Healthy back

Daily work is a challenge to our musculoskeletal system and especially to our back. This is why the sentence “You must take care of your back” or “You must work in a back-friendly manner” is often heard.

In order to understand which postures and movements are back friendly, it is first necessary to understand how our back is constructed. For this purpose, we have summarized the most important thing about the heart of the back, the spine, in 3 small videos.

Anatomy

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Structure of the spine
Structure of the lumbar spine + intervertebral disc
Disc prolapse –
what is that actually?

With the anatomical basics you can test your knowledge in the next step. In which postures is your intervertebral disc exposed to which pressure situations in relation to standing upright?

Diploma engineer Hans-Joachim Wilke conducted a study with a 46-year-old test person in 1999. He implanted a pressure sensor between the vertebral bodies L4 and L5. The test person now had to take different, everyday body positions. The different pressure situations on the intervertebral disc were recorded and put in relation to standing upright (100%).

In the following task, move the small man on the right to the place in the diagram where you think the red column matches the postures shown. A little tip: the column with 100 represents the upright standing position without additional weight.

Here you will find the solution – but no cheating 😉

LIFT AND CARRY CORRECTLY

Did you assign all body positions to the red columns correctly? What does this mean for your everyday life? Based on this study we can see that body positions in a bent posture significantly increase the pressure on our intervertebral disc in the lumbar spine area, thus increasing the risk of disc injury. We also see that lifting a weight with leg support causes less pressure situations than “lifting with the back”. Furthermore, the intervertebral discs are relieved in a lying and reclined position.

Therefore, it is important to avoid body positions in a bent posture, especially if additional weight is to be moved, and to use the correct lifting technique. There are four simple points that you should consider when lifting a load:

  1. lift the load as close to your body as possible and do not twist your spine
  2. lift the load with your back straight and with support of the legs
  3. when changing direction, rotate the entire body over a step sequence
  4. put down the load evenly with straight backs and with support of the legs

On the other hand, regeneration times, during which we relieve our intervertebral discs, are important so that they can refill with new fluid.

The height of a person decreases on the day on average by 1.7 cm. The reason for this is the high pressure on the intervertebral discs when sitting, standing and walking. This ensures that the fluid is slowly pressed out of the intervertebral discs, causing them to flatten slightly during the course of the day. With 23 intervertebral discs, this can add up to 3 cm. 

This means for a healthy and load-resistant disc there is a magic cure: movement and regeneration. Whenever you change your position, the pressure on your intervertebral discs changes. This means that when you move, you feed your intervertebral disc and thus help to maintain the important function of the disc.

References

  1. Wilke HJ, Neef P, Caimi M, Hoogland T, Claes LE. New in vivo measurements of pressures in the intervertebral disc in daily life. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1999;24(8):755‐762. doi:10.1097/00007632-199904150-00005
  2. Krämer, R.; Matussek, J.; Theodoridis, T. (2013): Bandscheibenbedingte Erkrankungen. Ursachen, Diagnose, Behandlung, Vorbeugung, Begutachtung. 6. Auflage. Stuttgart: Georg Thieme Verlag.