It’s never too early or too late to take steps to keep your spine healthy, which is why you can find a lot of advice online about what younger kids, high school students, and seniors can do to keep their backbones and supporting parts healthy. One group often overlooked is college students, a select group of individuals often living in unique environments where new habits are sometimes developed, some of which aren’t conducive to optimal spine health. Read on to learn more about five ways you can maintain a healthy spine if you happen to be a college student. If you’re still experiencing back and/or neck pain after updating your routine with these suggestions, see a Beverly Hills spine surgeon for advice and treatment.
With responsibilities that often include schoolwork, a part-time job, and social obligations, college students may not always have time for physical activity. If you’re facing a lack of free time at your particular institution of higher learning, try to set aside about half an hour 3–5 times a week to get some type of exercise. Even low-impact or moderate exercise can keep your spine healthy by: • Building core muscle strength, which takes pressure off the spine • Increasing the flow of healthy nutrients to the spine by boosting circulation • Reducing the anxiety and stress that sometimes cause back-supporting muscles to become tense • Boosting the production of “feel-good” hormones (called endorphins), which could enhance your mood and reduce reliance on medication if you experience minor aches and pains
Whether it’s slouching while sitting through boring lectures or hunching when cramming for exams, there are many ways you might be putting excessive pressure on certain parts of your spine while pursuing your academic endeavors. You probably can’t do all that much about uncomfortable seats in classrooms, your dorm room, or the school library, but you can be mindful of your posture by: • Sitting up straight in your chair • Avoiding excessive leaning, hunching, or slouching • Getting up every 30 minutes or so to move around or at least shifting your position when you can’t get up that often
Be mindful of your position when using your laptop and various handheld tech devices, both on and off campus. “Tech neck” refers to neck pain that develops because of excessive craning of the head and cervical spine (neck). This particular habit can stress soft tissues, discs, and vertebrae in your neck and upper spine area. Minimize your risk of being distracted by tech neck pain by: • Keeping your devices at eye level as much as possible • Retaining your head-shoulder alignment • Avoiding excessive forward leaning
Pizza, beer, and junk food may be commonly associated with a college diet, but they aren’t good for your spine or its supporting structures. Sugary snacks can increase inflammation and irritate nerves around the spine. Excessive alcohol consumption may damage blood vessels or contribute to dehydration, which isn’t good for the spine’s spongy discs. Instead, strive for moderation in your eating habits, and make an effort to periodically treat yourself to healthy meals that include: • Lean proteins • Green leafy vegetables • Healthy grains and starches • Low-fat dairy products
Be smart about your carrying, wearing, and packing habits as you cart your books and other essentials to and from your college classes. Any backpack you carry on a regular basis shouldn’t weigh more than 10 percent of your total body weight. Go with one that has wide double straps so the load is distributed evenly. Avoid wearing your backpack over one shoulder so you don’t place too much strain on shoulder and neck muscles. Lastly, be careful about how much you stuff into your backpack, and clean it out regularly to get rid of things you don’t need to lug around. College can be one of the greatest times of your life, but if you’re hobbled by back or neck pain, it can easily turn into a life of drudgery. College students’ daily activities present constant opportunities to neglect good spine health, so make sure to keep these suggestions in mind as you go throughout your day. If you experience any severe or unusual pain in your spine or neck, reach out to the specialists at The Spine Institute. We offer a wide array of treatments such as spinal decompression and Mobi-C cervical disc. Beverly Hills residents who want to take an active role in building a pain-free life can call 310-828-7577 to schedule an appointment.