Back Pain, Understand the Basics

Understanding the back

The back (Spine) is composed of two Important structures:

  1. The Vertebrae: The bony parts of the spine. They support and protect the spinal cord.
  2. The Intervertebral disk: This is a large round ligament that connects the vertebrae. It is responsible for the shock absorption properties of the spine.

Curves of the Spine

When in good alignment, the back (spine) normally forms four natural curves, i.e. cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral.
To prevent pain and discomfort, these natural curves need to be maintained in good alignment.

Common Causes of Back Pain

In our day to day activities, it’s important to remember and therefore addresses the following likely causes of back pain

  • Strained muscles or ligaments
  • Lifting something improperly
  • Lifting too heavy objects
  • A muscle spasm.
  • Bending awkwardly
  • Pushing or pulling too much
  • Carrying very heavy load
  • Standing for long periods
  • Bending down for long periods
  • Abrupt twisting of the back
  • Sitting in a poor position for long
  • Continuous driving for a long time

Medical Causes

In addition to the above certain medical conditions either predispose or cause back pain. These include;

  • Arthritis
  • Abnormal curvature of the spine
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infection of the spine
  • Ruptured disks
  • Bulging disks

Tips to prevent back pain.

Our bodies are designed to move, bend and flex. The prolonged period of being in the same position or posture leads to back discomfort and pain. The following tips help in reduction of the discomfort or pain

a) Sitting Posture

The sitting position should not allow any strain to the back. Instead, the natural spine curves should be maintained. Below are the “dos” and “don’ts” when seated.

b) Standing

Likewise, when standing, the back should be in good alignment. See below:

c) Lifting

Get a firm grasp of the object before beginning the lift. Begin slowly lifting with your LEGS by straightening them. Avoid twisting your body during this step.

Once the lift is complete, keep the object as close to the body as possible. If you must turn while carrying the load, turn using your feet as opposed to twisting the back.

Remember, keep your back as vertical as possible and bend at the knees.


Pushing is generally preferable to pulling. Pushing allows someone to use large muscle groups and apply more force to the load. Pulling carries a greater risk of strain and injury.

d) Sitting in the office

If you work in an office setting, then following posture is helpful when seated;

  • Feet firmly on the floor, with the angle between thighs and lower legs at 90 or more
  • Maintain relaxed yet upright position
  • Use the entire seat and backrest to support your body
  • Support forearms at the arm support so shoulders can relax
  • Provide back cushions for additional lumbar support

In addition to the above, remember to;

  • Incorporate brief tasks to stretch away from the computer.
  • Stretch while sitting if a job requires long hours of concentration for instance while in a meeting.
  • Take frequent short breaks rather than fewer, longer breaks.
  • Exercise regularly. A brisk walk is a good way to start.

When all the above is observed it’s still important to listen to your body. Feeling discomfort or pain is an indication that something is wrong! Heed the signs! Become aware of mounting stresses, aches, and pains.

To nurture and reinforce good posture habits, always sit up properly, stand up straight, and set yourself up for a good night sleep. If necessary, find someone who will remind you of these healthy values.


Medical Advisory Team