Why is Back Care so Important? - Interview with Chiropractic Intern

We spoke to Chiropractic Intern at the AECC University College Chiropractic Clinic, Sam Adams, to find out more about why back care is so important.

Sam tells us more about spinal health, how we put stress on our backs in our daily lives, and how we can protect our backs both at work and at home. Sam also shares what makes him proud to study and work at AECC University College.

The importance of back care

“The back and the spine are the epicentre of messages from your body to your brain: they are the control pathway between the two. It’s like having a messenger between the two, but if that messenger isn’t working correctly then it can cause complications.

“Looking after your spine is the most important way to protect this pathway. The spinal cord sits within the spine and therefore anything that happens to your spine may affect it. Looking after your spine is important to keeping your nervous system in correct function.

“When you hurt your hand, or say break a finger, you have another hand and other fingers to use instead. We’ve only got one spine, so we have to look after it.

“The spine is the epicentre of health, movement, wellbeing, and happiness. People that suffer with severe or acute back pain also often suffer with depression caused by this pain.”  

Preventing back pain

“We go about our daily lives and our workdays and we don’t realise the stress we are putting on our bodies.

“I’m really interested in what we can do to prevent back pain – it’s one of the main reasons that I wanted to study Chiropractic here. People don’t realise this, but back pain is actually a progressive process that’s been coming on over a period of time.

“There are things that you can do to prevent back pain. For example, taking the time each day to do little things like correcting your posture by putting your shoulders back and down, tucking your chin in slightly. That way, you’re making your body aware of maintaining good posture.

“It’s very common for people to sit with their chin sticking out, which actually puts stress on the muscles at the back of the neck. These muscles then become very tense as a result and the muscles at the front of the neck become very loose and inactive. It’s about maintaining a balance in the body.

“Taking the time to correct your posture is very important and so is taking the time to exercise. Health is movement and movement is life. You’ve got to continually move and keep stretching and exercising your body. That helps with your mental health too.”

Physical jobs

“Key workers like nurses work long hours. Setting the foundations up for a shift is key. At the start of a shift, setting yourself up and making sure you’re prepared to look after yourself as well as your patients.

“For nurses, lifting is a really key point: learning how to lift correctly, especially heavy patients and equipment. If you’re lifting without good posture, it can affect your back.  Breathing techniques can be really helpful too.

“We find we see dentists with back pain too; they suffer because they are leaning over the chair to examine patients. Dentistry students are now taught a lot more about posture and looking after their backs at the very start of their training and that’s likely to help them in their careers

Learning to lift correctly

“Being taught how to lift correctly, before you start lifting heavy weights is very important. A lot of people lift before they have been taught how to. Correct form allows your spine to move in a certain way that prevents damage to the integral structures within the spine that may lead to the pathological causes of your pain.

“For example, if you’re lifting with a straight neutral spine, then the discs between your spinal segments aren’t going to become injured to the point where they may press on nerves.

“If you’ve got poor form, for example you might be buckling your back, you’re more likely to put extra pressure on certain parts of the disc that are going to break down and start irritating nerves. That’s where the pain comes from.

“Setting up your lifting technique correctly is really important in all aspects of life. We’re always picking things up in life as most things are below shoulder height.”

Tips for working from home

“There’s a stretch called Brugger’s Relief Position, where you basically open your chest wider and tuck in your chin. That is really key in itself and the main technique I’d recommend.

“The other thing that I would suggest is abdominal breathing. It’s commonly practised in yoga. It’s great for relieving stress. When you’re stressed, it’s common to start using the muscles around your neck to breathe, rather than your abdominal muscles. These muscles then become tense and they can give you pain around your arms, neck and head.

“A solution to this is to encourage people to relax the muscles around their neck and start using their diaphragm correctly. You can practice doing this by lying on the floor and putting a mildly heavy object, for example a book, on your abdomen. As you breathe in, try to push that book upwards and allow it to drop back down when you breathe out. Not only does this use the right muscles to breathe, it also allows you to breathe more deeply and fully oxygenate your lungs.

“Another really good exercise for people with back pain is something called abdominal bracing. When you tense your abdominal muscles, you increase abdominal pressure. This can stabilise your back, rather than relying on the ligaments that are surrounding the spine. That’s really key when you’re lifting heavy objects.

“The way to practice an abdominal brace is to take half a breath in whilst pushing two fingers into your abdomen. You’ll feel your muscles tense up as you’re pushing them.”

Proud to be AECC

“One of the real positives of the AECC University College Chiropractic Clinic is the package of care that we offer. From the functional side of things – the short-term relief of manipulation – to the broad range of people that you have looking at each case.

“Each case we see is assessed and managed by the student under supervision of the clinical tutors. Being able to discuss a case with tutors really helps me learn and makes sure the patient is getting the best possible care for their problem.

“I love it here. AECC University College has done an amazing job in providing a Chiropractic course where you feel you have learned so much when you come to leave. The course is fascinating and it’s amazing how much we cover.”

You can find out more about the Master of Chiropractic course here.  

Above: Sam in the Chiropractic Clinic demonstrating technique.