By Sapna Baluni
The human spine is a miraculous, elegantly balanced system, the foundational support of the entire body. Gently curved in an S-shape, the spine balances the neck, chest, lower back, and pelvis to keep the head, trunk, and legs in alignment.
It provides a protective sheath for the spinal cord — the main conduit of the nervous system — and for some internal organs as well. It provides us with the support structure to maintain an upright posture. And it flexes to allow freedom of movement; in fact, every movement we make engages the spine.
1. Stretch and strengthen the back
Motivated patients often maintain a steady regimen of targeted stretching and strengthening, which is key to long-term success in managing and controlling spine pain.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Excessive weight can place undue physical stress on the spine. Also, excess weight can often result in additional diseases or physical conditions that may further impair the spine or intensify existing issues.
3. Work smart
Proper ergonomics can help reduce a lot of stress on both the lower and upper back. Ensure your desk is set up for your height and functionality. Take regular breaks to periodically get up and walk around the office or home.
4. Don’t Smoke
Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor—it tightens blood vessels, reducing blood flow and limiting oxygen and nutrition to the spine. Vasoconstriction can accelerate inflammation and degradation within the spine and throughout the body.
5. Reduce or eliminate inflammatory foods
Avoid a diet of inflammation-causing dairy, red meats, refined sugar, and other processed foods. opt instead for healthy anti-inflammatory food choices, such as plant-based foods that are also naturally low in calories and help to discourage excessive weight gain.
6. Stand whenever possible
Constant sitting makes it nearly impossible to maintain neutral spine alignment—and that can contribute to spinal stress. Standing is frequently the better option. Many of my patients appreciate their stand-up desks. Another alternative: sitting on a large workout ball rather than an office chair, to engage the core and encourage the back to remain erect.
7. Get into the water
Water therapy can play a very helpful role in alleviating back issues, especially for older patients or those who experience severe discomfort with a land-based approach. Water exercise can be an effective way to build strength and confidence and pave the way for eventual land therapy.
8. Match your pillow to your sleeping position
When you lie down to sleep, you want a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck. This means that people who prefer different sleeping positions will need different kinds of pillows.
9. Lift correctly
Improperly lifting heavy items can put your lower back muscles in abnormal positions and cause muscle strains. Additionally, improper lifting may cause your spinal joints to lock or your spinal discs to rupture.
10. Try yoga
Yoga is a highly beneficial activity that can both strengthen and stretch muscles. Beginners should start slowing to avoid aggravating any possible existing conditions with the back or neck. The yoga instructor can recommend any necessary modifications that will protect your spine while helping you get the most from each pose.