Ensuring spinal health is crucial for overall fitness. One may even venture that it’s the most important aspect of bodily movements and fitness. Even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said, “Look well to the spine for the cause of disease.” And who are we to argue with ancient Greek wisdom?
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, back pain is the primary cause of missed workdays, leading to a total loss of 260 million workdays per year. As such, back pain has a collective cost of around $50 billion annually. This goes to show just how much of an issue back pain truly is.
Our modern life further exaggerates back pain because so much of our day is spent sitting hunched over a computer screen. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a few simple tips and strategies, you can ensure optimal spinal health. To quote Joseph Pilates, “If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”
Tips for Spine Health in Life
- Exercising regularly is one of the most important things you can do regularly to prevent back pain and ensure joint fluidity. You should specifically focus on exercises that strengthen back muscles.
- Stop smoking because it has a bunch of health hazards, including back pain. Smoking affects blood circulation, preventing healthy oxygen and nutrient flow to the spinal tissues.
- Remain active. Don’t sit or stand still for too long.
- Stretch before physical activities.
- Wear comfortable clothes and low-heeled shoes that don’t constrict blood flow.
- Always lift heavy objects with your knees by squatting down rather than bending over. Hold the object close to your body, and don’t twist.
- Don’t look down at your phone, bring it up to your level.
- Don’t “pop” your neck and back.
- Stand tall with your shoulders rolled back. Your spine should have its natural curvature, and your knees should be slightly bent.
- Keep moving, even if you’re sitting or standing. Take little breaks to get up and stretch yourself.
Tips for Spine Health in Bed
- Avoid extremely soft mattresses that you sink into. Instead, use medium-firm mattresses.
- While sleeping on your back, place a pillow under your knees to ensure spinal curvature.
- While sleeping on your side, pull your knees close to your chest in the fetal position. Place a pillow or body pillow between your knees.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach because it flattens your spine’s natural curvature and places enormous strain on your neck.
- If you must sleep on your stomach, stuff a pillow under your abdomen.
Tips for Spine Health on the Couch
- Extend your legs and place them at an elevated angle, either on an ottoman or coffee table. This facilitates smooth blood circulation to the heart.
- If your TV screen is high, use a neck roll to support your neck in an elevated position and place a lumbar pillow behind it.
- While sitting, don’t tuck your legs in and sideways beside your hips.
Tips for Spine Health at Work
- Your computer monitor should be level with your eyes. The top of the monitor should be just above your eye level. Your workspace should include a keyboard shelf angling downwards with a wrist rest. Recline your chair back and make sure your back is up against the chair. This position ensures you don’t have to elevate your neck, provides support to your wrists, and ensures lumbar support.
- Lack of movement is one of the leading causes of back pain. As such, you must keep moving, even if you’re sitting or standing in place. Change your position frequently and get up to take a little walk around the office every 30 minutes or so.
- Whenever you’re on the phone, stand up and pace around.
- Instead of spending long periods in front of the computer screen, break it up by stretching and walking around frequently.
- Whether you’re sitting on a chair at work or home, you must work at an ergonomic position. You should either invest in an ergonomic chair with proper back support or attach a lumbar pillow to your chair.
- Drink plenty of water whenever possible because it’s great for your joints and mobility.
Tips for Spine Health on the Road
- Don’t sit with items in your back pocket. Stuff them in the center console compartment.
- Recline your seat at approximately 110 degrees. Attach a lumbar cushion to the seat for back support.
- While driving, keep your hands low. The ideal position for city driving is 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. The ideal position for open roads is 5 o’clock and 6 o’clock.
- After every two hours of driving, take a little break to walk around and stretch.
- If you’re the passenger, keep your knees at a right angle for optimal lower back support.
- If you’re the driver, keep the non-driving foot’s knees at a right angle, but only if you’re comfortable driving in that position.