Today we want to focus on some of the most important CHOICES that everyone can make to improve their spine health. Not surprisingly, most of the suggestions below can have a positive impact on your overall health, mood and spirit as well as on your spine. So whether you are recovering from a neck or back injury or just want to make a change for the better, now is the time to exercise your ability to decide what's right for you and go for it. That's what the Choice in CREATION Life is all about!
Stop smoking, or encourage someone you care about to quit.
Did you know that smoking can be a source of back pain? It's true. Smoking puts you at a much greater risk of a painful bone fracture because of the way that nicotine impairs your body's ability to absorb calcium and grow new bone material. At the same time, it speeds up the rate at which the spinal disks and vertebral bones naturally degenerate by restricting the amount of blood that's flowing to them. Moreover, multiple studies have shown that smoking is linked to chronic back pain, in part because of nicotine's impact on the way that the brain processes pain. Smoking also reduces your body's ability to heal itself so its particularly important to quit smoking prior to an operation on your spine, and to avoid smoking during your recovery period. Watch this Spine U video or see our blog post on four ways that smoking is damaging your spine for more information.
Lose weight and exercise regularly, with a special focus on your core muscles.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but effective weight management plays a huge role in controlling back pain. When you are more than 10 pounds over your target weight, your center of gravity changes, putting more stress on your back muscles and increasing your chances for injury. At the same time, having weak abdominal and other core muscles will cause you to have poor posture, which in turn can increase your risk for lower back pain. Here are four easy exercises to strengthen your spine. Speak to your doctor about effective weight-loss programs and cardio workouts that are safe for your spine (like walking, swimming, biking, yoga or tai chi).
Eat a healthy diet that helps build strong bones while fighting inflammation and back pain.
A spine-healthy diet includes plenty of calcium and vitamin D-rich foods to keep your bones strong and ward off osteoporosis. The next time you're at the grocery store, look for products that are labeled as calcium-fortified including certain brands of orange juice, soy milk, and cereals, all of which are also good sources of vitamin D. You'll also want to increase your consumption of foods with anti-inflammatory properties and anti-oxidants that help you stay healthy and pain-free. These include green vegetables, beans and nuts, fruits, omega-3-rich fish such as tuna and salmon, skinless chicken and eggs.
Just as important for avoiding back pain, staying properly hydrated is something that many people tend to overlook as part of their healthy diet. Having an adequate amount of fluids in your system is essential for keeping your joints limber and flexible, while a loss of moisture within the intervertebral disks (a process that already occurs with aging) can lead to disk problems and pain.
Stay clear of foods that have a high concentration of saturated fats and trans fats, and also those composed of simple sugars and white flour, all of which can actually worsen inflammation that contributes to low back pain. This means finding healthy substitutes for white bread, pasta and rice; fried foods and red meat; full-fat dairy products; highly processed foods; and foods that list partially hydrogenated oils in their ingredients.
Below are a few additional ways that you can take charge of your spine health by choosing the right course of action when at work and play:
- Practice fall protection and safe bending, twisting and lifting techniques. Many of these are demonstrated in our Back to Basics videos.
- Learn proper body mechanics for your sport, household chores and other activities. See our past blog posts for great info on spine-safe ways to engage in golf, tennis, bowling, jogging and cleaning house.
- Always stretch and warm your muscles prior to engaging in physical activity. This video will get you started with an effective stretch for your hamstrings.
- Find and use the proper footwear. Learn when flip-flops are and are NOT the right choice to make in this previous blog post.
- Experience ergonomic excellence. Be sure you are practicing the proper posture at your desk, in your car and even while you are at rest. Here are some helpful tips to be sure you are sitting pretty.
- CHOOSE to not ignore chronic neck and back pain. Learn about effective, nonsurgical treatment options that can help you live healthier, happier and with far less discomfort than you ever imagined. Call the Spine Health Institute at Call866-986-7497 or click on the Book Online button at the top of this page to set up an appointment today!