Simple ways to keep the spine healthy

Fit to Farm: Spine health is important for overall quality of life so we must look after it

Many issues in the spine stem from too much of the same movement or not enough movement in general.

Spine problems like low back pain, sciatica, disc degeneration, shoulder and neck pain often sneak up on us seemingly out of nowhere, however, usually they are byproducts of chronic behaviours and patterns over the years. With this in mind there are a few simple things we can do routinely to support the spine, and everything attached to it.

Spine-friendly mobility

Movement of any kind is important to our overall health. Many issues in the spine stem from too much of the same movement or not enough movement in general. Our bodies were designed to move in all sorts of ways, all day long. Today’s world is largely built around sitting or sedentary standing, with not much variability mixed in. Some easy movements you can do on the go to support long-term spine health are:

  • Pelvic tilts: Laying on your back with your knees bent or seated with feet resting on the ground, gently tuck your tailbone and scoop your pelvis under you, then release and rock the pelvis forward and tailbone back.
  • Rotations: From a seated position take one hand across to opposite knee and pull yourself into a twist or rotation with chest opening towards hand on knee. Take five to 10 deep breaths and then repeat on opposite side.
  • Hip circles: Laying on your back or side, bend one knee up towards your chest, hugging it in with your arms if accessible, then let it gently move outwards in a circle beginning and ending with it near your chest. Repeat the opposite direction and opposite side.

Take a breather

This may sound basic, but breathing mechanically well is one of the most efficient and biologically enhanced ways to keep the spine happy and healthy. Practise taking deep, full breaths from the bottom of your rib cage outwards, routinely. It can help to place your hands at the side of your rib cage (like an accordion) and inhale out into the hands laterally. Work towards your inhale and exhale lasting five or more seconds. When we breathe from the diaphragm, the breath itself stretches and massages the digestive system, lumbar and upper spine, all the soft tissues in the torso and helps support good circulation and lymphatic function. Breathing can also help the nervous system reset to a relaxed state which will decrease tension and pain throughout the body alongside symptoms of anxiety.

Change your position frequently

If you sit a lot during the day, set a timer to get up and walk around, do the movements above and anything else that feels good every 20 minutes or so. Twenty minutes has been reported to be the point when the soft tissue begins stiffening into the position we’ve been in, so moving before or around that point is important to keep joints healthy.

The spine is one of our most important structures, so keeping it healthy or rehabilitating a functional-level spine health is important for overall quality of life. If you’re experiencing the onset of pain, tension or a new injury that is limiting your function, please reach out to your local health or physical wellness professional to get advice tailored to you.

About the author

Contributor

Kathlyn Hossack runs a clinical practice, Integrative Movement in Winnipeg, Manitoba and consults clients throughout Alberta on a regular basis. For questions or consultations email her at [email protected].

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