Most people struggle with back pain at one time or another. Like any complex piece of equipment, your spine needs proper care and maintenance to stay at its best. Here are five ways to care for your spine and prevent back pain.
1. Exercise Frequently
Regular exercise is one habit with many benefits for your spine and overall health. Disc tissues and facet joints do not receive robust blood flow, making them more prone to injury and slower to heal. Exercise brings more blood flow to these areas, providing them with the nutrients and immune cells necessary for healing. The increase in blood flow also decreases inflammation, a common cause of back pain.
Muscles and ligaments support your spine. When your muscles are weak or tight, they are more prone to injury, and they can’t hold your vertebrae in proper alignment. An exercise routine that focuses on strengthening and stretching back and abdominal muscles and hamstrings can minimize back pain.
Your spinal cord runs through your vertebrae, and nerves branch between your vertebrae out to other organs. Keeping your spine healthy and aligned is crucial for nervous system health. The reverse is also true. A healthy nervous system will lead to less pain and a better range of motion and coordination. Exercise interacts with your nervous and endocrine systems to promote the release of feel-good chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, which help regulate pain receptors. Improved coordination and range of motion can also lead to fewer injuries. Of course, if your spine is out of alignment, you’ll need to visit a chiropractor first to get your spine ready for an exercise program. Misaligned vertebrae impair range of motion and athletic performance and make it more likely that you’ll become injured while being active.
An active lifestyle encourages a healthy weight. Since carrying extra pounds puts a strain on your back, hips, and knees, this is one more way that exercise prevents back pain.
2. Choose the Right Pillow for Your Sleep Position
We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, so it makes sense that how you sleep can affect your spine. Different sleeping positions require different types of support. The goal is to keep your head in a neutral position between your shoulders, not to one side or too far back or forward. People who sleep on their sides require a thick pillow to fill the space between their shoulders and head. Back sleepers need a medium-thick pillow to support their head without pushing it forward. Belly sleeping is not recommended, but it’s best to sleep with a very thin pillow if you can’t keep from it.
Aligning your neck will help align the rest of your spine, but some areas might need additional support. Side sleepers can try putting a pillow between their knees to relieve pressure on their lower back. Back sleepers can use a pillow under their knees to promote the natural curvature of the lumbar spine. Belly sleeping puts a strain on your lower back, but placing a pillow under your pelvis can mitigate this and make you less likely to wake up in pain.
There are all kinds of specialized pillows to meet various needs. Some pillows are designed to work for people who roll from their backs to their sides during the night. Look for pillows that have a warranty or a trial period so you can sleep with them for a week or two and find the right one for you.
3. Treat Yourself to a Massage
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell what part of your back is causing pain. Muscles are common culprits, and massage can work out knots and adhesions and loosen tight muscles, relieving pain and stiffness. Tight muscles can pull vertebrae out of alignment and make it harder for your chiropractor to realign them. Massage is a great companion to spinal adjustment because it addresses the soft tissue problems that can affect the spine.
Even if you don’t deal with chronic back pain, massage is beneficial. It helps release the tension that gets bound up in your muscles, making it easier to feel relaxed. It also causes the body to release endorphins–feel good, pain-fighting chemicals. If you are sore from your workout, massage can help with that by increasing circulation to your muscles. It also reduces stress and helps with insomnia.
4. Eat a Healthy Diet
For most people, a diet that’s close to nature is best. This means fresh foods that have been minimally processed, like whole-grain products, produce and uncured meats. It’s also essential to balance your diet so you don’t eat too many foods that promote inflammation. Red meat, sugar, and processed carbohydrates promote inflammation, as do trans fats, saturated fats, and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (plant oils like sunflower, soy, and canola). Choose poultry, fish, dark green and red vegetables, and whole-grain, low sugar items most of the time.
You may want to consider taking a fish oil supplement if you don’t eat many foods that contain omega-3 fats. A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, colorful fruits and veggies, and fiber-filled foods like beans is linked to better cardiovascular health and less inflammation and pain.
All your bones, including your vertebrae, will benefit from a well-rounded diet containing nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium.
5. Supplement Wisely
If you decide to supplement calcium or magnesium, make sure you take an absorbable form. Magnesium oxide doesn’t absorb well, so magnesium citrate or lactate are better options. Calcium carbonate contains the most elemental calcium out of any form. It’s best to take calcium in small doses several times a day since your body can only absorb about 500 mg at a time. If you live at a latitude above 37 degrees north (that’s anywhere above the Texas panhandle) or below 37 degrees south, you probably need to supplement your vitamin D as well. Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption and can be safely supplemented in doses as high as 1000 IU per day. Your doctor can do a simple blood test to see if you need more vitamin D or calcium. It’s best to combine dietary sources with vitamins.
Spine Care in Kentucky
At All Star Chiropractic, we help our patients maintain spinal health and heal from injuries. We provide massage therapy, spinal adjustment, laser therapy, and other innovative treatments. Schedule a consultation to find out how chiropractic care can help you reach your wellness goals.