OH! MY ACHING BACK: The back is made up of four major parts: the spine, nerves, muscles, and the spinal cord. There are thirty-three bones in the spine and thirty-one pairs of nerves branching out from the spinal cord. All of them must work together. If they don't, you could end up with anything from a strain to a ruptured disk, fractured vertebrae, and/or a debilitating disease like arthritis. Back injuries can be painful, disabling, paralyzing, and sometimes even fatal. To help prevent a back injury you should exercise, practice good posture, eat the right foods, and watch your weight. Check with your doctor for muscle strengthening exercises for the back. Other things you can do to prevent back injuries include using work-saving devices -- hand trucks, forklifts, wheelbarrows, and dollies can assist you. When you have an object to lift that is too heavy or bulky get help! Ask a co-worker for his or her assistance. Remember, two backs are stronger than one.' Check out the object to be lifted. Think about how you are going to grasp the load and make sure there is a clear path of travel so you won't stumble. Before you lift, stand close to the object, bend down at the knees and straddle it, get a good grip, and lift with your legs while keeping your back straight. The secret is to let your legs do the work. Remember: It doesn't have to be a heavy load -- even a small, very light object lifted incorrectly can trigger a back injury.
THE SPINE: The spinal column is the centerpiece of the back. It supports the upper body's weight and houses the spinal cord, which carries the signals that control movement and convey sensations. The spinal column is made up of more than 30 bones, called vertebrae, stacked on top of one another. Each contains a round hole that creates a channel. Small nerves, called roots, enter and emerge from the spinal cord through spaces between the vertebrae. The spaces are protected by round, spongy pads of cartilage called intervertebral discs; these enable some flexibility in the lower back and serve as shock absorbers to cushion the bones as the body moves. The entire network is held in place by bands of tissue called ligaments and tendons. Damage to these disks and the spinal cord can occur because of impacts like car accidents, disease, or over time as a result of general wear and tear.