Did you know that Michelangelo Buonarroti, who famously frescoed the Sistine Chapel in Rome between 1508 and 1512, suffered from severe neck and back pain?
From famous artists to office workers, we all have had or are experiencing back pain. This shouldn't really be a normal occurrence in life, however bad posture and bad habits can damage the spine, nervous system and surrounding muscles.
In the case of Renaissance painter Michelangelo, back pain ensued during his commission to fresco the Sistine Chapel. He had to climb on high scaffolding and paint lying down but constantly looking up and straining his neck, arms, shoulders and back. His eyesight also suffered because of it.
Wouldn't it be nice if Michelangelo had access to back pain specialists like we have today? My guess is that he probably would have had a longer artistic career. Yet, nowadays, we just suffer in silence when we have back pain even though we have potentially many options available to resolve the problem, from physiotherapy to massage.
Our spine is a true masterpiece of engineering: it supports our body and it contains the spinal cord, from which sensory and motor nerves originate.
The vertebral column contains 33 vertebrae, of which 7 are the cervical vertebrae running along the neck, then the 12 thoracic vertebrae along the middle of the back, the 5 lumbar vertebrae in the lower back, and finally 5 sacral vertebrae fused together in the pelvis plus the coccix, 4 more fused vertebrae at the tailbone.
Any disruption to the perfect equilibrium in our spine can cause nerve impingement which can trigger symptoms like pins and needles in your arms or sharp pain in your legs, depending on the affected nerve. Even digestive complaints can be caused by irregularities in the spine, for example hernias where the intervertebral discs protrude and cause severe abdominal pain that can be confused for ulcers or IBS.
The best way to keep our spine healthy is to schedule unmoveable appointments in the diary for exercise. It is recommended to do both aerobics forms of exercise like squash or running and core stability forms of exercise like Pilates and yoga. Alongside a regular training regime, our backs also need regular relaxation and treatment. Choose from massage, physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy, Alexander Technique etc, but make sure you do have regular spinal checks.
We may not be artists of the caliber of Michelangelo but our back health has more monetary value than the most expensive painting or sculpture. Look after your back and your back will look after you.
Paola Bassanese is a member of the Institute of Complementary and Natural Medicine, specialising in Natural Face Lift Massage, manual lymphatic drainage, healthy eating advice and neck, back and shoulder massage.See my profile »