Millions of people are affected by back pain every day. And beyond living with the pain itself, this kind of condition diminishes your quality of life — you often miss work and social activities that you enjoy and may not be able to accomplish even simple, everyday necessities.
Taking care of your spine — that is, your back and neck — now will help you lower the chances of experiencing back pain later.
Many of the steps you can take to improve the overall health of your spine involve nothing more than practicing better body mechanics — how you move and hold yourself — when you do daily tasks and activities.
Taking Care of Your Spine
Here are simple yet important adjustments to make for spine health:
- Lift right. It’s very easy to twist the wrong way and damage your spine if you don’t use proper form when lifting an object. Here’s how to lift correctly: Stand as close to the object as you can. Use your legs rather than your back or upper body to pull up the item. It will help if you bend your knees so your arms are at the same height as the item. Keep your back straight. If the item is heavy, don’t try to lift it yourself — get help.
- Sleep tight. Sleeping well is important to your overall health, says Anne Coffey, DC, a chiropractor with AllCare Health Associates in Totowa, N.J. Your body needs a good night’s sleep to repair itself, she says. Sleep on your side, not your stomach. Sleeping on your stomach puts too much pressure on your spine. “Invest in a supportive mattress as well as a pillow that promotes proper alignment of your neck,” Dr. Coffey says. Be sure to turn your mattress regularly so that it wears evenly.
- Stay active. “Whether you make regular visits to the gym, walk, bike, swim, or play with your kids, staying active and keeping your body moving helps maintain the health of your spine,” Coffey says. The best exercise routine for your back and neck is one that combines stretching, strengthening, and aerobic activity. Exercise also helps you to lose weight or maintain a proper weight. Being overweight, especially if you have belly fat, can put added stress on the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your lower back.
- Work smart. Proper ergonomics can help reduce a lot of stress on both the lower and upper back, thus reducing the frequency of conditions ranging from stiff back and headaches to carpal tunnel and sciatica, Coffey says. Make sure your workspace — whether a laptop, phone, computer desk, or even your car — is set up for your height and functionality. Choose a chair that provides back support. Your knees should be at 90 degrees and your feet should rest comfortably on the floor. Never cradle your phone between your ear and shoulder. Hold your phone to your ear or use a headset to avoid neck pain. Also, plan regular breaks. “Staying in one position for too long will cause back muscles to tighten up and become immobile,” Coffey says. Plus, she notes, a short break is good for your mental health and productivity.
- Stretch out. “I never go a day without reminding people that they need to stretch to help their back and neck,” Coffey says. “Keeping flexible helps maintain normal joint function and a good range of motion. It also reduces the risk of injury.” Many back pain problems are caused by tight hamstrings — muscles in the backs of your legs. If your hamstring muscles are tight, they will pull on the bottom of your pelvis and encourage it to rotate backward. “This can then create postural changes and put added stress on the entire spine and its articulations (where two or more bones connect),” Coffey says. If you start your day with a few good stretches, it will not only be invigorating, but also will promote your spinal health.
- Pay attention to any warning signs. “Don’t ignore spinal problems or pain,” Coffey says. Although it is common to have back pain once in a while, it can indicate a more serious problem. Left untreated, problems with your spine can worsen and become quite serious. “Listen to what your body is telling you,” she says. “Don’t overdo it at the gym or at work, or self-medicate for a problem. Seek professional care to learn about your spine and the correct treatment for your symptoms.”
- Stay hydrated. “Staying hydrated is important to maintaining soft tissue elasticity and fluidity in joints,” Coffey says. “Our intervertebral (spinal) discs are vulnerable to loss of hydration and can begin to lose height.” As the discs begin to shrink, you are more vulnerable to painful disc conditions such as bulging or ruptures. In addition, as the spine begins to lose its protective padding, it further contributes to the loss of structural health, she says.
source : everydayhealth.com