Contrary to what many people think, your spine is incredibly strong and resilient, capable of withstanding intense forces from exercise, sports and other physical activities. However, when the structures that support your spine become weakened or tight, they can wreak havoc, causing low back and neck pain, and compressing the nerves that send signals throughout your body.
Following a few simple strategies can help you maintain a strong healthy spine and avoid unnecessary pain.
- Stay Active: Physical activity is foundational to optimal health. Engage in regular exercise that includes cardio, resistance training and stretching on a weekly basis.
- Work Your Core: Exercises that optimize core and pelvic muscle strength protect your spine from injury, and aid in transferring force loads between your upper and lower body.
- Practice Perfect Posture: Poor daily postural habits can place excessive stress on your spinal discs, compressing nerves and causing pain. Make a point of consciously adjusting your posture throughout the day. Your physical therapist can show you corrective exercises to improve your posture.
- Avoid Prolonged Sitting: Sitting all day can have a negative effect on your spine. Flabby abdominal muscles, rounded shoulders, tight hip flexors and weak hip extensors are all consequences of sitting that can throw your posture off when standing or moving.
- Stretch: Taking a few minutes each day to thoroughly stretch your entire body, especially your spine, can relieve pressure on nerves and balance out muscle tension. Stretching before bed can improve sleep quality.
- Manage Your Weight: Carrying extra weight places stress on all of your joints, especially your spine. Dropping a few pounds can make a big difference in your overall health, and can reduce your risk of low back pain.
- Get Better Sleep: Sleep quality has a profound effect on your health, from your mental acuity to your overall body chemistry. Sleep deprivation can cause a number of health problems. Trying to sleep on an uncomfortable or too-soft mattress can throw your spine out of alignment, putting pressure on nerves that keeps you awake. Invest in a supportive mattress, and get better sleep.
- Hydrate: Your entire body, including your spine, relies on adequate hydration to function at its peak. The gel-like substance within your spinal discs is almost all water. The fluid gets squeezed out during the day while the spine is loaded, and the discs are then rehydrated while you sleep. You are actually taller in the morning when your discs are fully hydrated! Drink about one ounce of water daily for every two pounds of body weight.
- Eat Whole Foods: Your spine relies on good nutritional support to function at its best. Fresh whole foods supply you with the micronutrients you need for a healthy back.
- Choose Supportive Footwear: Ill-fitting fashion footwear is bad for your feet and your back. It throws your posture out of alignment, and places stress on your entire spine. Shock absorption, stabilization and arch support are important features to look for when purchasing shoes. As a general rule of thumb, if your shoes are uncomfortable in any way, they are probably bad for your back.
- Kick the Nicotine Habit: Statistics indicate that smokers are 300 times more likely to suffer low back pain than non-smokers.
- Use Proper Lifting Techniques: Whether you’re picking up your toddler, loading groceries in the trunk, or moving heavy boxes, lifting technique is critical for avoiding back pain. Face your load head-on, set your feet apart, bend your knees, keep your load close to your body, and lift with your legs, not your back.
Spine Therapy in Brooklyn
The friendly team at Physical Therapy Brooklyn understands the importance of maintaining a healthy spine throughout the course of your life. The best time to improve your spinal health is before you experience an injury or back pain. Specific exercises performed with proper technique can go a long way toward keeping your spine strong and supple.
Contact Physical Therapy Brooklyn today, and let our team of professionals design an individualized exercise program to help you build and maintain a stronger, healthier spine.