It’s all too easy to slip on the ice or snow and fall during these winter months. You can fracture a hip or vertebra (especially if you have osteoporosis). And just the force of falling on your buttock or tailbone often results in what are called “compression” injuries.
When the spine compresses, normal muscle tension maintaining the postural curves becomes tighter. The back muscles go into a state of spasm and the normal joint play between each vertebra is compromised.
Think of your spine as a slinky. Normally, the space between each coil, or vertebra, freely permits motion in all directions. But, when you fall on your buttock, the coils of the slinky jam together, limiting motion. Usually this is felt as general stiffness and tightness, which is usually not localized to the low back. It can also result in loss of motion in the mid back and neck.
Compression usually leads to a more painful backache. Let’s take our slinky model and say that you are lifting something heavy while you’re in a twisted position—now there’s less mobility in the spine and, instead of the spine self correcting out of this twisted position, it gets stuck and causes severe pain. These are the situations where someone might say, “I reached for the soap in the shower and couldn’t get back up.” The body had used up all the available “room” or “free place” in the spine and the underlying muscle tension contributed to the spine’s getting stuck.
These cases are some of the most commonly seen at this time of the year. So when you are preparing to go outside, wear non-skid boots or keep some of those ice spikes handy—the ones that clip onto the bottom of your shoes. You will be safer in wintry conditions and prevent eventual back problems.