Last updated on Jan 19th, 2018 at 11:19 am

Back injuries can happen to anyone and, depending on the severity, they can be life-changing

The spine provides the rigidity necessary for humans to walk upright and protects the spinal cord, which is at the core of all movement. Quite simply, we cannot function without our spine.

Since the spine is so important, Life Rehabilitation is raising awareness about ways to avoid back injury.

What causes back injury?

Lower back pain is a common condition that affects between 30 and 40% of all South Africans during their lifetime. In fact, according to the South African Society of Physiotherapy, back pain is the leading cause of disability for workers aged between 19 and 45.

Back injury can be caused by:

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  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Making sudden movements
  • Poor posture
  • Sporting injuries
  • Vehicle or other accidents

“Mild spinal injuries treated with the correct medication and assistance from a healthcare professional tends to heal fairly easily. However, severe back injuries can be life-threatening and require specialised treatment and rehabilitation,” explains Dr Riyas Fadal, National Manager of Life Rehabilitation at Life Healthcare.

“Each back injury is different and the effects are determined by the location and severity of the injury. The effects of a muscular injury are generally less severe but if the spinal cord itself is injured, the injury can lead to paralysis and even death. Damage to the spinal cord in the region of the neck, in particular, can affect the movement of legs, arms and hands to varying degrees,” continues Dr Fadal.

How to prevent back injury

Avoiding back injury is often a matter of common sense and taking simple steps such as driving responsibly and ensuring you and your passengers are wearing safety belts can go a long way to preventing injuries. Similarly, if you are swimming, you should check how deep the water is before diving in.

Although it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of spinal injuries, activities such as adopting the correct posture and doing back strengthening exercises can help prevent or reduce the effects of back injuries.

Regular core strengthening exercises enhance and stabilise the back and this will reduce back pain and prevent postural back injuries. Rehearsing how to lift items properly with bent knees, as well as ergonomic exercises in the workplace, can also be helpful,” he says.

Life Rehabilitation offers specialised healthcare services that treat and rehabilitate patients who have become acutely disabled as a result of a spinal cord injury. The company is also committed to providing the highest level of care to support patients on their journey to recovery.

“The most important aspect of the recovery journey is to improve the patient’s quality of life by equipping them with new skills which help them to achieve greater independence. It is our responsibility as healthcare professionals to demonstrate to patients that they need not be defined by their disability,” concludes Dr Fadal.

What to do if you suspect someone’s spine has been injured

  • Call for emergency medical assistance immediately.
  • Keep the person still. Place heavy towels on both sides of the neck or hold the head and neck to prevent movement.
  • Provide as much first aid as possible without moving the person’s head or neck.
  • If the person shows no signs of circulation (breathing, coughing or movement), begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) but do not tilt the head back to open the airway. Use your fingers to gently grasp the jaw and lift it forward. If the person has no pulse, begin chest compressions.

For more information about our Life Rehabilitation units, visit

Source: Life Rehabilitation

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.