Lumbar Disc Changes and Sitting: What Your Patients Need to Know about Spine Anatomy

about Spine Anatomy

There used to be a time when “going to work” meant toiling in the fields of large farms, mining coal, working on the assembly line, or perhaps building homes and other structures. While there are many individuals who still truly do “manual labor” every day, there are many more of us whose jobs involve sitting at a desk for countless hours. With the advent of the computer and – of course – the internet, many workers sit in the same position all day, tapping on their keyboard and watching their screen for up to 7 or 8 hours in a row.

We all know that this is not healthy for many reasons. It causes a list of physical problems, including issues such as carpal tunnel and a number of concerning eye-related issues. In addition, according to a recent study penned by researchers at the Pennsylvania State University, prolonged sitting is closely associated with lumbar disc changes and, hence, back pain.

The purpose of the study by Billy et al1 specifically centered on spine anatomy and what, if any, changes occur to the lumbar discs in the spine after prolonged sitting with and without intermittent breaks during a four-hour time period.

In this observational study, performed in an academic outpatient clinic, it was concluded that

“…the greatest change in disc height is at the L4-5 level after prolonged sitting without    intermittent breaks. The other levels did not show significant change in their height. The findings also show the L4-5 height changes are not significant with brief positional changes every 15 minutes. Fewer changes in disc height may correlate with improvement in low back pain and disability.”

This was an important study for many reasons, including the fact that the World Health Organization cites back pain as one of the top 10 reasons that the population lives life with a disability and at a level less than one’s full potential (a measure they refer to as YLD). Many of the reasons for this far-reaching spine pain were identified as work-related.

However, notes Dr. Jerome Fryer, creator of the spine anatomy models made by Dynamic Disc Designs (ddd), very limited research has examined the changes in lumbar disc height with sitting. Fryer’s concern about the lack of insight into this topic was cited in the Penn State study.

Surgeon’s Education Package

Surgeon’s Education Package

It’s likely that most patients who complain of back pain are unaware of the fact that their sedentary job may be responsible for some or all of their discomfort. But, as a spine specialist, you can demonstrate how disc height changes and what effect that change might have, through the use of educational spine anatomy models such as those manufactured by Fryer, who long ago recognized that the tools needed to teach patients about spine health were inadequate.

Dr. Fryer created the models with extreme accuracy so that doctors could explain the intricacies of the spine and how issues, including disc height change, can interfere with quality of life. This way, back pain sufferers can learn how to adjust their habits – even their work habits – so that pain is lessened.

Helping your patients understand their health problems is essential. Browse the more than two dozen fully-dynamic detailed spine anatomy models offered by ddd and choose those that can best assist you in your educational goals.


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