How to Maintain Good Spinal Health: Tips for Prevention
As the foundational support of the entire body, the human spine is an incredibly delicate system. It is responsible for keeping the neck, chest, lower back, and pelvis in balance while maintaining alignment between the head, trunk, and legs.
In addition to providing balance, it serves as a protective casing for the spinal cord, which is the central control of the nervous system. It also gives us the ability to have good posture while allowing free movement. Virtually every move that we make involves the spine to some degree.
What Is at the Root of Back and Neck Pain?
The spine consists of 33 vertebrae which are connected and cushioned by a complex system of cartilage and tissue. These vertebrae are held together by facet joints which are susceptible to inflammation, degradation, and pain, just as with any other part of the body. Factors such as injury, bad posture, a sedentary lifestyle, and certain illnesses can affect the vertebrae and its facet joints, leading to pain in the back and neck.
It’s safe to say that most of us will develop some spinal issue at some point in our lives. By age 25, disc degradation affects one in four people. By age 40 that number goes up to two-thirds, and by age 60 approximately 90% are affected. This is a normal part of aging.
What makes this condition so troubling is its effect on one’s quality of life. Patients who have severe back pain or neck pain may forgo certain social activities and become more sedentary, making the problem worse. As a result, these individuals experience a major drop in their quality of life.
In order to keep these issues at bay, it is recommended that patients incorporate certain activities into their lives. Taking these steps could potentially spare you years of pain and doctor’s visits.
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Spine
Do stretches regularly
Data shows that doing stretches that target back muscles can help strengthen the back, leading to a major reduction in back pain.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight can put an exorbitant amount of pressure on the spine. It can also lead to other conditions which may put the spine in jeopardy.
Refrain from smoking
Smoking cigarettes promotes vasoconstriction (the tightening of blood vessels). This condition prevents oxygen and vital nutrients from reaching important areas of the body, including the spine. Refraining from smoking will help ensure that the spine gets what it needs to stay healthy.
Remove inflammatory foods from your diet
It was Hippocrates who said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Eating inflammatory foods, such as processed foods, dairy, sugar, gluten, etc. generates inflammation throughout the body. These effects will impact the spine as well. Eating a diet of natural foods (vegetables, grains, and meat) will ensure that your body is free of inflammation and functioning properly.
Be careful when lifting heavy objects
It’s no secret that lifting heavy objects puts a great amount of stress on the spine. Patients should make sure to keep their backs straight, bend their knees, and use their legs to lift the object. This is the universally-taught method for lifting without strain.
Staying in one position for long periods of time can do a number on our spines. Patients who work in offices or at home should make sure to take breaks and walk around. Exercise is also incredibly important.
Stand when you have the chance
Believe it or not, sitting down has a really negative impact on our spines. Standing is a better option, and society has responded to this fact by embracing standing desks.
Start practicing yoga
Yoga stretches and strengthens various muscle groups in the body, including the spine. Patients should refer to a licensed yoga teacher when starting yoga. This is simply due to the fact that certain exercises may be harder on the spine. Having a yoga instructor whom you can talk to is vital, as you can express your concerns about spinal issues and they will guide you accordingly.
What Is the Takeaway?
The spine is an incredibly fragile part of the body. Naturally, we are all concerned about protecting it and ensuring that we are healthy and happy throughout life. Taking the right precautions and being mindful of our actions helps us keep our spines in alignment. If you have consistent pain in your back or neck, it is a good idea to refer to a specialist to find out the cause.