It’s not surprising that the spine is one of the most injury-prone parts of the human body. It’s a complex system of vertebrae, cushioning discs and muscles, which are in constant use and have constant stress put on them every day, Fortunately, we can preserve the mobility and health of our spine as we age, as long as we take a few key preventative measures. Here are the top 5 ways to keep your back healthy, according to the top Orthopaedic specialist in Singapore:
#1 – Exercise 5 times a week
Exercise is not only about losing and maintaining weight – but keeping your cardiovascular system healthy is also extremely important for preserving your spine health! Exercise improves blood flow and therefore helps maintain a healthy supply of oxygen, nutrients, and minerals to the soft tissues of your spine. This speeds up the natural healing processes, in turn reducing pain and stiffness. The standard recommendation is 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise, 5 times per week.
Most aerobic exercises, including running, dancing, hiking, and playing tennis, fall under a category called ‘weight-bearing exercises’. These types of exercises are particularly beneficial for your spine – the safe amount of stress they put your spine under increases its resilience and speeds up the repair processes in it. Certain exercises, which work your abdominal and back muscles can further help, by improving your posture and re-distributing the stress on your spine more evenly.
#2 – Watch your weight
Maintaining proper weight as you age is important in order to reduce any unnecessary stress on your back. Exercise obviously helps, but it’s also important to watch your diet. Putting on belly fat can be especially detrimental to your backs’ health, because of the postural imbalances it can create.
#3 – Don’t smoke
Most people know that nicotine constricts your blood vessels and worsens your cardiovascular and lung health. But what they rarely think about is the impact tobacco has on your bones, and particularly on your spine. It makes your vertebrae more brittle, decreases the blood supply to your spinal discs, and even dehydrates them. As a result, your spine is weaker, less ‘springy’, and less able to absorb shock without sustaining an injury. It’s well established that smoking is a risk factor for the development of degenerative disc disease, spinal arthritis, and general loss of back mobility.
#4 – Eat healthy to prevent diabetes
We already mentioned exercise and proper weight maintenance, but diabetes is such a widespread issue and such an important factor in the development of back problems that it deserves its own paragraph. Close to 30% of people living in America fall under the definition of diabetic or pre-diabetic. Diabetes is an established risk factor for the development of arthritis and back pain.
The link between diabetes and back pain is a particularly dangerous one – back pain and spine problems often make it harder to exercise, which makes diabetes and obesity worse, which in turn deteriorates the health of your spine even further. This is a dangerous self-reinforcing loop that can eventually lead to dangerous health complications.
#5 – Maintain proper posture while sitting
More and more jobs require workers to stay in a sitting position for an extended period of time each day, which can have detrimental consequences for your posture if you’re not careful. Surprisingly, the stress your back is under while you’re slouching in an uncomfortable chair at work can sometimes be greater than the stress a person in laboring job experience. This is because the bad posture compresses your spine and limits its blood supply, while the physical inactivity further worsens the problem. All of this can be avoided by taking frequent breaks and staying mindful of your posture while you’re sitting – sit upright, avoid slouching, and keep your shoulders back. The tendency to slouch can be largely eliminated by making sure your chair is comfortable and high enough and that your computer monitor is at eye-level. A chair with some added lower-back support can further reduce the strain on your back.
That’s it! Maintaining proper body weight, exercising enough, and not indulging in any bad habits like smoking, sitting down slouched, or consuming unhealthy food can go a long way towards preserving the health and mobility of your back well into your older age!