The spine is a complex structure that provides both mobility and strength. Proper functioning of the neck and back allows for fluid, effortless movement. But, when there is a deformity, injury or disease of the spine, common activities such as turning, bending, or stretching often become painfully out of reach. More than 80% of adults will experience significant back or neck pain at sometime during their life.
Why the Rothman Institute Spine Team?
The Rothman Institute Spine Team annually performs more than 3,000 spine surgeries in the Philadelphia greater metropolitan area. These helpful procedures treat problems resulting from degeneration of the cervical and lumbar discs, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, spinal deformity, tumors, trauma, and instability.
When to Seek a Spinal Evaluation
The spine can be affected by arthritis, degenerative wear and tear problems affecting the joints and disks, as well as a variety of other abnormalities that cause back or neck pain, numbness and weakness. Problems in the low back or lumbar spine can affect the leg and foot, while problems in the cervical spine of the neck can affect the arms and hands.
Modern spinal care is very complex. To determine if surgery is needed, patients should seek out highly trained experts such as the fellowship-trained specialists of the Rothman Institute Spine Team. If you are looking for the best spine surgery Philadelphia doctors can provide, you'll want to come to Rothman.
Anatomy of the Spine
Understanding the fundamental anatomy and function of the spine is key to understanding injuries to and diseases of the spine.
The spine has several special roles in the human body. It:
- Protects the spinal cord (which connects nerves to the brain)
- Provides the support needed to walk upright
- Enables the torso to bend
- Supports the head
Viewed from the side, the spine has a natural "S" curve, which should not to be confused with the abnormal curvature of scoliosis.
The Main Sections of the Spine
- Cervical - commonly referred to as the neck. There are seven cervical vertebrae (doughnut-shaped bones) that connect the skull to the rest of the spine.
- Thoracic - The spine's thoracic section begins at the shoulders and extends down to the end of the rib cage. There are 12 vertebrae in the upper back, with shock-absorbing disks between them. Scoliosis commonly affects the thoracic section of the spine.
- Lumbar - The lumbar section, or lower back, has five vertebrae. These vertebrae, separated by disks, are the largest in the spine. The lumbar section is also a common location for scoliosis to occur.
- Sacrum - There are five vertebrae that join together to form the sacrum, a wedge-shaped part of the spine that rests at the top of the pelvis.
- Coccyx - often referred to as the tailbone, consists of four vertebrae.
- Vertebrae - The spine has 33 doughnut-shaped bones called vertebrae. Each vertebra is assigned a letter and a number that identifies its location in the spine.
- Discs - Between each pair of vertebrae is a spongy cartilage, or disc. Intervertebral discs act as shock-absorbing cushions. Spongy discs are located between the vertebrae.
Tips for a Healthy Spine
Each year back pain affects millions of people in the United States and more specifically, sends thousands of people to the hospital for back surgery in the Philadelphia and New Jersey area. As a result, many people see their quality of life diminish. Hobbies cannot be enjoyed, workdays are missed, and sports and leisure activities hindered.
However, there is good news too! By taking several simple steps now, we can all improve the health of our back and neck, and diminish the chances of developing spine problems later in life.
Our medical team is committed to helping our patients become healthy! As a result, our medical team will not just focus on your spinal condition, but we’ll also suggest steps you can take to improve your spine’s overall health. In addition, we hope that through our work of preventative care and education, we can reduce the annual number of spine surgeries Philadelphia patients need to have.
We invite you to review the following five tips for a healthy spine, and hope that you’ll build them into your daily life. You’ll never regret making these changes!
Tip #1: "Lift light and lift right”
We all put immense stresses on our spine daily. Whether you are reaching into your car to pick up a child, loading grocery bags into your trunk, or digging weeds in your yard, your back endures a daily assault-course. Each time we lift too much, or lift in an awkward way, we risk injury to our spine. To minimize your chances of injury from lifting, follow these easy steps:
- If it seems too heavy, don’t lift it! Get help!
- Do not lift at arms length; always get close to the object.
- When lifting or lowering an object, bend your hips and knees and keep your back straight. Do not hunch over an object, and never lift with straight legs while bending at the waist.
- Never make sharp movements. Lift smoothly!
- Never twist your back when moving an object. Move your feet instead!
Tip #2: Stand tall
Good posture helps your spine! However, poor posture can damage the spine and its associated muscles and ligaments. A hunched stance places abnormal stress on muscles and ligaments, causes backache and fatigue, and can even cause the spine to become fixed in an abnormal position.
So, if you want your spine to feel healthier, and you want to look better, follow these two simple pointers for good posture:
- Stand straight. Keep your shoulder blades pulled back and down, and your knees and back straight.
- Head up. Hold your head up straight, not tilting in any direction. As a general guideline, your earlobes should be above the middle of your shoulders.
Tip # 3: Work smart
Many of us spend hours each day working at a computer terminal. Poorly designed workspaces can wreak havoc on your back and neck. If you’re ending your days at work with headaches or backache, check the following guidelines for a "back healthy" work environment.
- Are you sitting comfortably? Your chair should enable you to have a "neutral posture", i.e. no part of your anatomy is in an unusual or uncomfortable position when working at your desk or monitor. Make sure that your back is well supported by your chair, and that the chair is not pinching the back of your knees. Your feet should rest firmly on the floor, with the angle behind your knees greater than 90 degrees. Your forearms should angle down slightly to rest on the keyboard, while your upper arms should be able to rest close to your body in a relaxed manner.
- Eyes forward. Your computer monitor must be positioned so that it is directly in front of you, and does not require you to bend your head forward, backward or sideways to view it comfortably.
- Talk straight. Do not cradle your phone between your ear and shoulder. Such posture is almost guaranteed to cause neck pain and eventual problems. Either sit straight and hold your phone to your ear, or purchase one of the various hands-free phone options.
Tip # 4: Start moving
Exercise is critical for keeping your back healthy. Even a few minutes of exercise each day can greatly help your back and neck. Under the direction of a physician or exercise expert, build an exercise routine that combines stretching, strengthening and aerobic activity. Our medical staff is always pleased to help patients develop safe and worthwhile exercise plans.
Tip # 5: And so to bed
Most people spend one third of their life in bed. A bad mattress, or an unhealthy sleeping position can be a significant cause of back pain. Here are some guidelines for sleeping in a way that will help your back and neck:
- To maintain proper posture, sleep on your side with your knees bent and a pillow placed between your knees. However, if you must sleep on your back, place a pillow under your knees, to help maintain the natural curves of your spine. Sleeping on your front with your head turned to one side, or sleeping with a large pillow should be avoided.
- Make sure your mattress supports your body so that the natural spine alignment is maintained. Soft beds provide insufficient support, while overly firm beds can push your body into stressful positions.
- Turn your mattress regularly to maintain even wear, and to provide consistent support.
While these tips are only a small selection of those that our staff provide our patients, they are a great foundation upon which patients can develop a healthy back and neck. Should you find that you do require further medical treatment and you are looking for the best back surgery Philadelphia physicians can offer you, then Rothman Institute is the place for you!
D. Greg Anderson, M.D.
Michael J. Gratch, M.D.
Alan S. Hilibrand, M.D.
Victor Hsu, M.D.
Christopher Kepler, M.D., MBA
Mark F. Kurd, M.D.
Guy A. Lee, M.D.
Kris E. Radcliff, M.D.
Jeffrey A. Rihn, M.D.
Gregory D. Schroeder, M.D.
Alexander R. Vaccaro, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., President
Barrett I. Woods, M.D.