If there’s one resolution you should make going into the new year, it’s to keep your spine as healthy as possible. After all, your backbone is responsible for most of your daily movements, although it’s easy to forget about all of the important things your spine does. However, anything that causes supporting spinal discs, nerves, or soft tissues to become irritated or damaged can quickly make you become very aware of how your spine can affect your daily life. Minimize your odds of spine-related pain this year by keeping the following tips in mind, brought to you by the trusted Los Angeles spine surgeons at The Spine Institute.
1. Focus on Core Muscles
If getting more exercise is one of your goals for the new year, do your spine a favor and focus on your core muscles. The deep core stability muscles of the lower back are among the muscles that provide direct or indirect support to vertebrae. The hip flexors and the external oblique muscle (in the abdomen) also provide some degree of support for the spine.
2. Remember to Stretch
Most instances of back pain are due to muscle strain from overuse or overextension. Make a point of getting into the habit of stretching before you exercise, work out, or play sports in 2018. Doing so can prevent the muscle tension that sometimes stresses the spine and the discs that cushion it. You can also do simple back or neck stretches randomly throughout the day to keep soft tissues flexible, which may be especially beneficial if you normally spend several hours sitting each day.
3. Watch Your Posture
Speaking of sitting, enhancing your posture should be on your to-do list for 2018. Sitting or standing in certain positions places added pressure on the spine and its discs and nerves. Make an effort to get up as much as possible, or at least shift positions frequently. Also, pay attention to how often you hang your head down to use your various devices to prevent upper back and neck pain.
4. Walk More
If you’re looking for a good starting point for your exercise goals next year, consider walking. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and avoid hills or rough terrains. A frequently recommended goal with exercise is to aim for 20-30 minutes a day.
5. Lift the Right Way
Letting your back absorb the entire burden while lifting something s a surefire way to experience back pain. Give your spine a break by bending your hips and knees when lifting something. Keep whatever you’re carrying close to your body, and avoid turning or twisting.
6. Get Sufficient Sleep
In a deeper state of sleep called the REM phase, blood flow moves to muscles and tissues are repaired. If you’re not getting sufficient sleep, the tissues in and around your spine may not benefit from this natural healing process. Make sleep more productive for your spine by avoiding positions that put direct pressure on your backbone.
7. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Extra weight in the stomach pulls the pelvis forward and places added strain on the lower spine, which is just one more reason maintaining a healthy weight should be a year-round goal.
8. Stop Smoking
Chemicals in cigarette smoke, especially nicotine, restrict the flow of essential nutrients to tissues around the spine. A reduced blood flow also speeds up the age-related wear that normally affects spinal discs and reduces the calcium absorption necessary for the new bone growth that prevents damage from osteoporosis.
If you are experiencing chronic pain in your back or neck and want to form an effective plan for relief, reach out to The Spine Institute today. We specialize in various fusion and non-fusion procedures, from XLIF surgery to laminectomy back surgery. Los Angeles patients should call 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.