Too many people decide to suffer in silence with back pain. The reality is that there are things you can do to alleviate back pain and perhaps even prevent it from becoming an issue in the first place.
To begin, it’s wise to understand more about the spine and how it works. From there, it’s possible to explore all sorts of options for keeping your spinal discs healthy.
What are Vertebral Bones?
In your spinal column you have 33 bones. Twenty-four of these are the movable bones that are known as vertebrae. Each vertebra is stacked on one below it. Between the vertebrae is a cushioning material that is called an intervertebral disc.
The front of each vertebral bone is round, and this is designated as the vertebral body. On the back of the vertebral bone is a ring. From the ring, numerous protrusions may extend, forming canals and arches. These all serve specific purposes such as:
- Stabilizing the spine;
- Providing a protected spot for the back’s connective tissue and muscles;
- Forming a tunnel through which the spinal cord passes; and
- Creating a place where nerves in the spinal cord can reach out to other body parts.
The Intervertebral Disc in Detail
Between each pair of vertebra sits a cushion that is commonly called a disc. Thanks to an ingenious design, the spine is able to move in a variety of directions so that people can bend, extend, tilt and rotate.
The body works hard to complete these movements, and the result can be a lot of pressure on the spinal column. It’s the job of the discs to provide essential shock absorption, which protects the vertebrae and the spinal column from trauma.
Clearly, the discs have a critical responsibility to fulfill, and they do this with the assistance of strong, woven fibers that appear on the outside of each disc. Known as the annulus fibrosis, this structure contains the disc, protecting the softer substance in the center that is called nucleus pulposus. It is the nucleus pulposis that enables the spine to yield and absorb shock whenever the spine moves.
Water is the main component in the nucleus pulposus. Through small pores, water is able to move in and out of the discs. When a person is standing or sitting, then water is pushed out of the disc. Lying down causes water to come back into the disc.
As people get older, their discs tend to lose more water than they are able to gain. Disc degeneration is the inevitable result. Because the intervertebral discs do not have a blood supply, discs must receive nutrition and dispose of waste through the flow of water or via mechanical means.
Maintaining Healthy Intervertebral Discs
With measures such as:
- Using good posture;
- Lifting heavy items with care;
- Drinking plenty of water; and
- Eating a nutritious diet,
anyone can keep their spine healthier.
Let’s take a closer look at these measures.
Use Good Posture
These days, it is not unusual for people to spend the majority of their days in a seated position. Hours are spent working on the computer, watching television or bending over a smart phone.
The result is an incredible amount of stress on the spine that takes a significant toll over the years.
While you may always have to spend a good portion of your day sitting, you can ease the stress on your back by improving your posture.
It’s advisable to sit up as straight as you can, and to avoid slouching. If at all possible, stand up to stretch and move around approximately every 30 minutes.
Ask your supervisor about getting a converting stand-up desk if you spend the majority of your workday on a computer. Being able to stand up while working for even a couple of hours each day can be a significant improvement for your spine health.
Be Careful with Lifting
Whether you only have to lift heavy items on an occasional basis or find yourself doing so several times a day for work, it’s critical that you use proper lifting techniques to ensure that you protect your spine.
For instance, you’ll want to keep your feet at least shoulder-width apart as you lift, and it’s always best to squat down by bending at the knees and hips only. Be certain that you aren’t bending your back.
Keep the load close to your body, and don’t lift it to above shoulder level. Above all, if something really heavy needs to be lifted, then enlist some help or get some mechanical equipment to do the moving for you.
Drink Plenty of Water
Most people know that staying hydrated is critical for their overall health. Nonetheless, it’s estimated that approximately 75 percent of American adults are chronically dehydrated.
Being dehydrated may make you feel dizzy, have a negative effect on your mood and give you a headache. However, dehydration also has a negative impact on your spine.
When the discs in the spine do not have enough water, then they must remain compressed at all times. Naturally, this causes discomfort, pain and a lack of mobility. This state also puts the person at greater risk for suffering a spinal injury.
Water is the best source of hydration for the body. Tea, coffee, soda and other beverages may provide some hydration, but they generally are considered poor sources when compared to water.
If you suspect that you are chronically dehydrated, then try switching at least one of your tea, coffee or soda drinks to a glass of water each day. Gradually work toward consuming mostly water for hydration. Your spine will thank you.
Eat Well for a Healthy Spine
Eating a balanced diet is crucial to keeping your intervetebral discs happy and healthy. With good nutrition, all of the components of your spine are strong enough to perform their assigned function.
As an example, it’s important to get plenty of calcium because it helps to maintain bone mass as the body ages. In particular, calcium intake is necessary to prevent osteoporosis.
Magnesium is a vital mineral that not only helps to keep bones strong but also is essential to in excess of 300 biochemical reactions. Many people are advised to take a magnesium supplement to help prevent back problems.
Vitamin C actually has a direct impact on the intervertebral discs, keeping them healthy and strong over the long haul. That means that it’s critical for people to eat Vitamin C-rich foods like broccoli, tomatoes, green peppers and sweet potatoes.
What Else Can You Do?
Fortunately, you have many options when it comes to protecting your discs. If your mattress is several years old or if you are waking up with back pain, then it may be time to buy a new mattress. Opt for a model that is supportive and firm as these typically are recommended for alleviating back pain.
Making healthy choices is another way to protect your spine. In general, people who are not smokers tend to have healthier discs. This means that it’s wise not to start smoking or to stop smoking if you currently have this habit.
Similarly, it makes sense to drink alcohol in moderation. Excessive alcohol consumption can be very dehydrating, as well as having other adverse effects. Choose to imbibe only on special occasions or at least reduce your intake.
People who are overweight tend to have more problems with their discs. Accordingly, it makes sense to maintain a healthy weight.
Talk to Delaware Integrative Healthcare
If you would like to know more about how to keep your spine and discs happy and healthy, then schedule a consultation with Delaware Integrative Healthcare. With our holistic, total-patient approach to wellness, your spine will feel better than it has in years.