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Top Spine Care Tips from an Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

We don’t always think about our spine, but good spinal health is important. Back pain can come from many different sources: discs, joints, fractures, or even just the effects of everyday life. Most people have some type of back pain at some point in their lives. I tell my patients that the majority of back pain happens… and then goes away. Just because you have back pain doesn’t mean you will face a life of problems – in fact, most can be managed non-operatively with life changes, modifications or physical therapy.

Dialing back to get ahead

Traditionally, spine physicians encouraged bed rest when patients experienced back pain and related symptoms. In the modern age, we know that type of treatment can exacerbate pain. Now, it’s usually best to take it easy for a few days to rest the joints in your back to help you get through the acute phase of pain. After a few days it’s helpful to begin to engage and move your back muscles and gradually get back to the activities you like to do. Keeping your back moving and healthy will help you get past the back pain much faster. By working with your doctor on a personalized treatment plan you can focus on ways to keep you active to prevent further episodes of back pain.

One of the most effective ways to prevent pain is exercise, including strengthening your back and its muscles. There are many different ways to work on back strength, but swimming is one of the best things you can do for your back because it works the muscles with the resistance of the water, meaning it is non-impact. Staying healthy and staying fit will help preserve the back muscles, strengthen the spine, help with alignment and help you stay out of our office!

The center of it all: your core

Besides back strength it’s crucial to have a strong core. Your core is more than just six-pack abdominals. The core muscle wraps all the way around the trunk of your body and includes the abs, side or oblique muscles, and muscles in your back. The bones of your spine hold up your core, from the base of your skull down to your hips and pelvis. These are the muscles that help you stand upright and walk through the world. Without them you’d fall forward! Your abs do not support your bodyweight the way your entire core does. The entirety of core muscles can be tough to train, which is why many people tend to focus on the abdomen – it’s the ‘easy’ way to work it but certainly not the most effective.

The professionals have your back

At the OrthoCarolina Spine Center we see patients with back, spine and neck problems; with arm pain and coordination issues and more. Where I work we offer both surgical and nonsurgical treatment for spine conditions. We have surgeons, physiatrists who do non-operative spinal care, physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors, and physician assistants who split their time between operative and non-operative to help manage all types of care.

We work together in our clinic as a team to come up with individual plans of care for patients. The majority of those we see usually don’t have surgery. Most issues tend to get better with non-operative options: therapy, injections, medications and other treatments. Sometimes it’s just the reassurance that the back pain is normal and is going to get better, and helping guide you through care to get back to doing the things you love.

Matt Chapman, MD is a fellowship-trained spine surgeon with the OrthoCarolina Spine Center. Dr. Chapman’s clinical practice centers on pediatric and adult spinal deformities and scoliosis. He specializes in spinal diseases of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine.

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