How many times daily do you stop and think about your spine? If you are like a lot of us that number sits a solid “zero”. As long as we can carry on daily we simply assume everything is just fine, that is unless you suffer from back pain. Those suffering from chronic back pain or back injury have a difficult time getting it off their mind, whether it is the pain itself or coupled with the chain reaction of events that are caused due to it. Back pain is not without cost, monetarily and emotionally.
While most of us do not think of our spinal health on a daily basis, statistics have shown that nearly 80-90% of the population will be affected by spinal issues and back pain at any point during a lifetime. Accident victims aside, those who run the highest risk are smokers, the overweight and heavy lifters. Statistics do not lie and with such a high likelihood there is a solid argument in favor of leading a healthy lifestyle and in turn striving for a healthy spine.
Below are some proven strategies for a healthy spine/back:
A Healthy Diet and Exercise
- Know your ideal body weight and stay within 10 pounds of that weight. Common sense supports the biomechanical logic that carrying around unnecessary body weight will put stress all areas of the human frame, including the spine.
- Strengthen your core muscles. Not only is a “beer-belly” unattractive, it pulls your entire body out of alignment, starting with your low back.
- Work diligently on eating a reasonably portioned and healthy diet. Couple this diet with a consistent exercise program that fits into your schedule and you will see results not only in your weight, but in your overall health and confidence.
- Always stretch before and after your workout.
- Consult with your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program. There may be issues specific to your health conditions that warrant professional guidance.
In terms of physical healing, smokers are far worse off than non-smokers. Blood flow is severely restricted throughout the body by the more-than 4000 chemicals in cigarettes. This restriction slows the healing process to all parts of the body and the spine is no exception.
Try to support your body as you sleep. Pain at any time is not normal, and if you are feeling pain while you are trying to sleep, find a position that alleviates the pain.
Back sleepers on average place nearly 50 pounds of additional pressure on the spine that can be reduced by nearly half if a supportive pillow is placed under the knees.
Side sleepers can reduce pressure on the spine by placing a pillow between the knees.
Standing with the knees locked places pressure on the low back. Relax your stance by placing one foot in front of the other, slightly bending the knees.
Avoid standing bent at the waist for any period of time, this places undue stress on the spine as well.
Always engage your legs when lifting. Do not lift solely with your back muscles.
Avoid twisting when lifting anything.
If pushing or pulling an item is an option, choose it. Always choose pushing before pulling, and engage your leg muscles to lessen the strain on the back.
Ask for help.
If carrying the object after lifting, keep it close to the body and spread the weight evenly between both hands
Avoid slumping in your chair. Keep the shoulders back and the spine straight. Do not let your shoulders become rounded or allow your low back lose its natural curve.
Knees should be slightly higher than the hips.
Keep the head up and looking straight forward
Bend the legs to pick up items below waist level. Do not bend at the waist.
If reaching for an item higher than shoulder height, use a stool. Straining to reach something above the head can cause injury to the neck, shoulders, and mid-back.
Place your body as close to the object as you reasonably can to further reduce any potential strain.
Like anything in life, there are no guarantees you will avoid back pain, but employing these simple, commonsense strategies certainly increase your chances of leading a pain free, healthy life!