Updated: Jan 16
The spine is a marvel of engineering. The articulating design offers the body postural structure, movement, and protection. It houses our spinal cord and is a highway for proper nerve conduction.
Many of us take our spine for granted - until it starts giving us trouble. I can't tell you how many of my patients have shared how they wish they'd have taken better care of their bodies when they were younger. Indeed, low back pain is one of the leading causes of disability in the U.S. year after year. Here are some simple ways you can help your spine stay healthy and not contribute to this statistic:
Take Breaks from Sitting
Many of us have to sit for long periods of time at our jobs. Sitting with bad posture and sitting for long periods of time without breaks can wreak havoc on your spine and weaken important core muscles and stabilizers. Set a timer and try to get up and walk once every 20 minutes to 1 hour. When you are sitting, try to sit up straight with your shoulders back and relaxed and your abdomen/core activated.
Drink Plenty of Water
Our bodies desperately need water on a regular basis. This goes especially for the muscles and sinews that support and move the spine. Hydration issues are often involved with low back cramping and spasms. For most patients, I recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day up to 96 ounces. If you are a caffeine drinker, drink 16-24 ounces of water in the morning before you have your tea or coffee.
Regular Stretching and Exercise
When it comes to stretching and exercise, consistency is an absolute must. Write a regular routine and stick to it! Make sure you're realistic with your schedule - you could always add to it later. It's always better to start slow and grow as you go. One way to make your stretching and exercise routine a habit is to associate it with another habit you do consistently - like doing your routine before your morning coffee or stretching before you brush your teeth at the end of the night.
Avoid Inflammatory Foods
What you eat strongly affects the inflammation in your body - which impacts your joints, muscles, ligaments, and many other tissues and systems that can contribute to spine pain and dysfunction. In general, avoid sugar, refined carbohydrates (such as cereals and most store-bought breads), vegetables oils (such as canola, corn, cottonseed, soybean, rice bran, and safflower), and lab-produced trans fats (such as found in potato and corn chips). Avoiding these foods can reduce your inflammatory load and pain. Be sure to check your labels; you may be surprised how many products you regularly use have these ingredients.
Don't Ignore Problems
Pain, discomfort, and organ dysfunction is your body's way of telling you there's something wrong. If your check-engine light is turning on don't just unplug it! If you're suddenly noticing a little backache after work, get chronic headaches, have chronic heartburn or digestive trouble, it's not just because your body is stupid (often it's because your body is smart and trying to prevent something worse from happening). Don't be afraid to get help or delve deeper. Look for the root cause and don't just cover the symptoms.
If you need more help with your health challenges or are in the Grundy County area, please don't hesitate to stop by during office hours or call us at 815-634-3750 to set up a consultation. In addition to providing chiropractic care for the spine, we also adjust extremities, provide therapeutic muscle stim and ultrasound, prescribe stretches and exercises, apply acupuncture, and provide nutritional recommendations. We can even order lab work if needed.
 Ehrlich GE. Low back pain. Bull World Health Organ. 2003;81(9):671-6. Epub 2003 Nov 14. PMID: 14710509; PMCID: PMC2572532.