10 Tips for a Healthy Spine

October 19, 2016 at 2:22 PM

10 Tips for a Healthy Spine

Welcome to our October edition. This month we are focused on how to keep your spine healthy.
 
About Your Back
Your back is a truly amazing structure! Comprised of approximately 100 joints, 220 individual ligaments and attached to over 120 muscles, your spine supports you throughout life but needs your support to keep you moving well throughout the years ahead.
 
Back Pain
Unfortunately back pain is very common, affecting up to 85% of the population. Although 90% of people with back pain will improve within 3 months, about 50% will go on to experience a reoccurrence. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can take care of your back. 


1. Lift it the right way

Heavy or repetitive lifting can cause back pain, but following a few pointers will help reduce your risk of injury:

  • Maintain a wide stance
  • Bend at the knees and hips
  • Keep your back in a neutral position with your chest facing forward
  • Turn your feet instead of twisting your spine
  • Keep the load close to your body
  • Get help for very heavy loads

 

 2. Avoid Sustained Postures

Your spine was designed to move. Even perfect posture, when held for long enough, can result in discomfort. Try a sit-to-stand desk and taking frequent breaks to walk around the office to keep your joints lubricated.
 

3. Strengthen Your Core

Developing and maintaining strong core muscles is money in the bank for your spine. Starting a general strengthening program that incorporates gluteals, back extensors and abdominals is a great idea. Already in pain? Our physiotherapists can design a tailor-made program addressing your pain while also increasing your strength.
 

4. Stay Active

Exercise improves blood flow to the joints and muscles, helping to deliver nutrients, carry away waste products, and can help accelerate healing. Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress and manage depression-both risk factors for developing back pain. So pop on a pair of shoes and get going! Prefer the water instead? Even better! The buoyancy will reduce compressive load on the spine while providing resistance training as you move.
 

5. Stretching

A sedentary lifestyle can lead to detrimental postural changes and segmental overloading leading to pain and injury. Pilates, yoga or a stretching program can help prevent this through maintaining good spinal mobility.

6. Support Your Spine

Match your pillow to your sleeping posture. Side sleepers may need a thicker pillow whereas back sleepers may be best matched with a thinner pillow to ensure the spine maintains its’ neutral alignment.

 7. Work Smarter

How your workspace is set up can have a large impact on the total load exerted on your spine over the course of a day. Use an adjustable chair with lumbar support, place your feet flat on the floor, hips and knees should be bent at 90 degrees, with the top 1/3 of your screen at eye level.

 8Quit Smoking

Smoking increases your risk of back pain by damaging the blood vessels throughout your body, leading to impairments in blood flow and the time it takes to heal. Why not stop now? Join other NZers for Stoptober at www.stoptober.nz . Want to increase your chances of success? Visit www.quit.org.nz for assistance to help make the change stick.
 
9. Weight Control
Carrying extra weight puts additional force through the muscles, discs, ligaments and tendons across your back. Although exercise can help, managing your diet is key when it comes to controlling your weight.
 
10. Listen to your body
Don’t ignore pain! Although back pain is common and most episodes don’t require medical treatment, persistent or acute pain may indicate something more serious requiring help from your physiotherapist or GP.