Back Pain Demystified: Causes & Prevention

Available for Interviews: Dr. Tammy Penhollow

Dr. Tammy Penhollow is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, specializing in anesthesiology, pain management, and regenerative medicine. Having over 20 years of experience has helped her to cultivate a passion for regenerative medicine and holistic healing. Dr. Penhollow practices at Precision Regenerative Medicine in the greater Phoenix area.

What Dr. Tammy Penhollow can say in an interview:

Back pain affects up to 80% of all people at some point in their life and is one of the leading causes of missed work days and even missed school days. During the COVID-19 pandemic millions of people have transitioned to working from home (or not working at all). Indoor and outdoor activities have changed, and many people are doing new things or doing more of things they used to do, often without the right tools.

Activities That Can Cause Back Pain

  1. Working from home, even if you have a home office, requires modifications. Often the ergonomics are not ideal at home with chair and desk height, posture when working on the couch or at a kitchen island, and even monitor height; all of these need to be taken into consideration with increased head and neck flexion creating neck strain, slouching posture putting pressure on the lower back, and elevated arms in relation to the desk height putting strain on the middle back.  
  2. Activities have changed with an increase in outdoor activities including bike riding, gardening, and walking. Along with this some people are complaining of back pain. Several possible causes include improper lifting and twisting techniques—plants, bags of soil, pots that can result in an acute strain; improper shoes for the activity—wearing sandals or old sneakers without adequate arch support or protection against repetitive pronation or supination (the rolling in or outward of the foot during the walking motion); doing too much, too soon, and without proper warm up, stretching, the activity, followed by cooldown stretching.  
  3. Indoor activities can also result in back pain as a result of improper mechanics and posture. If the kitchen counter is too high or too low, it amplifies the strain of any mechanics of stirring batters and kneading dough. Prolonged standing on a hard surface in shoes without good support or in bare feet can also cause back pain.  
  4. Conversely, others have become much more inactive—not able to go to the gym, not working and walking to and from in activities of daily living outside the home. That combined with stress eating, has resulted in weight gain and decreased fitness in some people.   

The key to back pain is prevention

  • Maintaining good posture, and more importantly strong core muscles goes a long way in preventing strain on the back and neck. Weak abdominal muscles exaggerate the natural normal curve of the lower back and create strain and pain. A simple but powerful exercise most people can do that strengthens the entire core is the forearm plank (not the typical push up plank which can create strain on the shoulders). 
  • Wearing supportive shoes with good arch supports and correction of any pronation or supination. Change the shoes when you start to feel the support getting weaker. Wear the right shoes for the activity.
  • Maintain a normal weight. Even ten extra pounds above ideal body weight can put strain on the muscles, vertebrae and joints of the spine (as well as of the ankles, hips, and knees, and that pain can translate up into the spine). Extra weight is more stress on the spinal column which is our vertical structure and makes even every day activities harder.
  • Warm up first then stretch and advance any new activities slowly in time and intensity to allow your body to acclimate to the new motion. Listen to your body; A mild soreness after starting an activity is normal but back pain is not and means you may need to adjust your mechanics, your shoes, or back off on the intensity or duration of the activity. 

 

Interviews: Dr. Tammy Penhollow

Dr. Tammy Penhollow practices at Precision Regenerative Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona, where develops individualized treatment plans for musculoskeletal and spine interventions with PRP and bone marrow aspirate using image guidance, as well as micro-needling with PRP for skin, hair and anti-aging conditions. She also stays active in teaching as an Instructor in Anesthesiology for the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science and as a Supplemental Consultant for the Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

A former active duty US Naval Officer, Dr. Penhollow has lived, practiced, and has been deployed around the US and overseas. She embodies the lifestyle she recommends to her patients and is an active hiker, gardener and yogi as well as a French trained home chef and an aspiring sommelier.

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