Do you suffer from aching back pain, nagging neck pain or even headaches? Having a healthy spine can prevent these types of problems. Your spine is a complicated structure of vertebrae, discs, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves. Your spine protects your central nervous system (spinal cord), which controls the function of every single cell, tissue and organ in the body. Therefore a healthy spine, coupled with a healthy nervous system, is crucial in terms of maintaining whole body health. Every second of every day your spine is moving in a delicate balance, even while you breathe! Take care of it and it will take care of you.
Here are 5 useful tips on how to have a healthy spine:
1. Improve Your Flexibility and Strength
One of the best ways to avoid back pain or neck pain is to improve your spinal flexibility and strength. Your spine and body are designed to move. Keep your spine flexible by stretching for 10 minutes every day. It is best to get up and move around when possible at work. Stretch your spine out by reaching overhead and leaning over to one side, then the other. Also, work on gently twisting at the waist and don’t forget to stretch your hamstring muscles frequently. Spend 3-4 days a week working on your core strength with abdominal muscle exercises, squats and other exercises to keep your spine and core muscles strong. This supports your spine and allows you to move without stressing the discs or nerves in your back.
2. Improve Your Posture and Balance
Make sure that you sit properly with a straight-backed chair and your feet flat on the floor. Avoid sitting on very soft couches for prolonged periods as this keeps your spine in a flexed position. Make sure that you keep your spine straight when lifting, using your legs and avoiding twisting. Keep your balance tip-top to activate the small muscles of the spine and use your nervous system. Enhance your balance by standing on one leg at a time for 10 seconds 3-4 times a week.
3. Have a Spine Check-up
Have a physical therapist spine specialist check your spine alignment and function every 6 months to ensure your back is moving how it should. This simple preventative visit will ensure your spine is healthy and nip issues before they turn into something permanent. Our physical therapists are the medical experts in helping your back operate as it should and relieving back pain or neck pain quickly.
4. Balanced Diet
Nutrition is critical to having a healthy body. The same goes for your spine. Protein rebuilds spinal muscle tissue, ligaments and tendons. Healthy fruits and vegetables contain the vitamins and antioxidants to make the spine function. They rebuild bone, muscle and connective tissues that are constantly being used throughout the day. Smoking is additionally something that can contribute to spinal issues. Many studies show that nicotine in cigarettes directly accelerates the breakdown of the discs in the spine and destroys connective tissues that keep the joints moving properly. In addition, nicotine increases the inflammatory response in the body, disrupting the body’s natural ability to repair itself.
Throughout the day your spine is compressed with standing, sitting and bending. You can actually lose about ½ an inch over the course of a day. Adequate rest in a good position while sleeping helps you maintain a healthy spine. It is ideal to start off lying in bed for the first 10 minutes on your side with your knees curled up. This allows the discs in your spine to rehydrate. Then continue sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs or roll onto your back with a pillow under your knees. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
These simple 5 tips, if applied, will ensure your spine is healthy. If you are suffering with backaches and pains, come in for a check-up sooner rather than later. Long term aches and pains can mean permanent damage is being done to your spine. Catching back pain or neck pain early leads to a healthy spine for life!