Why is your spine so important? Here are five reasons to take better care of your back and maintain good posture.
- Your spinal cord gives you the ability to bend and twist. When your spine is injured, your mobility is limited. If you accidentally injure it, wear it out over time, or have repeated bad posture, you could have difficulty with things such as sitting up straight, bending over, picking things up, walking, twisting your spine, or moving your neck.
- The nervous system runs electrical impulses up and down the spine to areas that feel sensation. A damaged spinal cord can disrupt neural responses, disabling sensations in parts of your body.
- When you swallow food and water, it travels down your throat into your esophagus, and then into your stomach. Your esophagus is parallel with your spine. If you accidentally injure your spine, it can press against your esophagus, obstruct it, or puncture it. Surgery would be necessary to prevent further damage and fix the obstruction or punctured esophagus.
- Incorrect movement, intense exercises and bad posture can add unnecessary pressure to the spine, which over time can lead to degenerative diseases. Abnormal movement and improper stance can cause wear and tear to your spinal structure, leading to injuries that require surgery and can permanently damage your spinal discs and joints.
- Without your spine working properly, your quality of life can greatly deteriorate. You won’t be able to enjoy many of the activities you love. Not only can your mobility be hindered, but stress on your spine alone is extremely painful.
Spinal problems can begin as early as the late twenties, and some unfortunately have problems even earlier due to sport injuries or bad posture. To prevent injury to your spine or further deterioration, it is important to strengthen your spine with exercise. Stretching daily and practicing proper posture when sitting, standing, sleeping, exercising and playing sports are some of the ways you can take better care of your spine.
We have all been told by our parents to stand up straight, but many of us don’t do so regularly, and as a result suffer with back pain or stiffness from time to time. Eventually these problems can become permanent and develop into further strain and injury. Practicing good posture isn’t something you do only when standing. Many of us sit for long periods of time hunched over our desks. This isn’t good for our backs either. Here are some tips for better posture:
Standing: When standing, allow your feet to be slightly parted. Tuck your tailbone in and tilt your pelvic bone forward a little. This should create a small hollow in your lower back. Lift your chest by pulling your shoulders back and down in a relaxed position. Keep your chin level with your jaw relaxed. Standing in this manner can take practice if you’re not used to it. It’s worth it though, and you will begin to naturally fall into this position when standing if you make a conscious effort to practice.
Sitting: When you sit down at work or at home, sit back in your chair to where your buttocks are against the backrest. Maintain a small space between the back of your knees and the front of the chair. Place your feet in front of you on the ground with your legs forming a 90-degree angle. Straighten your back by pulling your chest up and your shoulders back, just as if you were standing. Maintain a level chin and relaxed mouth to avoid fatigue as well.
Sleeping: The way we sleep also affects our spinal alignment and can cause pain and stiffness in the morning if we sleep in an awkward position throughout the night. It helps to have a firm mattress, but if you don’t have one, you can still sleep in a position that reduces back pain. Try not to use oversized pillows as this can shift the upper part of your spine. Select a pillow that has just enough cushion to align your head with the rest of your spine. Also avoid lying on your stomach for long periods of time as it can arch your back. Side and back positions are optimal for maintaining good posture as you sleep. Placing a pillow between your legs while in a side position, or behind your legs when you are lying on your back, can ease stress on your lower back.
Lifting: When lifting heavy objects, don’t try to lift from the side or on your back. Place the load in front of you. With your knees bent to a squatting or lunge position and your back in a neutral position, lift the load carefully by slowly bringing it up toward your chest. Avoid twisting or slouching when lifting and lowering. When exercising, follow your physical trainer or coach’s instructions. If you don’t have one, look up how to stand and lift properly according to the general guidelines of each exercise to avoid injury.
Exercising: Exercises can either help or hurt your back. You can prevent injury by working out the muscles that surround your spine. Before getting into your exercise routine, start with stretches that will protect your back. Stretches that are good for your back include cat and cow pose, downward dog, hip flexor stretch and reverse bridge pose. Stretching in the morning can also help when you accidentally slept in a bad position. Yoga can also help loosen spinal tension and help you correct your posture. Practicing yoga, using light weights and doing push-ups can all help strengthen your back muscles and open up your spine. Squats, leg lifts, side bridge, curl ups, and pallof presses are specific moves that can help your spine.
Now that you know how important it is to start taking care of your spine early in life, what changes are you going to make? I hope these simple steps can help you live a healthy, full life without pain or injury.
—The Alternative Daily