Back pain is one of the most common ailments among adults and a top contributor to missed work among U.S. workers. In fact, about 80 percent of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lifetime.
It may seem inevitable, but the reality is that our lifestyle and habits can play a major role in our overall spine health. Making choices today to take care of your spinal cord health (back and neck) can help reduce the chances that you will experience back pain in the future.
Here are five steps you can take to improve spine health and protect your spine in the years to come.
1. Make time for spine health exercises.
Strengthening your core muscles while increasing flexibility is key to improving spine health, whether you are recovering from a minor back injury or want to simply want to take steps to protect your spine. Try these stretches and exercises:
Hamstring stretch: Lie on your back with knees bent about shoulder-width apart. Cross your right ankle over your left knee. Place your hands, with fingers interlocked, behind your left knee and gently pull your left leg in toward your body until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, hips and buttocks. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each side.
Bridge exercise: Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart, engage the muscles in your back and buttucks, gently raising your hips off the floor, while keeping your shoulders flat on the floor. Hold for five seconds. Return to resting position. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps.
Chair squat: Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet on the floor and your knees at a 90-degree angle. Cross your arms over your chest, firmly push your feet into the floor and squeeze your hamstring and buttock muscles as you rise to a standing position. Keeping your hands across your chest, slowly lower yourself back to the seated position. Be sure to keep your back and neck in line as you complete the exercise.Complete three sets of 10 reps.
2. Lift with caution.
Lifting items that are too heavy, or using improper form — such as bending at the waist instead of at the knees — can easily cause a muscle strain or more serious back injury. When lifting, stand as close to the object as possible and use your legs, bending at the knees rather than at the hips or waist, to lift the item. Keep your back straight while lifting, and if the item is too heavy, grab a partner to help.
3. Maintain a healthy weight.
Carrying excess body weight adds to the amount of stress put on all of the muscles, ligaments and tendons in your back. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from lower back pain because excess body fat, particularly around the middle, shifts the body’s center of gravity forward, straining muscles in the back. Work with your doctor to develop a healthy diet and exercise plan to help you lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight.
4. Practice good posture.
Poor posture only adds to the stress and strain on your spine, leading to back injury or chronic back pain. Slouching has also been linked to headaches, poor circulation, depression, fatigue, jaw pain and shoulder pain. If you have a desk job, always sit with your feet flat on the floor, knees at hip level and set your computer screen at eye level. To adjust your posture, think about keeping your spine in a straight line all the way to the top of your head. Stand tall with your shoulders pulled back and down, your stomach tucked in and your pelvis in a neutral position.
5. Stay hydrated.
Yes, drinking plenty of water is even essential for spine health. Without enough water, the intervertebral discs in the spine can shrink, making you more susceptible to painful disc conditions, such as herniated disc (also known as slipped or ruptured discs). Bulging or herniated discs can also cause sciatica, a type of pain that radiates down the leg.
If you have been diagnosed with a spinal condition, experience chronic back pain or have suffered a back injury, contact Houston’s spine health doctor, Dr. Vivek P. Kushwaha, today. Dr. Kushwaha is a renowned orthopedic spine surgeon and can help you get relief from your back pain.