A healthy spine is essential for living an active and pain-free lifestyle, ensuring you can work without problems, enjoy the activities you love, and reduce the likelihood of stress or a lack of sleep. That’s why it is important to do everything you can to maintain a healthy spine to prevent conditions such as spinal stenosis, spondylosis, and degenerative disc disease.
In this article, we will explain how you can have a healthy spine, with our top six tips. We will also discuss the importance of spine health, what can cause spinal issues, and how these issues can be cured.
Why is the Spine so Important?
The spine is extremely important to maintain a person’s quality of life, allowing them to perform activities and go about their daily life.
The spine consists of 24 separate bones (vertebrae) that enable a range of motion in the back. The vertebrae are split into three sections, the neck region (upper spine) known as the cervical vertebrae which is made up of 7 vertebrae. The mid-back is called the thoracic spine and is made up of 12 bones, while the lower back is called the lumbar spine and consists of 5 vertebrae.
A younger person typically has 33 vertebrae, however, as a person ages, the vertebrae below the lumbar region fuse together to make up the sacrum – the bone that a person sits on.
Your spine performs 3 key and vital functions:
The vertebrae protect the spinal cord and surrounding nerves which is arguably the most important function of the spine. The spine acts as a shield to stop any impact injuries to the spinal cord which is vital for a person to perform bodily functions. The spinal cord relays messages from the brain to the rest of the body and back again, without it, a person would not be able to perform even the simplest of movements.
Sometimes, vertebrae can become misaligned or the protective cushions (discs) that sit between them can deteriorate. This is a common symptom of aging and can lead to conditions such as a slipped/ ruptured/ herniated disc or degenerative disc disease. This can result in pain ranging from mild to severe, as well as stopping a person from moving freely.
The best way to avoid such conditions is to maintain a healthy spine by following the tips and best practices later in the article.
Without the vertebrae that make up your spine, you would not be able to stand upright. These bones provide strength to your back, along with the muscles, together a person can stand in a perfect upright posture and maintain balance so that they can walk.
The spine allows for a range of motion, including bending, turning, and twisting. Without these functions, a person would not be able to live a normal life and would require assistance to complete even a basic task such as picking up something off the floor.
This is why spine health is essential and you should visit your doctor or chiropractor regularly for a check-up, especially if you have been experiencing pain in your back.
What Can Cause an Unhealthy Spine?
The joints, cartilage, and connective tissue between the vertebrae can suffer degradation, inflammation, and pain, just like any other joints in the body. Pain in the neck and lower back can be a common problem for many older people, although back pain and spine conditions can happen at any stage of life. For younger people, spinal problems could occur after a serious injury, such as those suffered in a car accident or when playing sports.
Back and neck aches can also be caused by a muscle strain or a lack of strength in the back due to a lack of exercise. However, the opposite can also apply when a person over-exerts their back, possibly by overdoing things in the gym or not resting between sports or exercise.
There are also many diseases that can affect the spine, such as stenosis, spondylosis, and spondylolisthesis. These conditions cause compression of the nerves and spinal cord and can be very painful. Fortunately, there is a range of treatments that can ease the symptoms caused by these conditions, but in severe cases, surgery may be required. Read more about spinal stenosis treatment and surgery.
As well as aging, back conditions can develop due to poor posture, daily inactivity, obesity, and repetitive injuries from manual work. It is likely that everyone will experience back problems at some point in their life, with 1 in 4 people showing some level of spinal degeneration by the age of 25.
Six Tips for a Healthy Spine
Regular stretching to help strengthen your back muscles is highly recommended to help maintain a healthy spine. Targeted strengthening can keep people limber in the long term and is one of the easiest practices to avoid back pain and issues later in life.
2. Stop Smoking
Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor which means it tightens the blood vessels, hampering the flow of blood and reducing the amount of oxygen and nutrition that can reach the spinal cord. This can result in inflammation and speed up degradation in the spine and other parts of the body. Quitting smoking is not only advised to reduce the chances of cancer, lung disease, and heart conditions, but it can also drastically improve your physical well-being.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Carrying extra weight increases the amount of stress that is placed on the spine, potentially resulting in conditions or diseases developing. This is why you should always try to maintain a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
4. Eat Better
Following on from the previous point, your diet is extremely important to maintain a healthy spine and inflammatory foods should be avoided if you suffer back pain. These include dairy products, red meat, refined sugar, and processed foods.
5. Be Careful When Heavy Lifting
When heavy lifting, always use the correct technique. Keep your back straight, bend your knees, and use the power in your legs to lift.
6. Stay Mobile
Avoid staying in one position for too long, a common problem for people who work at a desk. Stretch regularly and take frequent breaks to walk around to stay mobile. Standing whenever possible is also advised – many workplaces have implemented stand-up desks for this reason.
Thank you for reading, we hope this article has offered some guidance on the importance of maintaining a healthy spine, and how to do it on a regular basis.