Lifestyle choices play an important role in the health of your spine. When we are young, the bones in our spine are strong, our muscles are limber and our discs are at a healthy height, allowing us to move effortlessly. Participation in athletic activities coupled with poor body mechanics can mark the beginning of disc damage because excessive flexion and rotation of the spine can lead to annular tears in our discs. In our adult years, life gets busy with careers, families and hobbies, and it becomes easier to make poor lifestyle choices that unknowingly put extra force on our spine, leading to torn discs, which cause a painful syndrome known as Leaky Disc Syndrome. After years of experiencing discs that leak, it often results in a person having Degenerative Disc Disease.
A healthy spine consists of strong vergebrae with soft, gel-like cusions between each vertebra called discs that helps absorb pressure and keeps the bones from rubbing against each other. Each vertebra is held to the others by ligaments. Ligaments connect bones to bones, and tendons connect muscles to bones. The spinal column also has joints called facet joints. The facet joints link the vertebrae together and give them the flexibility to move. When any of these structures become affected by injury, strain or disease, it results in pain. Our hope is that you will make lifestyle choices that facilitate a healthy spine, maintaining healthy discs, so that you can avoid chronic back pain that can often lead to Degenerative Disc Disease.
Whether you’re experiencing back pain or not, it’s never too late to adopt a few of these 9 lifestyle tips for a healthy spine:
- Avoid flexion and rotation – Flexion (forward bending) and rotation (twisting) creates shear and compressive forces that damage and tear discs, becoming one of the leading causes of back pain.
- Stay Hydrated – Your discs are primarily made up of water. Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking at least eight 8 ounce glass of water daily.
- Stop Smoking – Smoking reduces calcium absorption and prevents new bone growth. Nicotine restricts the flow of oxygen and nutrients in your blood stream.
- Practice Good Posture – Keep your shoulders back and aligned. Use your stomach muscles to keep your body straight. Keep your head up and look forward. Be aware of your posture as you use technology.
- Take a Break from Sitting – Lengthy periods of sitting causes a compressive force on the disc which prevents osmosis, leading to low back pain.
- Limit Technology Use – Take a break from technology, even if it is a 10 minute break to stretch, go for a walk or visit with a friend or co-worker.
- Stay Active – Walking is one of the best forms of exercise. It creates an up and down movement called osmosis, which is how your discs absorb the nutrients it needs.
- Use Your Legs to Lift – Learn how to lift items using your legs and not your back. Strengthen your core muscles. A strong core increases stability in back muscles and encourages proper body mechanics.
- Maintain Healthy Body Weight – Maintaining a healthy body weight can make movement easier, and allows your body to get the nutrients it needs.
Written by: Michelle Peña, Director of Communications and Carrie Wright, Director of Biologics