Five Ways To Keep Your Spine Healthy
People use the term “golden years” to refer to retirement and the joyous times that lie ahead. However, some joke that they should be called the “rusty years” instead, because of how our bodies inherently wear out and break down as we age—aches and pains abound as the years go on. While aging is inevitable, there are so many things you can do to slow the progression so you truly can have more golden years rather than rusty years! Memorial Hospital of Converse County (MHCC) is exploring five ways you can invest in your spine health today.
- Core Strength and Stretching
Your core includes the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, and your internal and external oblique muscles. Many people prioritize back strength over core strength. While it is certainly important to keep your back muscles strong since they surround and support the spine, it is even more important to have a strong core. Why?
Think of your back and core muscles as being two kids on a teeter totter. If your core muscles are weak but your back muscles are strong, the kid representing the back muscles has all the weight and will slam into the ground. This can actually add stress on parts of the teeter totter frame (spine) if the back muscles are being overworked. If the core and back are strong, the teeter totter will balance and not slam, so there is less force put on the frame.
The pelvic tilt exercise is an excellent starting point for learning how to properly engage your core. This can be progressed to a supine reverse march and further to a dead bug exercise.
We all know living a sedentary life is bad, because it can lead to Diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, amongst other issues. Exercising regularly stimulates synovial fluid in spinal joints and increases blood flow to the joints and surrounding muscles. If you have a desk job, take breaks every 20 to 30 minutes to get up and walk a lap around the office so your spine is not in one position of prolonged stress all day.
Our back muscles tend to be tense, which can put pressure on the spine. You can loosen them with soft tissue massage by rolling on a lacrosse or tennis ball on the ground or placing it between your back and the wall and holding it. Stretching at least once every day can also help maintain flexibility. Child’s pose, the piriformis stretch, cat-cow, and knee to chest stretches are all excellent options.
- Practice Proper Lifting Mechanics
You probably bend to pick things up at least 20 times a day. How many times is that in 80 years? Too many, which is why proper lifting mechanics are crucial.
When lifting heavy objects, you should get as close to the object as possible to minimize the stresses placed on your back. Spread your feet at least shoulder width apart with the object between the feet. Bend at the knees and move toward the object, engaging your core and keeping your back flat. Propel yourself up with your legs and buttocks. You should not twist, and if the object is too heavy or is an awkward shape, have another person assist.
Alternatively, use the kneeling lift. The suitcase lift is primarily for objects off to the side, and the golfer’s lift is for light objects. You can find more information about each of these here.
Eat a diet full of calcium and Vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products such as milk and yogurt, as well as leafy greens. Foods with Vitamin D are fish, egg, edamame, and cheese.
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and minimize processed foods and sugar to maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds equate to added stress on the back.
Yes, flats and heels are fun, but they do not support feet and legs much, which means there is added stress to your back. Most of the time, you should be wearing shoes with a firm, supportive sole with a good arch. This is especially true for work, where you may be on your feet for eight or more hours per day. Try a pair of shoes all day around the house to make sure they are comfortable and do not cause pain before committing to them. Regularly replace your shoes when they are worn—be aware of small aches and pains in your joints that may arise when your shoes are near replacement time.
Follow these tips to keep your spine aligned and to prolong your golden years so you can enjoy your retirement in Wyoming the fullest. Our team at MHCC can assist in answering any questions you may have about spinal health and protecting your back. Call our Neurosurgery and Spine team at 307-237-3077 to schedule an appointment, no referrals or imaging are needed to schedule.