Friday, January 22, 2010

Putting the Sway into the Back

There is something known among my family as "The Bruns Butt Gene".   It reminds me of the song Baby Got Back.  My butt sticks out.  So what?  It looks good in some jeans.  Fabulous, huh?  It makes me wonder if the prominent buttocks among some of my fellow family members is the result of Lordosis aka Sway Back.

Why am I going on about this?  Well, it is the bane of my existence.  It is my arch nemesis.  It is the cause of my chronic back pain.

The image on the left is sway back.  The image on the right portrays a normal spine.

How do you know if you have lordosis?   Lie down on your back.  If there is a gap between your lower back and the floor, then you may have sway back.

Did you know that the average active person bends over ~ 400 times a day for basic things like picking up dog toys, looking into the fridge, loading the dishwasher, doing laundry, and opening the oven.  Add in a baby then you are bending over the crib, bending to pick her up, bending over the carrier, loading the stoller, etc.  That is a lot of bending.  Even the squat-bend, which is the proper way to lift objects causes strain on the lower back.   Thank you nursing school for teaching us to lift patients and objects properly.

For many there are no symptoms and for others there is chronic back pain, numbness, &/or tingling.  I typically do not have symptoms on a daily basis, but rather acute flare-ups of pain.  The pain often happens when I do something mundane such as picking up a pair of pants off the floor or just waking up with it.  When this happens, I cannot walk and I cannot sit without assistance. Using the bathroom without a handicap bar near by can be problematic.  Sometimes vacuuming aggravates it.

Even with proper body mechanics I can still easily throw out my back.  This last episode has been especially bad.  Many of you have asked to see how I am doing and I appreciate your concern.  I am significantly better.  I still have pain all the time, but it is bearable and I am able to perform most of my activities of daily living.  Andrew still helps me with the laundry, loading Ellie into the car, and cleaning parts of the house.  The house is clean from waist level on up :o)  We have modified areas of the house so that I do not need to bend over--yes, I know the bouncy chair is not supposed to be on the kitchen table and the playmate on the bed.  She is supervised, you know.

For all of you who have sway back there is treatment.  With a compressed disk, the watery fluid is gone. You will never get that fluid back.  That being said, you can get your spine realigned and then strengthen and stretch the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the lower back and coccyx area to stabilize the spine in a more normal position.   There are stretches/PT exercises for that.  Yoga and pilates are also great because it strengthens and stretches those core muscles.  However, avoid ones that cause you to bend back such as the Camel or Back Bend as they can worsen the condition or even cause lordosis.  You may be surprised what muscles you will be stretching--it isn't just the back, but also the abdominal muscles, the hip flexors, hamstrings and muscles in the buttocks.

Temporary relief: muscle relaxers and pain killers.  This does not FIX the problem.  It just gets you through the flare up.

You must sit properly.  For all of you who use a computer I am talking to you.  Use a chair with good lumbar support.  Have both feet firmly planted on the floor.  Have your computer positioned straight ahead, but close enough that you can still  reach out and touch the monitor. The top of the computer screen should be just below eye level.  Use a pad to support your wrists.

When standing for long periods, have one foot planted on a step ~4-8 inches high and alternate feet.

I also recently learned that sleeping on your stomach and shorten the muscles that support your lower back.  It also caused the neck to be on one side or another.  Therefore it is recommended that you sleep on your back with a neck role or on your side.  Andrew, please sleep on your side to minimize snoring and I shall try to do the same :-)

Cute Baby Pic:

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