Since grade school, it’s been ingrained into us that poor posture would lead to spinal problems in our adult years. Who knew are parents and teachers were right? Doctors! Numerous studies support good posture being one of the easiest ways to keep your spine healthy. A healthy spine is vital for flexibility and optimum protection for your spinal cord, which is key for your entire body to function. Any damages to the spine could lead to difficulty moving or nerve impairment. To avoid or decrease your risk of serious spinal problems, here are six ways to improve spine health.
1. Improve Your Body Posture
The spine, which runs from the base of your skull to your pelvis, consists of 24 small bones known as vertebrae. Also referred to as the backbone, the spine is one of the most integral parts of your body! Your spine gives structural support to your body by balancing your weight. This is why, no matter what activities you engage in, maintain proper posture to ensure you keep your spine healthy.
For great body posture, it’s simple, don’t slouch while sitting or standing. Here are some tips to follow while sitting at your desk:
- Keep your back straight and shoulders back, with your bottom touching the back of your chair.
- Always keep your feet flat on the floor.
- If sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes, get up and walk around, stand up, or do any activity to move around and stretch you back.
- If sitting at a desk, rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, and keep your shoulders relaxed.
2. Sleeping Habits
Good posture while sleeping is just as important as good posture when awake. If you discover a sleeping position is causing you to have back pain, more than likely, your spine is experiencing some level of discomfort as well. One position in particular that you should avoid while sleeping is lying face down.
This position is one of the main culprits for (lower) back pain, as well as puts a lot of strain on the neck. When sleeping face down, oftentimes the curve of the spine is not supported. Try sleeping with a pillow under your knees to prevent excess pressure on your back. Another recommended position is to lie on your side, and place a pillow between your knees. This too helps avoid excessive pressure on your back.
3. Precaution Moving Heavy Objects
Because your spine allows free movement and flexibility to bend, stretch, and twist with ease, it is important to use precaution when lifting heavy objects. You can sprain ligaments, strain muscles, rupture disks, and irritate joints, from improperly lifting heavy objects, all of which can lead to back pain. To avoid back injuries, here are a few recommended tips:
- Try not to twist your back while lifting objects.
- Keep heavy objects close to your body as you possibly can while lifting them.
- Don’t bend over at the waist to pick up items.Keep the object close to you and bend at the knees while lifting to avoid stress on your back.
4. Diet and Exercise
We constantly hear that excess body weight is not healthy for us and that it can have negative health consequences, but did you know being overweight can affect your spine health as well?
To avoid stress on your spine, you shouldn’t weigh more than 10 pounds over your normal or ideal body weight. Extra body weight tends to put additional pressure on your back muscles, which is why it’s important to keep a healthy and balanced diet accompanied with a regular exercising routine.
Healthy Spine Exercises
Regular workouts not only help to maintain weight, but it’s great for strengthening the spine. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults ages 18-64 do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. In addition, incorporate muscle-strengthening activities into your workout regimen at least two days a week. Below are some exercises that help with stretching and strengthening the spine.
Hip Crossover Stretch
This exercise allows you to stretch the piriformis muscle in the hip and buttock area, which often contributes to lower back pain.
Abdominal bracing is a good exercise for stabilizing the spine and the strengthening the abdominal muscles. This low-impact exercise doesn’t strain your back, and helps to improve your posture.
Who doesn’t want stronger gluteus, abdominal, and hamstring muscles? The bridge exercise will help you strengthen all three. Doing this exercise daily will help alleviate back pain and improve your posture. One of the key factors to a good posture is a strong core. This is why a lot of exercises that improve spine health include some sort of core muscle engagement.
5. Avoid smoking
If smoking damages just about every organ in your body, and vastly reduces your overall health, it’s no surprise that this bad habit can impact your spine health as well. Are you a smoker and suffer from neck and back pain, or have you been diagnosed with any type of spinal stenosis? Smoking can worsen your symptoms, and even slow down the healing process. The amount of nutrients transported to your spine become limited due to smoking, so the discs, joints and muscles of the back continually grow weaker. Smoking also causes obstructions in the arteries, which prevents proper circulation to the spine, making it that much harder for your back to heal itself.
6. Manage stress
Studies show that tension and stress can manifest itself within the body. Stress can intensify chronic neck and back pain, or it can cause it. Overtime, this can result in muscle tension and stiffness in the neck and back. While most people don’t pay attention to their spine until discomfort sets in, it’s critical that you adopt healthy habits so your spine remains tension-free.
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