29 tips for a healthy spine this leap year

29 Tips for a Healthy Spine This Leap YearMuch like a leap year keeps our calendar in line with the solar system, a proper wellness routine can keep your spine aligned with a healthy lifestyle. While you enjoy your extra day on February 29th, take a look at these 29 tips to keep your spine health in check:

  1. Stretch it out — You can do it. Stretch your way to a healthy spine by improving circulation, relieving tension and increasing the range of motion in your muscles and joints.
  2. Watch what you eat — Before you indulge in foods like cured meat, white bread, sugary products or other inflammatory foods, remember that inflammation is a common culprit of neck and back pain.
  3. Drink up — Try drinking half your body weight in ounces of water daily — we dare you. Keeping your muscles hydrated can reduce tension and decrease neck or back pain. It’s also great for the rest of your body!
  4. Avoid certain exercises — If you think all exercises are great for your back, think again. Exercises like toe touches, double leg raises or jogging can increase the wear and tear on your spine. Find out why.
  5. Take your vitamins — They’re no substitute for a healthy diet, but daily supplements may help relieve your neck and back pain. Between vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids and enzymes, you and your doctor should be able to determine which options are best for you.
  6. Get moving — When that cushy couch is calling your name, remember how an inactive lifestyle can hurt your spine in the long run. Weak neck and back muscles can increase the likelihood of spine injuries, while excess weight from inactivity puts stress on your back.
  7. Exercise — Did you know that exercise can decrease your chance of developing bulging discs, pinched nerves or other spine conditions? Strong muscles and good circulation helps your spine support the rest of your body with less strain.
  8. Straighten up — Remember your mom always telling you to sit up straight? She was on to something. Perfect posture keeps your bones and joints aligned to decrease the stress on your spine. Thanks, mom.
  9. Strengthen your core — Having a strong core isn’t just for athletes. Exercises like planking help to stabilize your core and build up the muscles around your spine, which can prevent or reduce chronic back pain.
  10. Hot and cold therapy — Remember: ice before heat. For a back injury, cold therapy is used to reduce swelling; hot therapy is used to reduce pain by increasing circulation, removing toxins and spreading nutrients and oxygen.
  11. Avoid text neck — It’s true — the average person’s head weighs about 10 pounds. But when hunched over your smartphone, your neck is forced to support the pressure of about 30 pounds. Learn a better texting posture.
  12. Adjust your workspace — Your office shouldn’t give you a headache. Position your computer monitor and desk accessories in a way that keeps your spine aligned throughout your workday.
  13. Sleep right — Are you a stomach sleeper? Try a pillow under your stomach to support your lower back and a thinner pillow for your head. Do you prefer a different sleeping position? Read these tips before bed tonight.
  14. Shed some pounds — Don’t make your spine work harder than it should. Your spine is designed to carry and distribute the body’s weight, but obesity can lead to excess strain, injury or structural damage, especially in the lower back.
  15. Sleep well — Adequate snoozing isn’t only good for your brain, it’s good for your spine. Studies have shown that getting enough sleep helps reduce inflammation that causes neck or back pain.
  16. Use your legs — No more hunching when you bend or lift. Starting today, always remember to use your hips and legs to keep your back in proper alignment.
  17. Lighten your load — Split heavy items into multiple bags to carry less weight and reduce pressure on your back. Heavy purses and shoulder bags can also distribute uneven weight on one side of your body, which can affect your alignment.
  18. Wear the right shoes — Are your favorite shoes more than six months old? If so, they may not be supporting your arches, heels, ankles and knees, which affects your back. For women, high heels can knock off your alignment altogether.
  19. Get social — At your next get together, don’t stay glued to that uncomfortable chair. Studies show that getting up and moving will help ease your back pain. Socializing can also help the depression that may occur when coping with chronic back pain.
  20. Don’t smoke — Before your next puff of tobacco, remember that smoking decreases the nutrient supply to your spinal discs and weakens your vertebrae, connective tissues, muscles and nerves.
  21. Start your day off right — Get out of bed like a spine health pro. Roll to your side, moving your shoulders and hips together. Inhale. Exhale. Use your arms to sit up and let your legs hang off the side of the bed.
  22. Stand for relief — When seated, move to the edge of your chair, making sure your feet are under your knees. Using the chair arms as leverage, take a breath and bend from your hips, keeping your chest lifted, and Stand Tall®.
  23. Travel smart — Three pairs of shoes? Check. Hair dryer? Check. Back pain? Check. When you’re packing for your next adventure, remember to pack light to avoid strain and pain. If you need to pack a heavy load, check those bags instead of handling carry-on luggage.
  24. Step away from the screen — While sitting may feel more relaxing, it puts more pressure on your spine than standing. Too much time with your computer or video games can aggravate your lower back.
  25. Limit your alcohol intake — Your favorite alcoholic beverage acts as a muscle relaxant, which may sound great, but not for your back — relaxing your core muscles actually decreases the support of your spine.
  26. Talk it out — You’re not alone. If you’re living with debilitating neck or back pain, don’t keep it to yourself. Talking with others can help you find support, learn new health tips and help ease depression.
  27. Invest in a good mattress — A new mattress may be pricey, but your spine will thank you for it. You can research your options and price range, but the fun part is testing them. Try a medium — firm mattress for lower back pain.
  28. Unwind — It can be a cruel cycle — back pain leads to stress; stress leads to back pain. If you feel stressed, are you also feeling more fatigued? Do your muscles feel tense and stiff? If so, stress may be feeding the pain in your neck or back.
  29. Seek a specialist — Don’t give up on relief. If you’re still searching for answers to your neck or back pain after extensive nonsurgical treatment, our Care Team may be able to help you. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how our minimally invasive spine surgery may help you get your life back.

You only get one leap day every four years. Will you use this extra 24 hours to take charge of your spine health and wellness?

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