Guard against spinal woes
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Jamaica Moves is an excellent initiative to raise awareness of the need for exercise and a healthy diet to prevent non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. However, there is one neglected area of public education that could go a far way in preventing pain and disability. It is care of the back.
The spine is a marvel of engineering. It provides support, but at the same time allows for bending forward, backward, and from side to side. It also protects the spinal cord while allowing spinal nerves to run from it to other systems of the body. In order to do this, it is made up of many separate bones called vertebrae. Between these are intervertebral discs, which act as cushions preventing them from rubbing against each other, and keeping the spinal nerves from being pinched.
Human beings put extra pressure on the spine by having a bipedal gait. To keep the spine healthy, one should not move in such a way as to damage the discs. Initially, they will repair themselves, but in time they become herniated, causing the vertebrae to move closer together, pinching the nerves.
Incorrect posture when lifting is the most common cause of damage to the discs. One should never bend over and lift; rather, bend the knees and keep the back straight. Nor should one lift and twist, as when lifting a suitcase off the carousel at the airport.
When carrying anything heavy, one should hold it as close to the body as possible.
Exercising the back and abdominal muscles is also important for care of the back. Next time you see somebody lifting incorrectly, have a gentle word with them. You may be able to spare them unnecessary pain and expense in the future.