How Healthy is Your Spine?
Most of us will experience back or neck pain at some point in our lives. It is the price we pay for walking on two legs. If you suffer from the occasional ache or have chronic low back or neck pain, the goal is to relieve the pain without the need for surgery. In fact, recent studies point to the fact that patients who underwent a common fusion procedure for the spine were more likely to have a second surgery within 2 years. The best way to avoid the need for spine surgery is to improve the health of your spine and physical therapy plays a key role in making that happen.
Why does my neck or back hurt?
One thing to understand about neck and back pain is that it is mechanical. Just like a car can have problems with moving parts, so can your spine. The daily barrage of strain on our backs with sitting, lifting improperly and poor nutrition can wreck havoc on our spines. Most spine pain comes from the following 4 trouble areas:
- Poor posture and alignment
- Lack of knowledge on how to bend, lift, sit, sleep
- Lack of muscle strength
- Poor flexibility and muscle coordination
The good news is that your body is adaptable and you can always improve what you have. With the right treatment and training, your back or neck can usually make a full recovery. Physical therapists are the mechanics of the body and coming to a physical therapist first can often avoid expensive testing and medical procedures.
Try These 5 Keys to a Healthy Spine
Watch your sitting
Sitting is the position that puts the most pressure on the low back. It is important to break up your sitting time throughout the day and take frequent breaks. If you have the opportunity to do standing or walking tasks during your workday, try to work them into various times throughout the day, limiting your sitting to about 30 minutes at a time.
Protect your spine with better posture
How you sit, stand, stretch, lift all play a role on the pressures in your spine. We all know to bend with our knees, not our back when lifting, but do you really do it? Really bend down deep with your knees to pick up objects off low shelves, such as in the refrigerator or shoes off the floor. When standing, walking and sitting, imagine a string pulling you up through the top of your head. This brings your neck, shoulders and back into better alignment.
Tighten your core muscles
Your core muscles are made up of your abdominal muscles, spinal muscles, and pelvic/hip muscles. It is very common for these muscles to become weak with prolonged sitting, pre/postpartum, after surgeries, and injuries. Strengthening your abdominal and hip muscles can go a long way to providing the necessary muscle support to your spine. Speak with one of our experts on what exercises are right for you.
Improve your nutrition
Your body is a machine and it needs the right fuel to run. Since you use your body all day long, it needs to rebuild itself constantly. The ligaments, tendons, muscles, and discs in your spine need the right nutrition to stay healthy. Make sure to eat dark green leafy vegetables, lean protein, and stay hydrated. Avoid smoking and fried foods, which actually harm your tissues and make the pain more prevalent.
Get your spine moving
Your body was made to move, especially your spine. It is common for areas of your spine to tighten up, placing too much strain on other areas. These areas, then become irritated and painful. Restore the flexibility in your spine with gentle, specialized hands-on therapy as well as specific exercises. Participate in Yoga and Pilates to improve your stability, strength, and spinal balance.
Make your back as healthy as it can be this year by investing in it. Physical therapy is the right solution to improving your spinal health and saying goodbye to that aching neck or back. Prevent future arthritis and problems by seeing one of our specialists today. Contact Willow Physical Therapy to speak with one of our experts.
Anand Veeravagu, Tyler Cole, Bowen Jiang, John K. Ratliff The Spine Journal, Vol. 14, Issue 7, p1125–1131
Published online: October 14 2013