is the upper limb:
– Trapezius elevates the scapula and rotates it during abduction of the arm, retracts the scapula and pulls it inferiorly.
– Latissimus Dorsi Extends, adducts and medially rotates the upper limb.
– The action of Levator Scapulae is clear from the very name – it elevates the scapula.
– And two rhomboids – major and minor – retract and rotate the scapula.
The intermediate group contains two muscles – the serratus posterior superior and serratus posterior inferior. These muscles run from the vertebral column to the ribcage and assist with elevating and depressing the ribs. They are also believed to have a slight respiratory function.
The deep muscles of the back are represented by Splenius Cervicis, Splenius Capitis, Iliocostalis, Longissimus, Spinalis, Semispinalis, Multifidus, Rotatores, Interspinales, Intertranversari and Levatores costarum. They extend from the sacrum to the base of the skull to move the vertebral column and the control the posture.
All these groups of muscles work together to keep us erected and straight, but despite their hard work backpain is not a rare case. It can occur due to various problems like pinched nerve, osteoarthritis, spinal infection, scoliosis etc., but in this article we are going to take a closer look only at a few most common causes:
1) Muscle deconditioning and poor posture
We can do sport and provide conditions for our muscles to become stronger. But unfortunately it also works the opposite way: we can misuse or just not use them at all therefore making weaker and more vulnerable. Due to sedentary way of life the most typical body pose is being C-shape screwed over the desk. When a person slouches, pressure from gravity and the body itself pushes on the spine, neck, discs, and ligaments and over the time it can lead to backpain.
The solution in this case is simple but time consuming: improve your regular pose and lifestyle to recondition the muscles. Correct your posture while sitting and take regular breaks from the desk to move around and stretch. You can just stand up, flex your arms up and down for a few times, round your spine by protracting the shoulders and open it up by retracting it.
2) Muscle overuse
When we use the same few muscles over and over again it can lead to muscle overuse. This problem is quite typical among players of some particular kind of sport or workers where range of body motions is limited and one muscle is overused while the other ones are underused. Over the time it leads to muscle irritation and tightness and if ignored can turn into chronic pain.
Treatment for muscle overuse typically begins with resting the area, as well as using heat or ice packs to promote blood circulation to the muscle tissues. And the best option is of course to find ways to diversify the motions and take breaks between activities.
3) Traumatic injury
A traumatic injury can also lead to back pain. This may be the result of car accidents, falling, incorrect lifting of the things or overworking. Not all injuries are obvious and sometimes pain can develop even the next day. Traumatic injuries can be severe and cause life lasting complications, that’s why it’s important to have your body checked by the doctor in case of trauma.
4) Herniated disc
Herniated discs are more common in the lower back but may sometimes happen in the upper back too.
Discs are the soft, rubbery cushions between each vertebra. Herniated discs occur when a piece of this cushion pokes through and puts pressure on the spine. Even a small amount of pressure is enough to cause pain or other symptoms like numbness or weakness in the arms or legs. To fix this problem some people may need surgery while others will recover with rest or medications.
5) Pinched nerve
If a herniated disc slips far enough out it compresses the nearby nerve. A pinched nerve in the middle back may cause numbness and pain in the arms or legs, problems with urination control, weakness, or loss of control in the legs.
When a pinched nerve comes from a herniated disc, the treatment is similar to treating the herniated disc.
Simple exercises to get rid of backpain.
First, loosen up the muscles in your problem area with a good stretch. It will help to restore flexibility, promote range of motion, and improve blood flow — all of which can alleviate pain. The perfect stretch time is about 2 minutes. You can do following exercises:
– Neck side bend and head rotation to different directions. Clockwise and counter clockwise 2-3 times each.
– Shoulder rolls back and forward. 5 rotation each direction, repeat for 2-3 times.
– Overhead arm stretch: flex your right arm up above your head and reach to the left. Bend your torso until you feel the stretch in your right side; repeat with the left arm. Repeat 5 times for each arm.
– Pec stretch. For this you need a doorway. Step into it and place your forearms on the doorframe. Make sure your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle. Let the weight of your body fall forward slightly so that you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders. Hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat 3 times.
– Torso rotation. Sit on the floor or on a chair. Flex your body to the right and extend your right arm as much as you can. Repeat with the left side. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times on each side.
– Cat – cow. Go to the floor. Put your palms directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Inhale, tuck your pelvis and round out your mid back. Draw your navel toward your spine and drop your head to relax your neck. After 3-5 seconds exhale and return to a neutral spine position. Then turn your face toward the sky and arch your back. Hold for 3-5 seconds. Repeat this sequence 5 times.
– Thoracic extension. Use a chair. Sit straight and then open your upper body to the ceiling. Make sure your lower back and your midback are still pressed against the chair. Flex your arms up for a deeper stretch. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 3 times.
– Elbow butterfly. Place your palms each on the same shoulder. Flex your rams bringing your elbows together to touch. Hold for 5 seconds and release. Then try to extend your arams as uch to the back as you can. Complete 3-5 more times.
After you’re stretched up you can move to building a bit of strength around your back. Here are a few simple exercises to make it:
– Scapular retract. With your arms down by your sides squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
– Wall angles. Stand with your back flat against the wall. Abduct your arms to create a “T” shape against the wall then bend your elbows to create a 90-degree angle. Slowly move your arms up and down to 90 degrees angles ensuring that they stay flat against the wall the whole time. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
– Superman. Lay down on your stomach with your arms flexed above your head. Keep your neck neutral, use your back and glutes to lift your arms and legs concurrently. Pause briefly at the top and return to start. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps.
– Push ups. Start in a high plank. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees, then straighten the arms again. Do as many push ups as you feel comfortable but not less than 5.
Yoga also has many poses for which your back will thank you. The nest ones are:
– downward facing dog (muscles used: hamstrings, deltoids, gluteus maximus, triceps, quadriceps)
– extended triangle (muscles used: latissimus dorsi, internal oblique, gluteus maximus and medius, hamstrings, quadriceps)
– cobra pose (muscles used: hamstrings, gluteus maximus, deltoids, triceps, serratus anterior)
– sphinx pose (muscles used: erector spinae, gluteal muscles, pectoralis major, trapezius, latissimus dorsi)
– locust pose (muscles used: trapezius, erector spinae, gluteus maximus, triceps)
– bridge pose (muscles used: rectus and transverse abdominis, gluteus muscles, erector spinae, hamstrings)
– two knee spinal twist (muscles used: erector spinae, rectus abdominis, trapezius, pectoralis major)
Keep moving, love your back and your back will love you back!