Our clients regularly ask – what can I do to keep my back in good shape. My answer is usually along the same lines…..
How often do you brush your teeth? What happens if you constantly eat sugar and never pay any attention to oral hygiene? Or how about your car? Do you get the oil changed and the engine checked on a regular basis? If a warning light comes on do you get your car checked or do you remove the light bulb?
This brings up two answers:
- What do you need to do on a daily/regular basis to look after your spine?
- Who do you see to get your spine “tuned up” so that it works optimally?
Most people actually know the answer to question 1, they just prefer not to action it.
To look after your spine and back the most important aspects are:
- Movement and exercise
- Good nutrition
- Avoid risk factors
Movement and Exercise
Our increasingly sedentary lifestyles are creating a whole host of spinal problems from “Text neck” to chronic low back problems. It is important, if you have a sedentary job, to get up and move at least once every 45 minutes, if only to get a drink of water or walk to talk to a colleague rather than calling them internally. Our bodies need to move. It helps keep them healthy. I also found this simple video, from a colleague chiropractor, which shows simple mobilisation exercises (double check the link) you can do whilst sitting at your desk.
Regular stretching can also help your back. Working your core muscles has become fashionable in recent years. This is not a fad. It works. However you need to commit yourself to at least one class per week of either yoga or pilates (or something similar) and practice at home too to get the benefits.
Your lifestyle will have a big impact on your spine and back. Walk whenever you can, rather than taking the lift or driving. Movement is the most important way of keeping healthy and we are doing less and less.
I was chatting with a client last week and she said her doctor had told her that changing her childrens diet would make absolutely no difference to their symptoms (both her kids are on the autistic spectrum). She has already established that certain foods make her kids inattentive or hyperactive so she obviously disagrees with her doctor. But take a look at this. If you eat a healthy balanced diet, full of good vegetables and fruits with high quality proteins and grains you are going to have a very different body to the person who lives on junk food and cheap carbohydrate. It may be a cliché but you are what you eat.
I’m not about to tell you what diet you should follow because years of experience has shown me that we are all different and whilst one person does very well on a raw or vegan diet, another will do better on a more paleo type of diet. You need to find out what suits your body. But I will say limit sugar, caffeine, alcohol and excessive carbohydrate and you will feel the benefits.
Did you know that one of the biggest risk factors for a herniated (slipped) disc is smoking?
The main risk factors are summarised below:
- Age – most disc injuries occur between 30 and 50 years of age
- Being Male – not much you can do about this
- Smoking – disc pain is horrible. If you have it and you smoke this is a great reason to stop
- Obesity – obvious really, if you lose weight you put less pressure on your body
- Sedentary work or Physically demanding work – especially that which involves bending and twisting
- Family History – if it’s in the family you are more likely to have a disc injury. The jury is out as to whether this is purely genetic or if families tend to have the same behaviours and hence the same injuries. If it’s in your family I’d have a serious look at your weight, your lifestyle and habits and see if you are all doing the same thing and it may be predisposing you to disc problems
Regular Spinal Checks
As someone who suffered from almost constant back ground back pain punctuated with episodes of severe pain, throughout her 20’s, regular chiropractic care changed my life. It changed it so much I went to chiropractic school, and whilst I’m not recommending that most people need to go to chiropractic school, I believe passionately that nothing beats a good chiropractic adjustment from an experienced chiropractor when it comes to looking after the spine. We have chosen to use Network Spinal Analysis as our main technique because it helped me so profoundly. You need to find the right chiropractor for you.
How often should I go?
Personally I get adjusted every week and that suits my lifestyle which is very active and I constantly challenge my body to do more and more. You may find that twice monthly works for you or even once a month. For me, less than that is more about crisis care than optimising your spinal function.
So it really depends on what your goals are. If you want to function at your best all of the time and optimize your spine and nervous system function I would get adjusted weekly or fortnightly. If your goals are to stay out of pain and less about function, then you may find less frequent works for you. It’s a choice and only you can decide. Talk to your chiropractor and see what he or she recommends to meet your goals.
So my recommendations to keep your spine healthy and happy are:
- Keep moving. Find exercise that works for you and that you enjoy
- Eat healthily – obvious really
- Reduce your Risk Factors
- Get your Spine Checked by a qualified Health Care Professional and get the care you need to support your lifestyle