Do you regularly suffer from headaches, back or neck pain or injury? Sounds like it’s time you took better care of your spine! Made up of vertebra to provide structure to your body, spinal discs between the vertebrae for shock absorption, and ligaments and muscles connecting these vertebrae to form the spinal column (which houses the spinal cord), the spine helps keeps you upright, and moving, twisting and bending freely.
To keep you safe and pain-free, here are 12 ways to show your spine some TLC. Try them today.
1. Sit less
You’ve probably got the memo that sitting is akin to smoking when it comes to the negative impacts on your health. One of the many reasons a sedentary, desk-bound lifestyle is problematic is that sitting exerts far greater pressure on the spine than standing – 40% in fact! Over time, this can lead to back pain due to the increase in concentration of pressure through your intervertebral discs.
These discs are made out of an outer fibrous ring, surrounding a gel-like centre, the nucleus pulposus. The nucleus helps to distribute pressure evenly across the disc, preventing the concentration of stress onto one particular area. The discs are also meant to expand and contract as you move, which allows them to absorb blood and nutrients.
When you sit, the discs are compressed and can lose flexibility over time, which can also increase your risk of a disc herniation. Sitting for long periods also puts extra stress on muscles and ligaments, which can cause pain. Which leads into our next point…
2. Stretch more
Office worker, manual labourer, weight lifter… EVERYONE will benefit from a little more stretching in their day to day. Stretching increases flexibility of your muscles and improves the range of motion of your joints. This reduces the stress on your joints and enables your muscles to work most efficiently.
3. Strengthen your core
To support your spine, it’s very important to strengthen the core muscles of your abdomen and lower back. Yoga and Pilates are two core-centric workouts that will do wonders for the stabilising muscles of your mid-section. They also promote better posture, which benefits the entire body.
4. Buy a decent mattress
To alleviate pressure from the spine as you sleep, you want a supportive and comfortable mattress that allows good spinal alignment. So, if your mattress is starting to sag, it might be time to cough up for a new one.
5. Drink more water
Without adequate hydration, the cushioning ability of the disks between your vertebrae is reduced. This can lead to back pain, reduced mobility and, in extreme case, spinal injury. So, drink up!
6. Ensure your workstation is ergonomically sound
Ideally, your workplace will have sit-stand desks, which support good spinal health. If not, a good ergonomic set up is important for all those hours spent sitting. For starters, ensure your feet are flat on the ground, at least half of your forearms are supported on the desk when your elbows are at 90 degrees, and you’re looking directly at the top half or third of your screen.
7. Lift weights in front of a mirror
It might seem vain, but positioning yourself near a mirror at the gym is an important safety measure. It will provide you a visual to ensure you have the correct, back-supporting form when lifting weights. And never sacrifice your form for the sake of more reps!
8. Try floating
If you suffer from chronic pain, want to speed up recovery after a training, or just want to deeply relax, free from the constraints of gravity, you need to try floating. Floatation therapy, bobbing around in an Epsom salt solution in a stimuli-free pod, has countless purported benefits. As well as relieving your back pain, you might enjoy better sleep or even ace that sodoku.
9. Limit high heel wear
We don’t like to be spoil sports, and we’ll never tell you to toss the heels. However, vertiginous footwear can overload the muscles of the lumbar spine, leading to muscle fatigue and back pain. So, try to limit your wear.
10. Lighten your load
If you lug your life around with you, consider a more minimalist approach. Swap that weighty tome for a kindle, empty all your coins into a jar, and consider a more spine-friendly back pack.
11. Stay active
As well as having countless benefits for your heart, waistline and mind, an active lifestyle is essential for a healthy, happy spine. For a balanced regime, combine cardio, stretching and resistance work.
12. Have a massage
Massage is not just an indulgence. It helps to improve circulation, reduce muscle tightness, relieve stress, speed up healing, and improve your range of motion. All of which is good news for your overworked spine!