Michael McNamara Back Pain

Align Your Life for Spinal Health This Holiday Season

Originally published in the Williamson Herald

Halloween is quickly approaching and with it comes spooky outdoor activities like haunted hayrides and trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving. However, debilitating back pain can be even scarier for those who suffer from it.

Often, our lifestyle choices can be at the root of back pain and poor spine health which can negatively affect other areas of our lives. Dr. Michael McNamara, an experienced orthopaedist at Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee, offers a few tips for healthier living this Spinal Health Awareness Month.

Walk Your Dog … Even If You Don’t Have One …

“Spine health requires a healthy lifestyle, and a healthy lifestyle is getting up, getting moving and getting active on a regular basis,” said Dr. McNamara. Back pain, especially in the lower back can be caused by the deconditioning of muscles around the spine due to inactivity. If your lifestyle is more sedentary, Dr. McNamara advises getting active at various times throughout the day to maintain mobility. “Make a habit of walking your dog twice a day, even if you don’t have a dog,” he said.

Sudden lifestyle changes like lifting items that are too heavy or exercising without conditioning can make you more susceptible to back pain, Dr. McNamara said. “Everything we do as far as the spine has to be a gradual change to avoid causing damage,” Dr. McNamara warns. However, being active does not mean it has to be strenuous. Activities as simple as hiking, gardening or walking to get the mail can have positive effects on spine health.

Operate On Your Workplace

For some of us, work can also be a part of our life that’s a little more sedentary. If your work centers on sitting at a desk or working on a computer, Dr. McNamara suggests doing a little “workplace surgery.” That involves taking stock of your surroundings and the way you do your work.

Back or neck pain? Adjust the height of your computer screen. Problems with your posture? Consider positioning your keyboard lower. “Get your devices up so you’re not hunched over—that is a large area of concern when it comes to spinal health,” said Dr. McNamara. “Operating on your work environment to better serve you can help decrease potential back pain.”

Practice Planking

Learning to incorporate selected exercises into your daily routine while watching TV or before bed can dramatically strengthen the spine and reduce the risk of back pain. “According to early studies, home-based core strengthening programs seem to be most effective,” said Dr. McNamara. “Isometric planks done well tend to alleviate back pain quicker than anything else.” Since core strength is directly linked to spinal health, he also suggested incorporating sit-ups and other ab exercises. However, those with pre-existing lower back pain should avoid movements that exacerbate that pain. 

Although these tips are important to maintaining good spinal health, some back pain requires more than simple lifestyle changes. “Back pain is one of the most common conditions that presents for muscular skeletal care, and one of the most expensive conditions treated in the US on a regular basis,” said Dr. McNamara. Lower back pain is usually caused by muscular wear and tear while upper back pain can be a generative condition.

If you’re experiencing pain that isn’t controlled by icing, stretching or anti-inflammatories or that’s radiating into your arms or legs, Dr. McNamara recommends making an appointment with an orthopaedist. A medical professional can assess your pain and determine whether surgery is needed. You may benefit from non-surgical options, such as physical therapy, MRIs or injections. “At Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee, we always treat what the patients needs,” said Dr. McNamara. “The most important thing to remember is the more active we can be with regularity in our lifestyles, the better our spine health will be.”

Situated just off Interstate 65 in Franklin, Bone and Joint Institute offers state-of-the-art technology and a superior patient experience close to home. For more information, visit www.BoneandJointTN.org.  

Michael McNamara, M.D., is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon specializing in treatment of spine, and currently serves as the chief of Surgery at Williamson Medical Center. Dr. McNamara has an expertise in spinal fusion, laminectomy and discectomy. He commonly treats spinal stenosis, herniated discs, sciatica, scoliosis and back pain. Dr. McNamara received his undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland before attending medical school at North Carolina’s Duke University School of Medicine. He served as president of the Bone and Joint Clinic from 2005-2009. A widely respected leader in his field, Dr. McNamara specializes in the treatment of spinal disorders, and his extensive work has been cited in more than two dozen journal articles and abstracts.