World of back health 

Get out of the relaxed posture

Chief physician Dr. med Petra Büchin explains why exercise helps to prevent an acute slipped disc.

Dr. med. Petra Büchin
Chief Physician of the Center for Spinal Surgery and Back Therapy at the Karl-Olga Hospital in Stuttgart

Dr. Büchin, how does a slipped disc occur?
Büchin: In the case of a slipped disc, tissue leaks out of a disc in the spine. If it presses on the nerve fibres of the spinal canal, it is painful for those affected. Those affected can often remember an acute pain-inducing movement and then consider it to be the cause of the incident. However, the actual cause is poorly developed upper body and back muscles, which in turn leads to unphysiological incorrect loading of the intervertebral discs. The only way to correct this kind of maldevelopment in the medium to long term is through regular exercise.

Anyone who has suffered a slipped disc is afraid of a recurrence. How do you protect yourself?
Büchin: The motto here is quite clear: Movement, movement, movement! Regular, preferably daily back exercises such as strengthening, stretching and coordination exercises or fascia treatment with fascia rolls must be part of everyday life, just like brushing your teeth - this also applies to people who have not yet suffered a slipped disc. Only if we regularly strain our intervertebral disc segments are they effectively supplied with nutrients.

Stable core muscles in turn keep the spine upright. The small muscles between the vertebral segments are particularly responsible for this. They also ensure coordination and need appropriate training to strengthen them. It is also important to avoid a muscular imbalance. Ultimately, those affected must realize that only they themselves can reduce the risk of a relapse.

How exactly does exercise improve back health?
Büchin: Back exercises are the basis for strengthening the back and core muscles, which contribute significantly to our back health. Regular exercise also keeps the fascia loose and flexible, through which our muscles, bones, tendons, fatty tissue, skin and organs are connected. This prevents massive fatty degeneration of the back muscles, which we often see in MRIs performed on patients with a lack of exercise.

Patients with weak muscles are more likely to develop signs of wear and tear on the spine, as this puts more strain on the bone and ligament structures and the intervertebral discs of the spine than people who regularly perform strenuous activities in their leisure time, everyday life and at work. Stretching exercises should not be forgotten either. Ultimately, anything that keeps us moving is good for our back health.