Oftentimes, we don’t give much thought to our back health until something goes wrong. Perhaps it’s persistent neck pain, or a twinge in your back, but a sudden ailment can draw attention to the state of your spine.
Caring for this central part of your body is just as important when you’re not experiencing any issues, however. Here’s why your spine deserves the same careful regard as any other aspect of your health.
The Spine’s Functions
Acting as the body’s main structural support system, the spine holds us upright. It connects all parts of the skeleton — head, chest, pelvis, shoulders, arms, and legs — and bears the weight of your entire upper body.
In addition to its vertebral bones, the spine is also made up of elastic ligaments and spinal disks, which allow it to bend and twist. This flexibility also provides mobility throughout the whole body. Among its main key functions, the spine also serves as a balance system and shock absorber, thanks to its unique S-shape.
The bones of the spine also protect a key component of the central nervous system— the spinal cord. The spinal nerve roots located there connect a series of peripheral nerves that branch off and extend to the extremities. To safeguard this critical nerve network, cerebrospinal fluid encases the spinal cord along with layers of protective membranes, all shielded by your vertebrae.
The Importance of Spinal Health
Keeping your spine healthy is one of the most important preventive health measures you can take. Certain spinal conditions can hinder your mobility, resulting in a loss of independence or a reliance on assistive devices. For example, the pain from a sciatica can be caused by degenerative disc disease or narrowing of the spinal column, and it irritates the sciatic nerve. This condition can cause immense pain while walking, standing, or even sitting.
A stable spine has greater flexibility, meaning it allows you to move naturally and freely without pain. But an injured spine can make it challenging to lift, reach, stretch, or complete other everyday movements.
In fact, back and neck pain are the most common causes of physical pain in the U.S., and are responsible for the greatest number of doctors’ visits, outside the common cold. Back conditions are also the most common reason for disability in the U.S.
Taking care of your back is therefore not just a matter of preserving long-term health, but of protecting your livelihood, too.
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Spine
While we can’t always control whether we’ll develop spinal conditions such as osteoporosis or arthritis, there are plenty of things we can do to boost spine health. Here are a few to start practicing now.
- Lift carefully. Keep objects close to your body as you lift them, and use your leg strength to bear the weight instead of your back.
- Practice good sleep posture. Aim to keep your spine in its neutral alignment while you sleep. You may need to put a pillow between your legs if you’re a side sleeper, under your knees if you’re a back sleeper, or beneath your hips if you sleep on your stomach.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts added stress on your spine. Follow a nutrient-rich diet and exercise regularly. As an added bonus, mixing strength, stretching, and aerobic activities will help keep your back more resilient against injuries.
Our team at Alliance Spine and Pain promotes spine health by addressing the root causes of back issues. We use state-of-the-art therapies to address a wide range of back issues. Schedule an appointment online or by calling (770) 929-9033.