All ages, genders, races, and walks of life have the potential to experience this unpleasant condition, and even “young, healthy” individuals are not immune to it. If you are reading this article, chances are you’ve already experienced ‘throwing out’ your back, or you at least will at some point. So, let’s take a look at what we mean when we say “throw out your back” and some good practices to follow when it happens!
Where Did I Throw My Back?
Now, let’s clear the air–there is necessarily no throwing to be done when you throw your back out. While it may seem obvious this is just a metaphor, it is important to understand that “throwing” your back out can happen to you even without any physical strain that the term might imply.
Walking in the park, stepping out of the shower, or even getting out of bed all have potential to be scenarios where you feel some unpleasant sensations coming from your posterior region. Now, the most likely case of a thrown back does come from physical exertion, which is why it’s normal for people healthy enough to exert themselves to the point of experiencing this condition. However, chronic stress over time from normal activities like walking can even be enough to trigger an episode.
But what exactly is happening when you experience this lower back pain, and how does it present itself?
Anatomy of Back Pain
The back is foundationally made up of a very important structure known as the spine. This structure can be thought of as having two parts and two functions, the spinal cord and the spine itself.
The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system and is foundational to life itself, housing very important processes that allow us to move, breathe and live. The spine represents the bony exterior that connects to almost all of the body in support and function.
This area of the body undergoes tremendous amounts of stress at all times, even when at rest. The body’s weight is always pushing down on the spine, which is made up of thirty-three bones called the vertebrae.
These bones form a hollow tube that protects the precious spinal cord inside, and between these bones are specialized structures called vertebral disks.
Vertebral disks are a crucially important part of the back as they provide cushioning between vertebrae and allow your back to experience stress. The impact from walking, jumping, playing sports, or even sitting at a desk is mitigated by the support of the vertebral disk that helps keep your spine functioning.
What Your Pain Could Be
The truth is, when you do throw your back out, any number of things might actually be going on. The term broadly relates to everything from a minor strain all the way to a serious incident that may require surgery.
While these are not the only reasons for your back being thrown out, these are definitely some of the most common causes:
- Muscle spasm
- Pulled or strained muscle
- Herniated disk
These causes have a variety of symptoms, from the minorly annoying to feeling like you can’t move at all! Because your back is so heavily relied upon literally every day of your life, there is a good chance that the back pain you experience is due to normal wear and tear. Because your back is so heavily used, you can follow some good ground rules to try and minimize the chances of experiencing lower back pain.
How to Help Avoid Throwing Out Your Back
Here are some things to keep in mind that will help you avoid back pain!
- Awareness. This may seem oddly general and not like a real strategy at all, but it has to be the starting point of all your strategizing. Your body is a temple built from the ground up to serve your daily needs and purposes. That being said, we can often think of it as less of a temple and more like the used car we bought to take to work so we wouldn’t put miles on our ‘nice’ car. You can’t treat your body like this and expect it to not start breaking down.Learning how to begin to notice the level of activity you are at or any warning signs you may be getting is a big step towards keeping yourself clear of back pain.
- If there was a number one reason to practice awareness, it would probably be to gauge how often and how deeply you need to be stretching. Stretching is a vital part of your physical experience and doesn’t just apply to working out. Stretching before an evening walk with your dog is just as important as stretching after a strenuous morning run while training for a race.Your body will keep tension in its muscles that can translate into a strain or a spasm over time, and stretching is the number one way to avoid this discomfort.
- This is a key step in maintaining healthy muscles as a lack of hydration can lead to many problems. Not hydrating properly can cause your muscles to get stressed out and make it harder for you to stretch out or relax.Also, lack of hydration, if taken to an extreme, can cause you to be more tired and thus less likely to make good decisions. Drink your water and your electrolytes – even your back muscles will thank you!
What To Do When You Have Back Pain
So now that we’ve covered what back pain is and you have some good ideas for common practices to help keep it minimized or at bay – let’s talk about what happens when you actually throw out your back!
Throwing out your back can be scary! It can either be something small and hard to notice that gets gradually worse, or it can feel like your world is ending and cause you to fall over where you stand from sheer pain. Regardless of what level of pain you’re experiencing, here are some good things to practice as soon as you become aware of it:
- This is number one! Stop whatever you are doing and just take a chill pill. Pump the brakes and figure out what is happening. Even if the pain you feel is minor and not “alarming,” you still need to take a moment to assess the situation as back pain that starts off small always has the potential to grow.
- Don’t panic. This may seem odd if you’re only experiencing a slight discomfort that is enough to cross the threshold of “alarm,” but this step is an important step. For more dramatic instances, say when you experience a pain that temporarily immobilizes you, the temptation to panic is going to be real.Stress on top of stress, however, doesn’t do anyone any good. Even if you are dealing with a serious injury that could need medical attention, trying to remain calm and make clear decisions will go the distance for you in the end.
- Hot ‘n’ Cold. Applying heat and ice to the affected area is a good move when dealing with a painful back condition. This is thought to help not only alleviate the pain but reduce swelling. The team at Hempvana has worked hard to create a reliable ice patch pad that helps to reduce swelling and bring immediate relief to your thrown back and is a great option to look into.
- Stretch. This may seem counterintuitive and should only be done to a level that you are able without strain, but sometimes taking a break and just stretching out the affected area makes a world of difference. This is going to be accomplishable at varying levels depending on the severity of your back pain.
How to Know When You Need a Doctor
If you are feeling a certain level of insecurity or anxiety over a perceived back issue, then, by all means, consulate medical professionals at your earliest convenience. Often, the pain from minor back strain can go away on its own, especially when following the steps we’ve outlined here; however, pain that persists for days or is unbearable should be looked into, and you should seek advice from your doctor.