Back pain is a startlingly common ailment. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons say as many as 85 percent of all Americans will have to endure back pain at some time in life, and 50 percent of those will develop chronic back pain. Even though problems with muscles and ligaments can cause back pain, much of it can be traced to problems with the spine. Following are five facts to know about the importance of spinal health.
The Spinal Cord Gives You Mobility
The spine allows your body to bend and twist. An injured or worn out spine limits mobility. Bending over, picking up things, moving your neck, or even walking can become difficult. Furthermore, stress on the spine causes severe pain. You may not be able to enjoy the activities you love, and your quality of life will be compromised.
Your Spine Works Together with the Nervous System
The spinal cord runs from the end of the brain stem to near the bottom of the spine. It’s comprised of nerves that carry messages to all areas of sensation in the body. A spine injury can damage the spinal cord, disrupt neural responses, and disable those sensations. It can even affect swallowing. That’s because food and water travel through the esophagus which runs parallel to the spine. A spine injury can put pressure on the esophagus and obstruct or puncture it. You would need surgery to correct it and prevent further damage.
Spinal Problems Can Begin Early
Adults are always directing kids to stand up straight. Many don’t, though, and this bad posture can cause stiffness or back pain from time to time later in life. These problems can start as early as your late twenties. Later spine problems may also arise because of an earlier sports injury. Practicing good posture, doing stretches, and exercising can help prevent injuries and further deterioration of the spine, spinal discs, and vertebrae.
Bad Posture and Incorrect Movement Can Damage the Spine
Good posture isn’t only about standing up straight. Incorrect movements and intense exercise can put undue pressure on the spine that, over time, may lead to degenerative diseases. Not wearing good athletic shoes when exercising can damage the spine. They because they act as shock absorbers to protect spinal discs and joints. All these factors can permanently damage the spine, and you may even need surgery down the road.
To correct your posture when standing your feet should be slightly parted. The tailbone should be tucked in and the pelvis tilted slightly forward. Pull your shoulders back and then lower them to a relaxed position, lift the chest, and keep your chin level. If you’re not used to standing like this, it will take conscious effort and practice, but it will be worth it. Soon you will do this naturally.
Poor posture when sitting at your desk at home or work also puts pressure on the spine. Sit back in your chair so that the buttocks rest against the backrest. Place your feet on the floor with bent knees forming a 90-degree angle. Keep your back straight the same as when standing. If you are working at a computer, put the monitor at eye level to avoid neck strain. Stand up, stretch, and walk around every hour or so.
Lifting heavy objects can also cause a spine injury. Always bend at the knees and keep your back straight when lifting. Use the strength of your upper legs. If something is too heavy for you, leave it until you can get help.
Sleeping Habits Can Affect the Spine
An awkward position in bed interferes with proper alignment of the spine causing pain and stiffness the next day. Sleeping on your stomach can put pressure on the spine and cause spine curvature over time. Side and back sleeping positions are easier on the spine. Avoid over-sized pillows. They can cause a shift in the upper spine. Your pillow should have just enough cushion to keep your head in alignment with the spine.