Back & Spine Health, and Why It's So Important
“You are only as young as your spine is flexible.” – Joseph Pilates
Here are some eye-opening facts about the spine that just might help you think twice about how you treat this precious collection of bones and muscles. According to walkinchiro.com:
*Low back pain is the leading cause of job-related disability, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Most back pain is experienced in the lower back.
*The spine has over 120 muscles in it along with 220 ligaments, 100 joints, and we are born with 33 individual vertebrae that throughout the course of our lives fuses down to 26 vertebrae. This is what makes it so flexible.
*Cartilage in the spine can expand and contract. Gravity causes cartilage to expand and contract.
* You are taller in the morning than at night due to gravity pushing down on you all day.
*Your spine will remember and become used to your posture. Good or bad it is up to you how your body remembers and responds to the daily habit of your posture.
*Baby’s spines begin to develop just two months after conception. The spine is the first bone to start to grow in the womb.
*The spine can bend so far back that it can form 2/3 of a circle.
According to spine-health.com, there are 5 ways to keep your spine healthy and happy:
1- Let your spine rest while sleeping. This may sound silly but if we are not sleeping on the right mattress and not using the right pillows in the critical positions, we could be doing damage to our spines. Make sure you are using a firm to medium firm mattress that helps keep your spine aligned and balanced. Depending on the position you sleep in, there are pillows that help your spine rest enough to handle the next day’s load.
2- Exercise your core to help strengthen your spine and back muscles. Typically, if exercise is not a daily part of your health routine, we rarely use our core muscles during everyday activity. Your trainer or gym professional can help you set up a core routine that will help keep your core strength up.
3- Oh, what we sacrifice for the sake of good fashion. Shoes are very important when it comes to good spine health. Orthotics or shoe inserts help with balance and/or support as well as making sure the “area of the shoe that fits the back of your heel is snug, but not overly tight.” https://www.spine-health.com
4- Benefits of massage. A good back massage increases blood flow, loosens tight muscles and connective tissues, and boosts feeling of relaxation. Moderate-level massage offers more stress relieving benefits than a light touch massage.
5- As relieving as it might feel to sit and feel like you are taking a load off your spine, sitting is one of the worst things you can do. “The discs in your spine are loaded more while sitting than standing, so long periods of sitting can create or aggravate a painful back condition.” Our natural tendency is to slouch and/or lean forward when sitting at a desk or working at the computer, stressing our lumbar discs even more. The options are to get up from our desks more often throughout the day and walk and stretch, choose an office chair that supports a healthy spine, try working at a standing desk, and practice good posture while seated.
“Movement is the song of the body.” ― Vanda Scaravelli, Awakening the Spine
Proper nutrition specific to a healthy spine is crucial of optimal health throughout the body. Calcium is the most prominent of bone minerals. It is essential for bone health and to maintain a necessary level of bone mass throughout our lifetime, especially in old age. Calcium however must be balanced with other nutrients for strong bones. According to spine-health.com:
Calcium is found in many foods such as dark leafy greens, legumes and some types of fish and a variety of other foods such as almonds and oranges.
Magnesium is a key mineral in the structure of bone health and is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. If blood magnesium should drop, magnesium is pulled from the bones. Magnesium deficiency is common, and supplementation can help maintain bone density and preventing back problems. Magnesium if found in dark leafy greens, bananas, dark chocolate, avocados, seeds, nuts, grains. There are many forms of magnesium so check with your doctor to determine the right magnesium supplement for you.
Vitamin D3 helps the body absorb calcium. Without vitamin D, bones can become thin and brittle and misshapen. Vitamin D deficiency is common, especially where the sunshine is limited. A simple blood test by your doctor can determine your levels of vitamin D. Foods that contain vitamin D include fatty (omega 3) fish like salmon, egg yolks, fortified whole milk but supplements are the most popular form of getting enough vitamin D.
Vitamin K2 is essentially the director for bone minerals, properly distributing calcium out of the soft tissues and depositing it into the bones. Vitamin K2 is found in healthy fats of meats, cheeses, egg yolks and other dairy products.
Iron is important in the production of collagen and in the conversion of vitamin D to its active form. Iron is also responsible for delivering oxygen throughout the body, including to the tissues that support the spine.
Vitamin B12 is required in the formation of the body’s bone-building cells and is necessary for the healthy formation of red blood cells in the bone marrow. B12 deficiency anemia has been associated with osteoporosis.
Collagen proteins make up 30% of the dry weight of bone. Collagen formation requires a regular supply of amino acids along with adequate vitamin C to incorporate them.
Vitamin C is necessary for collagen formation, the substance that holds the body together, found in bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. Vitamin C is vital for healing injured muscles, tendons, ligaments, and intervertebral discs, as well as for keeping the vertebrae strong. Think fruits, red and green peppers, and sweet potatoes.
Proteins are critical components of bone, although they can be easily overlooked with all the focus on minerals. Protein is the key building block for body structure and so daily consumption helps maintain healing and repairing bones, cartilage, and soft tissue.
Low Back Pain relief tip: (According to spine-healthy.com)
· Using a tennis ball or two taped together, can help relieve low back pain by reducing tension in your muscles and connective tissues.
· Improves blood vessel function and increases blood flow.
· Promotes the flow of healing nutrients and nourishment.
· Releases endorphins (happy hormones) to help reduce overall perception of pain.
Here are some other great back stretching and strengthening movements: