• K. Wright-Smith
  • T. Wrigley
  • W. Morrison
Keywords: spine, metrocom


INTRODUCTION The vertebral column permits free movement in al1 directions and must support the rest of the body (Hay and Reid, 1988). This support must also service to anchor muscles that function by pul1ing on the vertical column, must act as an efficient shock absorber under various conditions, and must protect the essential and delicate spinal cord. Each region of the vertebral column is composed of distinctive vertebrae: thoracic (chesr), consisting of twelve vertebrae, each of which articulate with a pair of ribs; five lumbar (back) vertebrae which have no rib attachments; five fused sacral (pelvic) vertebrae, and coccygeal vertebrae (Solomon and Davis, 1988). The human spine has four curves - cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral - that are maintained by a combination of muscle tone and ligament tension. It has been stated that these curves develop before birth and during childhood (Solomon and Davis, 1988), but specifically when this development occurs has not been identified. The spine is an anatomical region where a variety of disease conditions and pain is diagnosed. For example, lower back pain can develop gradually or may occur suddenly. The ailment may range from minor symptoms, to obvious displacements and fractures, through to permanent paralysis and impaired nerve function that would ultimately confine a person to a wheel-chair (Commonwealth of Australia, 1987). As many as 80% of the adults in industrialized countries such as Australia will suffer from low back pain at some time in their lives, with more than half of this group suffering this pain more than once. Reports have indicated that over a one year period, 10-15% of the population could suffer from low back pain (Department of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, 1985). Back injuries are identified as a major threat to the health and economy of the Australian Community. In 1982 the Federal Government estimated that work accidents cost Australia at least $4,000 million per annum. About 25% of all compensatable injuries involved the back, and injury statistics presented in Table 1 provide an indication of the seriousness of the situation. Recent information from Workcare (Victoria) indicated that there was a back injury every five minutes of every working day, with an average cost per claim of $4,600. Extending these figures national1y puts the estimated total cost of back injuries at $1,125 mil1ion per annum, or $3.08 mil1ion per day (Commonwealth of Australia, 1987). By the year 2005, one in every seven persons will be over the age of sixty (Australia OR Weekly, 1990), with the greatest proportional increase in these figures being for women over the age of eighty (Social Report Victoria, 1983). ]ackson (1979), a gerontology specialist, stressed that little is really known about the aging experience indicating that future health strategies need to be based on sound research. As negligible research in the aging process addresses the differences between women and the differences between women's age-groups, the need for future research on women and health is 169 of utmost importance (Gamer and Mercer, 1989).