10 Ways to Support Your Spine & Relieve Back Pain
How many hours a day do you sit?
How often do you slouch in a chair or sofa?
How long have you had pain in your back?
Standard health checks may include your eyes (optometrist), teeth (dentist), skin (dermatologist), heart (cardiologist), or overall physical health (general practitioner). But how often do you consider your spine? Have you ever had chiropractic care, and if so, when was your last adjustment?
If you’re experiencing back pain, it might be related to issues with your spine. In fact, many health problems may be traced to the spine since each region of the spine is linked to different organs or body systems.
4 Spine Regions
The spine – or spinal column – is divided into four regions (from top to bottom): cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum/coccyx.
This is structurally linked to the skull, neck, brain, mouth, and jaw. It protects the spinal cord as it emerges from the skull, and supports the head’s movements.
This area of the spine is closely associated with the heart and lungs and provides support to the rib cage.
This area of the spine is associated with the abdominal organs and the lower back. It also supports the upper spine.
The sacrum is where the spinal column tapers off. It’s structurally associated with the pelvis, buttocks, feet, and sciatic nerve.
Also known as the tailbone, the coccyx is linked to the pelvis. It also helps with balance and stability when walking or running.
Both the sacrum and coccyx contain nerve roots that innervate the lower body.
The average adult spine consists of 33 vertebrae (bones that protect the nervous tissues of the spinal cord). It also has connections with over a hundred muscles, which is why it’s so flexible.
The spinal column is the body’s main structure enabling its upright posture. When healthy, it’s a strong framework that includes nerves, joints, bones, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. The spinal cord is the main route for nerve fibers that send and receive messages to and from the brain for all functions in the body.
The spine actually has a structural type of memory…its posture changes as it grows accustomed to how you stand and sit. That’s why undoing bad posture can be so difficult. The good news is that the spine can “remember” good posture, as well.
Aside from the common cold, back pain is the number one reason people visit their doctor. It’s also the leading reason why people miss work.
Most back pain is concentrated in the lower back. It’s estimated that 80% of people in the U.S. will experience back pain at some point in their lives.
It’s important to establish healthy habits that can protect your spine and help you maintain good posture. Here are just a few…
10 of the Best Ways to Support Your Spine Health & Relieve Back Pain
- Reduce Sitting Time
Over time, sitting at a desk (for work or school) may damage your spine…and ruin your posture. Prolonged sitting also can lower metabolic rate and increase the risk of blood pressure and weight issues.
Set a timer to remind you to take a break. It’s recommended that you stand for at least one minute every hour. Also, avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes.
- Supportive Footwear
One of the best things you can do for the health of your spine is to wear comfortable, and supportive footwear. This is especially true if you frequently walk or jog.
Be sure the back of your foot is snug in the heel, but not too tight. For women, avoid wearing high heels, which can put added stress on the spine.
- Exercise Your Core
The muscles in your abdomen (“abs”) and back are crucial to spine support. For many people, these muscles are weak and must be strengthened with exercise. Exercises that strengthen your core, neck, and back muscle groups will improve your spine health.
Doing daily stretches can help keep your vertebral discs flexible, lubricate your spinal and other joints, strengthen your muscles, and increase your overall flexibility. Also, many people enjoy yoga or other workout routines that involve stretching and movement.
- Posture-promoting Chair
Sadly, many desk chairs don’t properly support the spine. This is especially true of older chairs that have worn padding or lean to one side. Invest in a desk chair that’s ergonomically suited for your body.
- Stretch Your Hamstrings
If your hamstring muscles are tight, your lower back and sacroiliac joints might experience increased pain. It’s a good idea to stretch your hamstrings if you’ve been sitting for an extended period or if you’re preparing to engage in physical activity. Here are a few effective hamstring stretches you can try.
- Proper Lifting
Have you ever pulled a muscle or thrown out your back while lifting something? Maybe it wasn’t even a large or heavy object that caused the pain in your back. Maybe it was the way you lifted it.
There are correct and potentially injurious ways to lift something. Rather than bending over, keep your back straight and bend your knees; then, lift with your legs, not your back. This should reduce the strain on your back and help prevent a serious back injury.
Wearing a back brace is a good idea if you’re moving many heavy items. For large objects like couches or other pieces of furniture, be sure to enlist the help of others to do a team lift rather than a DIY approach that can lead to injury.
- Get Restorative Sleep
Pain is a leading cause of sleeplessness. Inadequate sleep may prevent the body from properly healing, which may make back pain worse.
For proper spine support, sleep on a medium-firm mattress and place a pillow between your legs when sleeping on your side. This will help keep your hips aligned with the rest of your body. If you have difficulty falling asleep due to back pain, or any other reason, consider taking a natural sleep aid to ease you into a restful night’s sleep.
- Release Your Endorphins
Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that the body produces. Endorphins can help block pain signals from registering in your brain. Acupuncture performed by a trained practitioner can release pleasant feeling endorphins and help with your back pain.
Aerobic exercise, meditation, deep breathing, and massage therapy also have been shown to increase endorphin levels in the body. A massage can loosen tight muscles, increase blood flow, and boost feelings of calm and well-being.
- Stand Up
Many people use a standing desk, which can help maintain good posture and blood flow. It also helps prevent the slouching and spine alignment issues that can come from excessive sitting.
Another way to maintain good posture while working or studying is to get a treadmill desk. Walking at a very slow pace while you write or reply to emails can improve your focus and energy.
Caveat: standing too long (especially in one position) can put a strain on the lower back, joints, and feet, so take occasional breaks from standing.
- Spine-friendly Nutrients
The spine is living tissue composed of a variety of cell types that require all the vitamins, essential minerals, and other nutrients the other organs need.
Some details on nutrients and your spine:
The body uses this vitamin to make a hormone that controls calcium absorption and its utilization to make bone as well as for maintaining muscle health.
This vitamin helps ensure calcium is directed into bone and not into arteries and other soft tissues where it can cause damage.
This mineral makes up the bulk of bone, and is needed for nerve transmission and muscle function.
Also essential for making strong bones, magnesium helps balance calcium in your body. It also helps protect against muscle spasms, which can make a minor spinal posture problem much worse.
This essential mineral is vital to the health of all our tissues. Iron is vital for the delivery of oxygen via hemoglobin, and for myoglobin, an oxygen-binding protein found in muscles.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 EPA and DHA help maintain a healthy anti-inflammatory balance in the living bone tissue and nerves and muscles associated with the spine.
This essential mineral works with calcium to form bone. It’s also needed to make energy.
A vitamin crucial for forming and repairing all our tissues.
The B vitamins, including folate and vitamin B12, are all important for bone, nerve, and muscle function.
Keep Your Spine Health in Mind
The spine provides the framework for your entire body and is connected to every vital system in your body. Keeping your spine strong, aligned, and free of blockages is important not only for your posture but for your overall health and well-being. If you’ve been experiencing back pain, seriously consider seeing a trained chiropractor or orthopedist.
A chiropractor can help correct spinal misalignments, which in turn may help relieve other bodily issues resulting from misaligned muscle and nerve groups connected to the spine. If you’ve never been to a chiropractor, or if it’s been a while since you’ve had an adjustment, consider making an appointment to have a chiropractor take a look at your spine.
Back pain can be resolved or lessened by using the resources available to you, including the self-help techniques we’ve listed above.
Try these tips and let us know (below) if you feel a difference.
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