For the past year I’ve been on a journey to figure out the root issues of my knee pain, and I’ve learned a lot along the way! One of the things I learned was that I have a straight spine…and that’s not too uncommon. So, what does that mean exactly? I figured if I want to know, I better to go to an expert. So I sat down (literally) to have a chat with John Roberts, MD
, Medical Director of The Christ Hospital Joint & Spine Center
My first question was…what the heck does having a straight spine mean? Dr. Roberts says “It is an almost immediate signal that you’re very tight from a muscular standpoint. If you have tightness involved in your hamstrings, that’s transferred to the back, and it’s manifesting by the flattening of the lumbar curve. And basically what that means is that with hamstrings tight, your back rather flat, that you’re really prone to back injury.”
But, what’s the solution? Dr. Roberts says “You’re sitting all day long, that is very unhealthy for your discs. I ask patients instead of slumping like you do in your car, to sit upright. Because if you sit with good posture, it allows the core muscles to do what they should be doing and that is supporting your back.”
This was kind of eye-opening to me. One, that just sitting at work and driving was one of the factors of straightening my back. But even more than that, that my hamstrings were a major factor…and that sitting all day tightened my hamstrings, which pulls on my back.
I mean, how much can we all relate to that? Sitting most of the day at work or in the car or at home. And that the solution is to, as Dr. Roberts put it, aggressively stretch your hamstrings. I wouldn’t have thought that stretching my legs out would impact my lower back so much.
Some of the other key preventative factors Dr. Roberts brought up was to not smoke, and live a healthy lifestyle. Now that’s speaking my language! Having a healthy diet and exercise routine will really cut down the risks of a spine event.
I also asked Dr. Roberts about how you know when it’s the right time to see a doctor; when you can’t take care of the problem on your own. He says, “If you have pain that’s persistent, that’s intolerable, absolutely you should see someone. If you’ve had a traumatic event, a fall off a ladder, something like that and the pain is intense you should see someone. If you’re having any amount of pain going down the legs, nerve pain, weakness; that's reason for follow up. Probably the most worrisome thing that we see is if someone comes in and says ‘I’ve lost control over my bladder’; that can be a surgical emergency.”
The takeaways here I think are this: Live a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, watch your posture, stretch your body, and if you’re in pain…see a doctor.
Now I’m off to “aggressively stretch” my hamstrings to correct my back! :) Learn how experts like Dr. Roberts can help you at The Christ Hospital Joint & Spine Center.