When everything is working as it should, your spine is like a finely tuned instrument that flawlessly orchestrates your daily movements. However, when something’s a little off somewhere, it may not be so easy to walk, run, jog, stand, bend, stretch, reach, or sleep without pain. Even if you’re not among the 100 million or so Americans living with some type of chronic pain, there are things you can do to actively keep your spine as healthy as possible.
1. Get High-Quality, Productive Sleep
One way you can actively play a role in keeping your spine healthy is to give it a chance to naturally heal itself from daily stress and strain. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get about 7-9 hours of sleep each night, kids and teens a bit more. Deep, uninterrupted rest allows the spine’s tissues to heal. Increase your odds of enjoying high-quality, productive sleep by:
- Choosing a mattress that properly supports your spine
- Retaining your spine’s alignment by placing a pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back, between your knees if you’re a side sleeper, or under your abdomen if you’re a stomach sleeper
- Sticking to a regular sleep schedule and avoiding strenuous exercise just before getting to sleep
2. Exercise Your Core Muscle Groups
The core muscles that directly or indirectly support the spine (basically, everything except the arms and legs) aren’t always regularly used, which is why you need to make an effort to work your core muscle groups. Fortunately, all it takes is about 30 minutes a day to target the key areas that contribute to your spine’s health. Exercises that can effectively work your core include:
- Ab wheel rollouts and hanging leg rises
- Plank variations
- Reverse crunches (also enhances posture)
- Water-based exercises such as water aerobics and swimming
- Cycling or elliptical machine exercises
- Gentle forms of exercise like yoga and Pilates
Check with your doctor first if you have existing issues with back, neck, or nerve-related pain.
3. Watch Your Posture
Poor posture is often the result of ingrained habits people don’t even notice as they go about daily activities. Some of those habits can place added stress on various parts of the spine, usually the lower back or neck. This extra pressure can affect the spongy discs and small joints of the spine, sometimes enough to contribute to an assortment of issues ranging from herniated discs and muscle spasms to pinched nerves and spine misalignment. Enhance your posture by:
- Opting for an ergonomically designed chair or an adjustable sit-stand desk at work
- Taking regular breaks to get up and walk around if you have to sit for long periods
- Avoiding cervical spine strain by keeping your devices at eye level
- Wearing comfortable, supportive shoes and avoiding excessively high heels (anything beyond 2-3 inches)
According to Consumer Reports, many patients today are disappointed with what their doctor is willing to do when spine-related pain requires medical attention. Another way you can take an active role in your spine’s health is to be just as prepared when you need to see your doctor or visit a Los Angeles spine surgeon. Be descriptive of your pain. Also, mention issues such as increased stress at home or work or recent changes to your workout routines and eating or sleep habits that may be contributing to your discomfort. Finally, be patient and give treatment recommendations time to produce noticeable results.
If you’re experiencing pain in the back or neck, there are a variety of minimally invasive treatments available, ranging from laminectomy surgery to spinal fusion. Los Angeles patients should get in touch with The Spine Institute today to speak with a trusted spine specialist who can help them find the relief they need. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment.