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Help Doc - I Pulled My Back Out!

Man, if I had a dollar for every time I heard this over my career, I would retire a wealthy man. But what does it mean? I guess what people think it means is that they pulled their spine out of place. But how and why does this happen and more importantly, can you prevent it? I’ve seen some people in really bad pain limp into my office over the years and the pain on their faces is palpable. My heart always goes out to them. However, they all have similar things in common that caused their back crisis.


First, your back doesn’t go out of place by accident. It is usually pulled out of place by a tight muscle(s) and/or by the action of some movement like bending over to pick something up. When I have a patient come in who pulled their back out, I always ask “what happened?” Many times, they tell me they were picking up something off the floor, or they turned their body a certain way, and BAM, their back went out. News flash, if regular, daily, simple movements pulled your back out, then Houston we have a problem. The problem is usually one or a combination of 3 things. If you fix these 3 things, I can promise you, the days of your “back going out” will be gone, and you will able to do things that you SHOULD be able to do for someone your age. I’ve been bending over a table each week for 30 years, lifting lots of people (some are pretty big). I work out all the time, run, and still squat over 300 lbs. I’m constantly working on my 5-acre property by gardening and lifting heavy things. I haven’t pulled my back out in years and this isn’t luck. It’s due to 3 things. Ready to learn what they are?


1. Alignment- Anything that bears a load and/or moves better be in good alignment. Think of any structure; a building, a tree, a car, your spine, etc. If It’s not in good alignment, it’s not structurally sound and it’s in trouble of collapsing or breaking. How do your tires wear if your car’s front end isn’t in good alignment? Chiropractic concerns itself with the alignment of the spine. 24 vertebrae, your head, pelvis, and over 50 joints in your spine, that’s a lot of things that need to be in alignment and I can assure you after looking at x-rays for years, most spines are NOT in good alignment. Just like getting braces to align your teeth, aligning your spine takes work and time.



2. Core Stability- If your core is not strong, it won’t support the spine in good alignment. One of my favorite sayings is that “you can’t fire a cannon from a rowboat”. Why? The rowboat doesn’t have any stability, anything holding it down and in place. Well, how about your spine? What holds it stable? Correct, your core muscles and if your core is flexible and strong, you are less likely to pull something out of place or pinch something like a nerve or disc when you move. Do you have a rowboat or a battleship for a core?



3. Spinal Compression- When I look at X-rays, we can now measure the height of the intervertebral discs. We like to see that the discs make up 30-40% of the height of the vertebra. In other words, the discs should be thick because they act like tires or shock absorbers. Many times in the lumbar (low back) or cervical (neck) discs, we see massive degeneration and sometimes bone on bone, where the disc is completely absent due to break down. It’s like a tire that’s gone flat. What comes out right between the vertebra of the spine at the level of the intervertebral discs you ask? Your nerves! That is why it is so painful when you pull your back out, many times large nerves are irritated and your body lets you know about it.


So what can you do to keep your back from “going out” all the time and be able to function well within all of your daily movements? Focus on the 3 core essentials above: Alignment (get adjusted), Core Stability (learn how to strengthen and mobilize your core), and reduce Compression on your spine by learning what compresses your spine (hint: sitting too much and the extra 30 lbs. you are carrying).



My friend says that if you wore your spine on your face (you could see it), you would take better care of it. I agree! Here are some other tips to keep your spine and back healthy.


  • Improving your spine and posture may include exercising and changing positions frequently while at work.

  • Using good body mechanics when lifting heavy objects.

  • Get a standing desk at work

  • Sleeping on a firm, supportive mattress.

  • Quitting smoking (or don't start).

  • Make time to have a good core exercise routine

  • Eating nutritiously so you keep a normal weight under 27 BMI.

  • Drinking a lot of water.

  • Drinking alcohol only moderately.


Yours in good health,

Dr. Dane Donohue


Dr. Dane Donohue is a Chiropractor in Newtown PA and has been serving his community for over 25 years. Wellness Solution Centers provides all the services you need for a healthy life.

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