7 Steps to a Healthy Spine
Spines are the central support structure of our bodies. Our spines allow us to stand, sit, walk, and bend. A damaged spine can severely limit your movement, so it is vital that you look after it!
If you have ever experienced any form of back or neck pain, you would agree that it is not worth the suffering. Apart from the pain and discomfort, your daily activities might also be affected. Taking care of your spinal health is therefore essential to prevent pain, injuries, and possible surgery.
What causes back and neck pain?
Back and neck pain can have many different causes, however lifestyle habits and certain health conditions tend to play a significant role. Here are some of the common causes to be aware of:
Postural Stress: Poor posture can place immense stress on your spine and is a contributing factor to back and neck pain. It causes your ligaments to overstretch, muscles to tire, and your joints and nerves are put under pressure. Be careful not to slouch your shoulders, sleep with your head in an awkward position, or keep your head in one position for a prolonged period.
Muscle Strains: If you experience minor back and neck muscle strains they should improve on their own, but more severe strains do need physiotherapy treatment to relieve the pain and promote healing.
Ligament Sprains: Stretching ligaments too far or too quickly leads to tearing and bleeding into surrounding tissues, which cause swelling and pain. Be aware of motor vehicle and sporting accidents as they are known to cause ligament sprains.
Disc Problems: Discs are anchored to the vertebrae, both above and below. This allows them to stay in place and serve as ‘shock absorbers.’ Even though they can wear down with age, most disc problems arise from injury, causing discs to bulge (prolapse), herniate or even rupture.
Sciatica: The sciatic nerves run from the lower back, through the buttocks and down the back of your legs. Any irritation that occurs along this pathway can cause pain in your back and legs.
Arthritis: Arthritis is known to affect vertebral and facet joints, which causes degeneration and inflammation within the joint, as well as the growth of bony spurs on the edges of the vertebrae.
7 steps to prevent back and neck pain
In most cases back and neck pain can successfully be prevented. By being mindful of harmful habits and making the necessary changes to break them you can reduce pain in no time.
1. Lift objects correctly
When you lift objects be sure to use the correct technique. Keep your feet a shoulder-width apart, and bend at the hips and knees. Grip the load firmly and hold it close to your body, tighten your stomach muscles and use the strong muscles of your legs to lift. Always keep your back as straight as possible and avoid twisting by rather using your feet to turn, instead of your back.
2. Work on your posture
Most of us tend to get lazy when it comes to practising good posture, however it really does make the world’s difference once you get it right. Your posture should be stable, balanced and relaxed when sitting, walking or standing. Always remember to think tall, lift your chest, relax your shoulders and keep your chin tucked in and head level.
3. Movement is essential
Staying seated for too long is a big no. If you are someone who forgets to move around, set a timer that reminds you to stand up, stretch and walk around. Using the right back support will also help.
4. Exercise regularly
Exercise is your spinal muscles’ best friend. Not only does exercise strengthen the spinal muscles, but it can also assist with the healing process if your spine has been injured. Staying in shape and maintaining a healthy body weight decreases the strain on your back. A physiotherapist will be able to show you how to keep your back flexible and strong with the correct back and abdominal exercises.
5. Rules apply whilst driving
Good support from your car seat will prevent back pain. A lumbar roll or a rolled-up towel works well to support your lower back.
6. Be mindful of your work routine
If your work requires you to sit at a desk, practising good posture becomes even more important. Avoid keeping your head in a static position for prolonged periods of time, perform stretches, and change your position frequently.
7. Rearrange your sleeping environment
It is very important that your mattress is firm enough to support your natural body shape. The pillow should also be at the correct height. If the pillow is too low, your head will tilt down, and if it is too high your head will be stretched uncomfortably, both of which can cause neck pain and stiffness. Avoid sleeping on your stomach as it makes it difficult to maintain a neutral spine position.
How Physiotherapy can help
Depending on the type of pain you are experiencing and the causes of it, physiotherapists can treat back and neck pain in different ways. This includes:
- exercise therapy
- postural assessment, correction and advice
- relaxation therapy
- laser, ultrasound, electrotherapy and heat treatment
- ergonomic advice
- McKenzie therapy
- specific stabilisation exercises
Looking after your spinal health is necessary if you want to enjoy your daily activities and live without constant back pain or injuries. If you are experiencing any back problems, make an appointment with your health care provider as soon as possible. This way you can avoid future spinal problems, learn how to adapt your posture and lifestyle and, most importantly, prevent surgery.
For more information please contact:
Duki Morar Physiotherapy
Ahmed Kathrada Sports Medical Centre
Lenmed Ahmed Kathrada Private Hospital
Tel: +27 (0) 11 852 8690
On call: Riona +27 (0) 82 362 6024
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]
Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.