The human spine is a vital and fascinating structure of the skeleton. Comprised of 120 muscles, 26 vertebrae, 220 ligaments and over 100 joints, the spine is complex in its workings yet extremely flexible. (For example, did you know that the spine can bend far enough to form two-thirds of a circle?)
However, that complexity and versatility can come at a price. Because of its elaborate makeup and the important part it plays in bearing the weight of the body, it is also delicate and prone to injury. In fact, back pain is the most common pain experienced, with four out of five adults enduring some type of back pain during their lifetime.
How do you ensure that you are the one out of five?
Follow these 7 simple tips and tricks to effectively manage the health of your spine:
- Avoid smoking. The nicotine in tobacco products restricts blood flow to the spinal discs, potentially damaging the discs over time.
- Maintain good sleeping habits. Sleeping on your back or stomach places undue stress on the back. Sleep on your side—ideally with a pillow between your knees—to reduce the risk of added pressure.
- Keep moving. Whether you’re at work or home, motion keeps the body and spine in shape. If you’re at work, get up and walk around approximately every hour to stretch the muscles and promotes blood flow. In your free time, stay active with a visit to the gym or by playing a favorite sport.
- Lift objects properly. Improper lifting can result in a strain, sprain or worse. To lift an object from the floor safely, make sure the object is as close to your body as possible to maintain a level center of gravity. Then, when picking up the object, use your legs to lift. (Do not bend at the waist.) Finally, keep your back straight when holding the object. When it comes time to transport the object, make sure you have a clear path to your destination in order to avoid tripping. Please note that using your best judgment when lifting a heavy object is key. If the item is too heavy, do not attempt to lift it yourself. Ask for help.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Keeping within 10 pounds of your ideal body weight keeps additional weight and strain off of your back.
- Sit the right way. When sitting for a prolonged period of time—such as at work—keep your knees and hips level with one another and your feet flat on the floor. This avoids the weight of your body shifting, straining one part of the spine over the other.
- Stay hydrated. Keeping hydrated helps to maintain soft tissues, causes fluidity in joints and keeps spinal discs from shrinking.