From the age of around 20, discs begin to age. They dry out because they lose liquid and therefore become more brittle. With drying out comes a diminished capacity to absorb and distribute pressure. Smoking speeds up this process. When discs are exposed to excessive loads injury can result. For instance, injuries can occur in connective tissue rings and cause pain. This can happen after a single incident of overloading or a long period of lesser repeated loads. In principle each forward bending movement means an increased load on the discs which can cause injury.
By relieving the back, we can relieve the pain and eventually the problem subsides. In the short term all lifting must be avoided so that the injury gets a chance to heal. In the longer term work routines can be changed so that the harmful working movements can be eliminated. In addition we can increase the body’s tolerance by training to enhance strength, coordination and movement.
Nerve Under Pressure
When we bend forwards the front edges of the vertebrae get closer to each other and press the inside of the disc back. The disk then bends outwards. The ligaments and nerve endings are put under pressure and can hurt: it is this pressure that the nerves send on in the form of pain, loss of feeling or weakness in the muscles.
Depending on which nerve in the back is exposed, pain is felt in different places. Nerves which start in the lumbar vertebrae send pain down the leg and to the foot, while nerves with roots in the neck can cause pain and weakness in the arms and hands. Most people recover after a period of rest and by avoiding the movements which caused the problems.