According to Dr. Brent Wells, D.C., — founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Juneau, Alaska — many people neglect their spinal health, but most don’t realize how crucial it is to their overall health. A person’s spine is one of the main components of the body. The spine consists of 24 separate bones, as well as, fused bones of the sacrum and coccyx, making a total of 33 vertebrae.
The spine consists of four parts: bones, joints, discs and nerve and connects to the central nervous system which regulates a person’s mood and most body functions. Because of this, it’s important to ensure your spine stays healthy. Below you’ll discover some of the most common problems that tend to affect one’s spine and a few ways you can ensure it stays in the best shape possible.
What Causes Back Problems?
Back problems can be the result of many things. Some of these are:
- Incorrect posture
- Poor lifting techniques
- Herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
Signs Your Spinal Health May Be Suffering
There are a few symptoms you can look for if you’re concerned your spinal health might be suffering:
- Severe muscle aches or weakness
- Shooting pain down your arms and legs
- Pain that only improves when you sit or lie down
- Trouble bending, moving or breathing
- Loss of sensation or bladder and bowel function
To better understand what causes back problems, it’s important to understand spinal anatomy.
Your spine is broken up into three sections: cervical, thoracic, and lumbar and two fused sections called the sacrum and coccyx. The cervical portion is on the upper part near your neck and helps you move your head. The thoracic section is the middle part of your spine and runs from the lower neck down to your abdomen. The lumbar section is in your lower back and connects to your pelvis.
Each of these portions contains a specific amount of vertebrae. All of these vertebrae are surrounded by nerves and muscles. If one of these vertebrae are injured or slip out of place, it could result in back pain.
5 Ways to Maintain Your Back and Spine Health
Practice Good Posture
One of the best ways to maintain your back and spine health is to use good posture. Good posture ensures that your spine stays aligned which can prevent a disc from sliding out of place.
Using good posture is easier than you might think. All you need to do is stand as straight as you can while keeping your shoulders slightly back. Make sure your feet are evenly spaced and that your body’s weight is evenly distributed on them.
You can also use these posture tips when sitting. However, make sure that when you sit, you keep a small open space between the back of your leg and the edge of the chair.
You might also want to visit a chiropractor or a massage therapist.They can do adjustments that relieve pain and encourage proper posture.
Gentle exercises can be very useful for strengthening your spine and improving flexibility, which may help you move without pain.
One type of exercise to help keep your spine strong and healthy is water aerobics. Thanks to the water’s buoyancy, it will keep pressure off of your body so you can move with more ease. Moving with ease is especially helpful if you suffer from back pain. Movement will also increase blood flow through your body and provide your spine with healing nutrients.
You could also try doing a leg lift with a stretch. This helps to toughen the connective tissues around your spine. To do this stretch, lie with your back flat on the floor. Lift one leg up and try to move it toward your head as far as possible. Hold this position for five seconds and then slowly lift it back down. Repeat this process with the other leg. You’ll want to continue this stretch about ten more times.
If you prefer to not do anything extreme, walking can be just as beneficial as the other exercises. Walking encourages spinal stability and builds up the muscles around your spine. It can also help you to improve your posture.
Consume Plenty of Calcium
To help keep your spine healthy, make sure to consume plenty of calcium. This mineral is crucial for healthy bone development and can prevent many serious spinal ailments, like osteoarthritis. If you don’t have enough calcium, it could also cause back muscle to contract which could lead to serious pain.
To ensure your bones get enough calcium it’s important to eat food high in it. Some of the best options for this include:
- Greek yogurt
You could also consume calcium supplements, however, it’s best to get your calcium from food that naturally contains it.
Watch How You Lift Things
Another way to ensure your spine stays healthy is to watch how you lift things. Improper lifting techniques can put intense pressure on your spine. This could result in anything from muscle strain to a bulging disc.
The secret behind lifting objects is to use your knees. To do this, stand in front of the object and then squat. Take your arms and wrap them around the edges of the item. Once you have a secure grip on it, use your legs to lift your body back up. While transporting the item make sure to use your feet to move your body in different directions. Twisting your back to move will only result in muscle strain.
Use Lumbar Support
If you need to sit for long periods of time, especially for your work, it might be good to use lumbar support. Lumbar support is designed to help cradle the lumbar portion of your spine. This will ensure it stays aligned and can prevent a potential injury due to strain.
To help with this, you can invest in a chair built with lumbar support. You can tell if a chair has it by looking at the bottom part. If it’s curved, it has lumbar support.
If you don’t want to buy a chair, you could instead try a lumbar support cushion. This cushion is constructed out of memory foam and helps to keep your pelvis aligned. Because this body part is connected to the lumbar portion of the spine, it will ensure your lower back stays in place.
Keeping your spine healthy is vital if you want to prevent pain and improve your overall health. By keeping these tips in mind, you can be sure that you can prevent common back pain and injuries.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Juneau, Alaska and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated different musculoskeletal and other health problems through physical therapy, chiropractic care, and massage therapy for Juneau patients.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury, trauma, and more.