Tips to keep a Healthy Spine

The spine is a complex system of bone, ligaments, discs, tendons and muscles, that provide structure and support to the body. The spine also protects are central nervous system, and allows us the ability to be upright and mobile. What incredible creatures we are!

Studies show that there is a link between poor posture and depression. Stooping and slouching are associated with back pain, weight gain, heartburn, migraines, anxiety and impaired respiratory function. Good posture provides for deep breathing, improved feelings of well being and increased energy for optimal performance.

As we age there is a normal decline in function and flexibility. Disc degeneration and spinal canal narrowing are a part of the aging process. Discs are cushions between vertebrae and tend to shrink and wear down, as we age.

Arthritis is a common and serious condition of the spine. Other risk factors for back pain include accidents and injuries, genetics, poor physical fitness, poor posture, smoking, wearing high heels, and stress.

Spinal disorders are an important health and social problem and one of the main causes of disability worldwide. 80% of all people will develop back pain at some time in their lives.

Treatment for back pain used to be bed rest. But today we know that movement will help improve back pain and preserve spinal health.

How to maintain a healthy spine

Be proactive. Get moving.

  • Exercise helps to nourish and repair spinal structures, including intervertebral discs, and movement keeps the back healthy, flexible and strong. The discs do not have blood vessels so they get their nourishment through spinal movement.
  • Stretch before and after exercise. It helps to keep muscles and ligaments flexible, and helps maintain good joint function, and range of motion.
  • Strengthen core muscles. The back and abdominal muscles form an internal corset that supports the spine. Weak muscles cannot properly support the back, and put the back at risk for injury. Developing these muscles will provide stability.
  • Maintain bone health with weight bearing exercises, that force us to work against gravity. Weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, dancing, aerobics and climbing are all weight bearing.
  • Resistance training builds strength and endurance. Mobility training improves flexibility. Balance training will help stabilize your spine and prevent falls and injuries.
  • Develop good posture. Poor posture puts heavy stress on the spine. People with good posture can overcome many of the risk factors for back pain. Young children innately have good posture without being told how to hold themselves. Teach your children how to sit and move properly, as they grow.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Eat healthy and stay hydrated. A healthy diet should include Vitamin D for healthy bones. Hydration helps maintain spinal disc elasticity. Studies suggest that an unhealthy diet can cause inflammation that can lead to deterioration of spinal discs. Diabetes can trigger back pain. Diabetic neuropathy is common and affects all the nerves in the body, as well as limiting mobility.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight stresses muscles, ligaments and tendons in the back, hips and knees.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking can cause back and neck pain.
  • Protect your back.
  • Sitting

Sitting stresses the spine 23x more than walking or standing. Take a break every 30-45 minutes.  Walk and stretch. Sitting is now ranked as dangerous to your health, as smoking.

  • Texting and working at a computer

Your computer screen should be at eye level. Knees at 90 degrees and a neutral spine. Rest your feet on a stool to promote sitting on your “sit bones” which will take the load off your spine.

  • Learn to correctly lift and carry

Bend at the hips, not the back! Bending the knees alone can allow the back to curve and increase the risk of injury. Avoid twisting – lead with the hips and not the shoulders. Shoulders should be in line with the hips.

  • Text Neck

“Text neck” is new term to describe headaches, upper back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain and increased spinal curvature. Studies suggest it decreases lung capacity and promotes early onset arthritis.

  • Sleep

We spend about 33% of our lives sleeping. Buy a good mattress, firmer than you might like. It’s best for support. If you wake with back pain, check your bed and your running shoes.  Sleep on your side, or back, not your stomach. Use a pillow that supports you head and neck.  Sleeping with a pillow between your knees will take the strain off your low back, and provide spine and pelvic alignment. Stretch when you wake up before getting out of bed. 

  • Driving

When driving your back should be against the seat, arms at sides holding the steering wheel, not reaching for the wheel. Knees level with hips.

  • Foot wear

Wear good supportive shoes for balance, stability and support of the lower back. Your shoes should have arch support and padding to cushion and absorb your weight and gravity

Spine health requires the complex interaction of stability, strength, endurance and mobility; and commitment to health.

When you experience back pain, see a specialist at Orthopedic Specialists of North County, San Diego. We have offices in Vista, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. Our team of orthopedic specialists and physical therapists are dedicated professionals, available to help restore you to your active life.


"The entire team at OSNC is great, very professional and took the time to put me at ease. And I only have praise for the Dr. Erik Stark, a wonderful doctor who never disappoints!" Patient of Dr. Erik Stark
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