Earl Reser - When it comes to body parts to take care of, your spine should be at the top of your list. In addition to providing your body with an immense amount of support, your spine also houses your spinal cord, which is an integral part of your central nervous system. Your spine allows you to bend and twist, and is involved in more of your daily movements than you realize. Unfortunately, there are all kinds of ways that people unintentionally injure their spine, leading to a lifetime of back pain. Here are five tips for a healthy spine, and how to start protecting your back today.
1. Work On Those Abs
You might not be too worried about fitting into a bikini or wearing a midriff top, but failing to care about the strength of your abdominal region could be hurting your spine.
Just like any other long, tall object, your body requires support from all sides to stay upright. Imaging a paper towel roll where half of the roll has fallen into water or been sliced a few times with a pair of scissors. If one side of the roll is damaged, it won’t be able to provide the same amount of support. The same concept holds true with your body. A weak abdomen can, ironically, lead to back injuries.
To protect your spine, focus on exercises that work to strengthen the core. Focus on creating a body that is strong and healthy all the way around, and don’t overdo those back exercises. Instead, try to balance your exercise to work the front of your body just as much as workouts that concentrate on back muscles.
2. Focus On Proper Lifting
You grew up with your mom and dad telling you to lift with your legs, not with your back, but that doesn’t mean you always take their advice. Unfortunately, lifting heavy objects improperly is one of the leading causes of spinal injuries.
As a general rule of thumb, try to bring objects close to you before standing up, and always keep a wide base of support by spreading your feet apart. Focus on lifting slowly and carefully, and never be ashamed to ask other people for help carrying heavy objects.
3. Practice Correct Posture
Everyone gets slouchy from time to time, but paying attention to the way that you sit and stand is vital for your spinal health. Focus on standing up straight, pushing your shoulders back, and holding your head high. When you sit, try to readjust yourself so that you aren’t leaning to one side, and sit up as straight as possible.
In addition to keeping your spine in a comfortable, neutral position, using proper posture also helps to strengthen your core, which makes it easier to maintain proper posture in the future.
4. Evaluate Your Sleeping Habits
You spend about a third of your life in bed, which is why it is so crucial to check your sleeping habits and equipment in order to protect your back. Here are four things you should think about when it comes to getting the best night’s sleep possible.
1. Mattress: Your mattress should be firm enough to properly support your spine, but soft enough to cushion your body’s pressure points. When you shop for mattresses, make sure to lay on them for at least 20 minutes to check their comfort level.
2. Pillows: Look for a pillow that is designed to accommodate your sleeping position. For example, there are pillows for side sleepers, stomach sleepers, etc. If you are a side sleeper, consider using a pillow between your knees for added comfort. Research has shown that putting a pillow between your knees can cut back pressure by half.
3. Position: Your spine endures 55 pounds of pressure when you sleep on your back. To alleviate this pressure, consider mixing up your sleeping position from time to time.
4. Smart Technology: Some new adjustable bases are made with Bluetooth technology and biometric sensors that evaluate the quality of your sleep. Integrated cellphone applications can help you to learn more about the quality of sleep you are getting each night, and to make careful adjustments along the way.
5. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Hydration is important, and not just because of your skin, hair, and general comfort. When you become dehydrated, the cushions between your spine can dry out, which means that they won’t be able to provide as much pressure relief between your vertebrae. Over time, dehydration can lead to vertebral disc degeneration, pinching nerves and contributing to serious back injuries. To avoid issues, try to drink a minimum of eight 8oz. glasses of water each and every day, and drink more if you live in a dry part of the world or exercise vigorously.
By paying close attention to the health of your back, you can keep your body strong, comfortable, and flexible.