“You are only as young as your spine is flexible.”
— Joseph Pilates
A healthy spine is an often overlooked and essential part of a healthy lifestyle. People who suffer from back pain, particularly if it is long-term, are generally less healthy than those who do not. In fact, back pain costs are staggering not only financially, but also in terms of lost time from work and because of psycho-social problems that arise during the healing process associated with long-term back pain.
Unfortunately, approximately 80-90% of the population suffers from spinal pain at some point. People who are over-weight or obese, and who smoke, lift heavy objects, or had a previous episode of back pain, are more likely to experience back pain.
Because so many people suffer from spine pain, it’s important for you to try to keep your spine as healthy as possible. Following simple posture, lifting and healthy lifestyle guidelines can help you keep your back in good shape.
While following these instructions is no guarantee that you’ll be free from back pain for your entire life, it can certainly help you keep your spine in good shape, making you a healthier, happier person.
The American Chiropractic Association recommends the following spinal health tips:
– Do not stand bent forward at the waist for prolonged periods of time. The muscles in your low back become deconditioned in this position, which may lead to back pain.
– If the item is too heavy to lift, pushing it is easier on your back than pulling it. Whenever possible, use your legs, not your back or upper body, to push the item
– If you must lift a heavy item, get someone to help you.
– Avoid rolling your shoulders forward (slouching).
– Try to maintain the natural curve in your low back.
Reaching and Bending
– Do NOT bend over at the waist to pick up items from the floor or a table.
– Instead, kneel down on one knee, as close as possible to the item you are lifting, with the other foot flat on the floor and pick the item up.
– Or bend at the knees, keep the item close to your body, and lift with your legs, not your back.
– Carrying two small objects – one in each hand – is often easier to handle than one large one.
Healthy Diet and Exercise
– “Beer belly” is likely the worst culprit, as it puts unwanted pressure on the muscles, ligaments and tendons in your low back.
– The most efficient and effective way to reduce weight is by eating a sensible diet and exercising regularly.
– Consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, particularly if you have a health condition.
– Placing a pillow under your knees while lying on your back cuts the pressure on your spine roughly in half.
– Lying on your side with a pillow between your knees may also reduce the pressure on your back.
– Never sleep in a position that causes a portion of your spine to hurt. Most often, your body will tell you what position is best.