Busy thinking about your posture?
It’s World Spine Day and this year the theme is ‘Straighten Up and Move’.
It’s no good just thinking about good posture – you’ve got to live it everyday; become posture-aware and develop the life habits that contribute to good posture and a healthy spine.
So here are our 10 Fundamentals for Spinal Health
1. Movement. The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae. Five are fused (in the sacrum), the other 28 are designed to move. So move it and use it – long periods sitting still, in the car, in the office, on the sofa, lead to chronic spinal weakness. A flexible spine is much less susceptible to injury, so get stretching – the yoga routine ‘Salute to the sun’ is excellent.
2. Regular exercise will help you to develop a healthier, stronger and more stable spine. It doesn’t have to be too strenuous – indeed just regular brisk walks can make a huge difference. Find an exercise you enjoy and build up gradually, start off sessions gently to allow muscles to warm up and do a few stretches to ease muscles out when you’re finished.
3. Increase abdominal strength. The abdominal muscles provide support for ⅔ of the lower part of the body and are important supporters of the low back and pelvis. Strong abdominals will improve spinal stability and reduce the risk of back injury, they also fatigue less during prolonged standing or sitting, helping to protect the back from strain.
4. Shed the pounds and keep them off. If you’re overweight, each pound loads extra stress upon the soft tissues of the spine, making them more susceptible to tears, strains and sprains in the short term and vulnerable to early degenerative changes, disc problems and changes to normal spinal curves over the years.
5. Stop smoking. Smoking reduces the bloods capacity to carry oxygen and so reduces supply of oxygen to all the body tissues. It contributes to arterial disease which can impair blood flow to many parts of the body including the spine. It also promotes tissue inflammation and impairs the healing process. Smoking – or not smoking – is probably the most important lifestyle choices we each make.
6. Eat well – all the body tissues need the correct nutrients to maintain health, development and repair. Cut right down on sugar-laden, fat-laden, high-carb, high calorie foods and eat more protein, vegetables, and other lower calorie, nutrient-dense foods. Keep yourself well hydrated – making half of your fluid intake plain water.
7. Sleep well. You spend ⅓ of your life sleeping, so get a good supportive mattress and quality pillows. Don’t sleep on your stomach, try and sleep on your back or side – these positions reduce stress on the spine. If sleeping on your side, assume a foetal position or the recovery position (a pillow supporting the knee of the upper leg, will help reduce rotation strain in the back). Generally two pillows if you’re sleeping on your side, one if you’re on your back – but experiment, and make sure your neck is supported. And ensure you get enough sleep – it’s essential for tissue growth and repair. Aim for 7 hours each and every night – there’s no such thing as catch-up sleep.
8. Use proper lifting techniques to protect your spine from injury. Make sure you’ve a good idea how heavy an object is before you lift it. Take particular care with large or awkwardly shaped loads. Plan your lift before you start, clearing obstacles out of the way if necessary. Face the load you’re going to lift, square on. Keep the back straight and bend the legs and hips when lifting – lift cautiously and at a sensible speed. Hold heavy objects close to your body. Don’t twist while lifting or carrying a heavy load – move your feet instead. Avoid lifting heavy objects higher than waist level and whenever possible try and push an object rather than pull. Ask for help if you’re unsure.
9. Balance what you’re carrying – Always try to carry items over 10 pounds in a balanced fashion, dispersing the weight as evenly as possible, right and left. Do not overload your luggage, backpack or handbag. Use both shoulder straps on your rucksack and ideally use a shoulder bag with a strap long enough to go over your head and sit on the opposite shoulder, strap diagonally across your body (or lighten the load!)
10. Seek professional help for back pain which persists for more than a few days, or if bouts are getting more frequent or more severe. Regular spinal check-ups are effective as a preventative measure, addressing patterns of tension and restriction before symptoms develop.
The list goes on….wear a good supportive bra (no, not if you’re a bloke!), avoid sustained static positions, invest in a good office chair, address your workstation ergonomics, don’t clamp your phone between your ear and shoulder, take regular breaks, avoid prolonged repetitive movements, wear proper shoes, avoid excessive high-impact activities, learn to relax, and above all LISTEN TO YOUR BACK…. if you are involved in an activity that causes or increases back pain, think about what you can change to alleviate the pain. Your body will usually tell you what it needs if you take time to listen to it.
In need of some help? – on World Spine Day, or any other day – Call us on 01780 480889. The Broad Street Practice Osteopathic Team