Spine health is one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of personal health. Fortunately, maintaining a healthy spine is easy with a few daily lifestyle changes. Here are three tips that you can use to keep your spine as healthy as possible.
Stretch and Exercise Daily
Prolonged immobility while sitting or standing is one of the most dangerous threats to spine health. While practicing good posture will help to stave off the negative effects of immobility, regular stretches and simple exercises are the best way to stay flexible and minimize the risk of spine injury.
For a simple back stretch, place your hands on your lower back while leaning backward slightly and keeping your head straight. Performing this stretch every 20 to 30 minutes of sitting or standing will provide your spine with a much-needed break from supporting your body. You can also do hamstring stretches twice a day to reduce lower back pain and increase your tolerance for extended periods of standing.
Exercises that improve spine health are low-impact and aerobic and are targeted at strengthening the abdominal muscles, spinal column, and spine-supporting ligaments and tendons. For abdominal strength, practice trunk curls by lying on your back with your knees bent and raising your trunk 15-20 degrees off the floor for five seconds. Do not attempt full crunches, as these place excessive strain on the base of the spine.
Your spinal column and supporting tissues can be strengthened with side-plank exercises. Lie on your side resting on your forearm and lift your hips off the floor so that your body is in a straight line. Hold this pose for 20 to 40 seconds, rest, and then repeat until you have done three reps on each side.
Drink Plenty of Water
Staying well-hydrated is one of the easiest ways to keep your spine in good health. The spinal discs are pads of collagen fibers between spinal vertebrae that function as shock absorbers. Poor hydration will cause the spinal discs to shrink over time, allowing the vertebrae to grind against each other and become damaged. Shrunken discs are also more prone to bulging and herniation that can cause chronic pain by pinching spinal nerves.
Following the Institute of Medicine's guidelines for daily water intake can help you avoid spinal disc problems from poor hydration. The IOM recommends 125 ounces of water daily for adult males and 91 ounces for adult females from all beverages and foods.
Create an Ergonomic Workstation
Many students and desk workers cannot avoid prolonged sitting throughout the day. In addition to regular stretching, creating an ergonomic workstation will help you maintain a healthy spine by reducing stress on your back.
The first step to an ergonomic workstation is correct sitting posture. Your back should be straight and firmly against your chair, and your upper arms should be parallel to your spine. Sit with your legs at a 90-degree angle to your spine and your feet flat on the floor or a foot stool. Your chair's armrests should be high enough that your shoulders are slightly lifted, and your hands should come to rest on the desk at a straight angle.
If your monitor is too short and you have to look down at the display, this will place unnecessary strain on the cervical vertebrae in your neck. To set your monitor at the proper height, shut your eyes and look forward comfortably. The area you are looking at is where the center of the monitor should be. Increase the height of the monitor's stand if it is adjustable or stack books under the monitor if necessary. Finally, set the monitor far enough away from you that you can see the entire screen without rotating your head.
Spine health is one of the most essential aspects of personal health, and it is also one of the simplest to maintain. By doing stretches and exercises daily, staying hydrated, and creating an ergonomic workstation, you can keep your spine healthy for years to come. For more information, contact a local chiropractor.