You floss and brush your teeth for good oral hygiene. Your goal is to prevent disease, delay decay, and help avoid expensive dental procedures that neglecting your mouth health might bring about. By performing this daily maintenance routine, you ensure that you do not run into any future issues with your gums and teeth. This helps avoid costly dental bills. You also take good care of your skin by applying sunscreen to help prevent damage to your skin cells and any further medical issues down the line. So what are you doing for your spine? Are you practicing good spine health techniques to help limit your discomfort and pain? Do you perform “routine” exercises to help improve spinal mobility and muscle performance? There are several techniques you can perform throughout the day to help ensure good spine health. Best of all, these techniques do not require any fancy equipment or expensive products.
1. Engage your spinal stabilizing muscles.
Often times when people hear this they think of participating in Pilates, getting in a plank position, or performing some sort of rigorous workout targeting core muscles. While there is nothing wrong with partaking in these tasks, they are not always readily available or easy to do throughout the day. There are simple techniques you can do often throughout the day without anybody really noticing. First, sit towards the edge of your chair. Pretend there is a string on the top of the back of your head that is pulling you toward the ceiling. You should feel your stomach tighten a little. You should also have the sensation that you are “holding” yourself in place. Congratulations, you are now in a neutral spine alignment and relying on your “muscles” to do their job and support your spine. You will want to hold this position for at least 10 seconds. Perform at least 4 times an hour. (The recliner and couch prevent us from keeping this alignment.) A B
Picture A demonstrates sitting without activation of the core muscles.
Picture B demonstrates sitting with good activation of the core muscles in neutral alignment.
You can also perform this in standing when you walk. You will want to again pretend there is a string on the top of the back of your head that is pulling you toward the ceiling. You should feel your stomach tighten as if there is a “natural corset” surrounding your spine. This will help you engage those muscles when you are in more functional walking and standing positions.
2. Perform regular Low Back/Pelvic mobility exercises.
Sitting is often a position where a lot of back pain can be experienced. This can appear a lot with people who have a typical desk job or need to sit for extended periods of time. Try this technique out: Next time you are sitting down, try to perform pelvic rocking periodically to keep the spine nice and mobile. (It will often stiffen up after sitting for a while.) Follow these steps to perform a correct and safe pelvic rocking.
- When you are sitting down, slowly rock your hips back so that your low back slouches a little. This will put you in a flexed posture.
- Next rock your hips forward so that you begin to arch your low back. You will now feel that you are bending your back backwards.
- Now rock back and forth between these two motions in a slow and controlled manner.
- Note: If you have pain going into either of these positions you will need to stop just short of that pain in order to perform the movement in a comfortable pattern.
- Perform 15 repetitions each way several times a day as tolerated.
Picture A demonstrates hips rocked forward with your spine slightly bent backwards.
Picture B demonstrates hips rocked backwards so that your back is slightly slouched.
3. Standing Spine Stretch.
Often times people will focus on bending forward to stretch their spine, but is that what we should be doing? At times it will be necessary to do this, but for some conditions, the spine may prefer to bend backward more often than forwards.
To perform a different kind of spine stretch, raise your hands above your head while they are locked together. Now reach your hands and arms high towards the ceiling. This should create a natural backward bend in your spine. The goal here is to not get too aggressive but to work out any stiffness that may be present. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Perform 1-2x an hour to take breaks from sitting.
If you have back pain that makes it difficult to sit, stand, or participate in the activities you love, then you may want to start putting a little more attention on your “spine health”. Much like maintaining good healthy habits for our teeth and gums to prevent any disease, we should also be focusing on a nice healthy spine regiment throughout the day. This will help you to feel less pain and stiffness while gaining more confidence about your back throughout the day.