An injured or unhealthy spine affects your entire range of motion and can make even the simplest daily task feel impossible. For severe injuries, seeing a specialist is recommended. However, there are several changes you can make in your own life to avoid back injury or prevent small aches and pains from becoming serious issues.
Proper Lifting Form
Injuries caused by lifting objects improperly are incredibly common. It’s not hard to accidentally twist the wrong way or pull a muscle in your back when moving something heavy. The key to proper lifting is to take the pressure off your back by using your lower body to power the lift. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and get as close as possible to the object you’re lifting. If you need to get underneath the object to lift it, kneel down on one knee first. You want to avoid lifting on a rounded spine. Raise and lower the object to the ground by bending your knees, not your back. Keeping your gaze at eye level instead of looking down can also help you stay straight and balanced. If the object is still too heavy, ask for help. Don’t put unnecessary stress on your spine if there’s someone else who can assist you!
How you sleep and how much you sleep both play a big role in your spine’s health. First of all, inadequate sleep can be associated with back and neck pain, so it’s important that you get the recommended six to eight hours of sleep per night. Sufficient sleep helps the body heal from injuries, too.
Secondly, your sleeping position can either relieve or put additional pressure on your spine. Typically, the ideal sleeping position is on your side, and many people benefit from placing a pillow between their knees. Sleeping on your back can put up to 50 pounds of pressure on your spine, so if this is your preferred sleeping position you may want to add pillows under your knees. Try to keep your head and neck aligned with your spine and never sleep in a position that causes pain in your neck or back. Listen to your body and find what feels comfortable for you.
Eating Right and Drinking Water
Most people know that eating a nutritious diet is good for them, but it’s equally important for your spinal health. Incorporating lean proteins, healthy fats, and fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet will help build muscle and have you feeling your best. In addition, calcium and vitamin K (found in broccoli, spinach, and dark leafy greens) both build strong, dense bones that keep your spine sturdy. It is also recommended that you stay hydrated to keep joints fluid and elastic.
This is one of the most obvious factors that affects your spine, but it’s also one of the most vital. For those who sit for a large portion of the day, it’s easy to fall into poor posture habits. Sitting with your knees slightly higher than your hips can ease your lower back of extra strain. In both sitting and standing, you can avoid slouching by rolling your shoulders back and keeping your head up. Many people’s posture worsens throughout the day as they get more fatigued. If possible, set reminders for yourself to check your posture periodically throughout the workday or get up to stretch or walk around.
Staying active helps your spine remain strong and flexible. You don’t always need a strenuous workout to experience the benefits of exercise. Low impact activities like walking, hiking, swimming, and yoga can all be helpful. Regular physical activity can also keep you in a healthy weight range, which may lessen the strain on your ligaments and tendons. If you decide to exercise, maintain correct posture and don’t continue to do any movement that causes you pain. A physician or physical therapist might recommend some gentle back exercises to improve mobility and gently stretch the muscles in your back.