Lifting With Your Back

Lifting With Your Back

You’ve heard it so many times before – lift with your knees not your back! Proper back behavior seems almost ingrained in my psyche, having spent plenty of time lifting heavy bits of wood and construction materials as a child with my dad on Sanford Family constructions projects, and more recently in working as a cinematographer, camera assistant and gaffer in Montreal. In this career there is a lot of lifting, bending and twisting that goes on. And it seems I’ve done some of these wrong!

Just over 3 weeks ago, I was woken up by agonizing pain as my back seized up for what seemed to me no apparent reason. Many advils and a physio visit later, it was determined that I had what we call a slipped disk, or more technically, a herniated disk. It hurts! And if you’re like me and your foot and leg start to go numb, it can also be quite frightening. I wanted to just post a little diagram and some info just, you know, so you know.

Straight to you from Wikipedia:

A Spinal disc herniation (prolapsus disci intervertebralis) is a medical condition affecting the spine due to trauma, lifting injuries, or idiopathic (unknown) causes, in which a tear in the outer, fibrous ring of an intervertebral disc allows the soft, central portion to bulge out beyond the damaged outer rings. This tear in the disc ring may result in the release of inflammatory chemical mediators which may directly cause severe pain, even in the absence of nerve root compression.

Some of the terms commonly used to describe the condition include herniated disc, prolapsed disc, ruptured disc and slipped disc. Other phenomena that are closely related include disc protrusion, pinched nerves, sciatica, disc disease, disc degeneration, degenerative disc disease, and black disc.

The popular term slipped disc is a misnomer, however, as the intervertebral discs are tightly sandwiched between two vertebrae to which they are attached, and cannot actually “slip”, or even get out of place. The disc is actually grown together with the adjacent vertebrae and can be squeezed, stretched and twisted, all in small degrees. It can also be torn, ripped, herniated, and degenerated, but it cannot “slip”.

Symptoms of a herniated disc can vary depending on the location of the herniation and the types of soft tissue that become involved. They can range from little or no pain if the disc is the only tissue injured, to severe and unrelenting neck or lower back pain that will radiate into the regions served by affected nerve roots that are irritated or impinged by the herniated material. Often, herniated discs are not diagnosed immediately, as the patients come with undefined pains in the thighs, knees, or feet. Other symptoms may include sensory changes such as numbness, tingling, muscular weakness, paralysis, paresthesia, and affection of reflexes. If the herniated disc is in the lumbar region the patient may also experience sciatica due to irritation of one of the nerve roots of the sciatic nerve.

Symptoms of a herniated disc can vary depending on the location of the herniation and the types of soft tissue that become involved. They can range from little or no pain if the disc is the only tissue injured, to severe and unrelenting neck or lower back pain that will radiate into the regions served by affected nerve roots that are irritated or impinged by the herniated material. Often, herniated discs are not diagnosed immediately, as the patients come with undefined pains in the thighs, knees, or feet. Other symptoms may include sensory changes such as numbness, tingling, muscular weakness, paralysis, paresthesia, and affection of reflexes. If the herniated disc is in the lumbar region the patient may also experience sciatica due to irritation of one of the nerve roots of the sciatic nerve. Unlike a pulsating pain or pain that comes and goes, which can be caused by muscle spasm, pain from a herniated disc is usually continuous or at least is continuous in a specific position of the body.

Disc herniations can result from general wear and tear, such as when performing jobs that require constant sitting and squatting. However, herniations often result from jobs that require lifting. Minor back pain and chronic back tiredness are indicators of general wear and tear that make one susceptible to herniation on the occurrence of a traumatic event, such as bending to pick up a pencil or falling. When the spine is straight, such as in standing or lying down, internal pressure is equalized on all parts of the discs. While sitting or bending to lift, internal pressure on a disc can move from 17 psi (lying down) to over 300 psi (lifting with a rounded back).

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Now you know.

One thing I can say about a back injury is that you can’t force recovery. It takes as many weeks as it takes and you should work hard not to push yourself or to go back to your regular routine too early, as you will only re-injure yourself and possibly cause more long-term damage. While it sucks to be stuck at home (and not able to play with my new shooting kit I’ve just invested in!) it sure does give you a lot of time to catch up on the things you’ve been meaning to do but just haven’t had the time. This blog, for example. Or check out my new website (yay)! Or doing taxes (boo).

Until next time…