BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK — Back injuries are ubiquitous, especially during the wintertime. Whether you’re shoveling heavy snow or sleeping in a ball to keep warm or slipping on the ice, there’s plenty of ways to get hurt. Sometimes a simple sneeze can send a sore back into debilitating spasm.
Strains, sprains, a tweak, herniated disks, fractured vertebrae … what a mess. It’s enough to make you never want to leave the comfort of your couch again.
Dr. Christopher Bath, a graduate of New York Chiropractic College, has been a chiropractor for the past two and a half years at Proactive Chiropractic, which is located at 1539 Crescent Road. His tips will straighten you out:
To prevent injury from occurring
Watch your footwork: Many people hurt themselves by bending and then twisting. Did you cringe just thinking about that? It’s important when lifting something to keep your feet close to body,” Bath said. “People tend, when moving objects, to keep them too far out.”
Get physical: Exercise is important for a couple of reasons. “Excess weight changes your center of gravity and ends up putting more of a load on the spine and every time you have more load on the spine,” Bath said, “that’s when things like osteoarthritis and inflammation happen, ultimately that causes lower back pain. Exercise is also anti-inflammatory. Sitting around and hoping it will go away won’t work.”
Prim and proper: When you’re stuck sitting at a desk all day long, it can be difficult to maintain good posture. The key is to make a conscious effort to sit straight. “Anytime that you’re not engaging the stability muscles of your spine, there’s compensation patterns; when those compensations occur, there’s a group of muscles that are overworking and any time a muscle has to overwork there’s going to be small micro-tears in the muscle fibers,” Bath said. “When that happens, the body naturally produces scar tissue, and the more you continue to use that muscle, you build more and more scar tissue which reduces blood flow and causes muscle tension and pain.”
If you’ve already hurt your back
Ice ice baby: Even thought the last thing we want is to feel even colder this winter, icing your injured areas will make all the difference. “We are very big on ice, especially if it’s an acute injury,” Bath said. “It will decrease inflammation.”
It’s not about the mattress: Lots of people want to blame a mattress on their constant lower backache pain, but usually it’s your sleeping position that’s to blame. “They are oftentimes sleeping on their stomach, which affects the joints in your lower back,” Bath said. “When that area is irritated, sleeping on your side with your knees slightly bent will take away a lot of that pressure on your back.”
Do your homework: It’s essential to be active about your health. “This office served over 11,000 patients last year and almost all of those walked away with no pain,” Bath said. “And they knew what they needed to do at home to continue to feel great.” There are different exercises for various ailments.
Jog before you sprint: “Too many patients want to jump into the bigger exercises — taking on the larger muscle groups before the smaller ones,” Bath said. “You’re likely to overuse muscles and make the problem worse.”