Walking Tall

It all starts with the spine

7-16 Wellness_Walking Tall_web1When thinking about overall health, people often focus on diet, exercise, and weight loss in order to prevent disease and to ward off illness. It’s easy to neglect what keeps us standing: a healthy and strong spine. In focusing on the prevention of disease, we forget that injuries sideline more healthy people than illness. According to the U.S. Labor Department Bureau of Labor Statistics, sprains and strains make up 41 percent of all workplace events that require days off work.

“A huge percentage of people have back problems due to the nature of their day-to-day routine, which usually includes a lot of sitting at a desk hunched over a computer,” says Stacey Stier, the owner of a yoga studio in Grapevine who runs regular posture clinics to build back strength. “Yoga focuses on the health of the spine and the core muscles. In yoga, you strengthen the muscles that support the spine and you move the spine in its full range of motion (forward, backward, side to side, and twisting) which also improves the spine’s flexibility and releases pressure on the vertebral joints.”

Take Time For Self-Care

Being mindful of correct posture and alignment is just the beginning for preventing back injuries. Learning to sit, stand, and walk with correct posture isn’t as simple as it sounds in today’s hectic workplace environment. Taking breaks, stretching, and a regular exercise routine can make all the difference when it comes to the prevention of injuries.

A regular exercise routine can strengthen core muscles, which in turn makes the back stronger. “It’s much more difficult to injure a strong and flexible spine than it is to injure one that is weak and inflexible. With today’s lifestyles that include a lot of sitting and poor posture, yoga is really a necessity, not an indulgence,” says Ms. Stier.

Straighten Up!

Looking for additional ways to improve your posture and to increase back strength? An upper back posture brace can be a discreet way to straighten up! Worn under your clothing, a posture brace can help relieve upper back, neck, and shoulder pain. An adjustable lower back brace can assist with lifting and bending, and provides comfortable spine support. Consult your chiropractor or physician to see what may work best for you!

Take Time for Healing

If you have an injury, avoiding exercise isn’t the answer, either. You can, and in fact, should, exercise with a doctor’s approval to help heal and strengthen your back.

If you do have a back injury, whether it’s a strain, sprain, or something as serious as a herniated disc, regular gentle stretching and exercise can improve your recovery and improve the quality of your life.

“There is a difference between a ‘sore or weak back’ and an ‘injured back.’ If someone is in acute pain and has a specific injury, there are particular recommendations we would offer in a yoga class,” said Ms. Stier. “Ask your doctor specifically what is wrong with your back, and if they recommend avoiding particular types of movement (like rounding the spine in a yoga class, for example, due to a herniated disc).”

Take Time for Recovery

Sometimes exercise, proper posture, and preventative measures aren’t enough and injuries or accidents occur. Consult your doctor for your options, but be kind to yourself if surgery is required. Living with acute pain and avoiding surgery, in the long run, can only weaken your overall health and strength. Follow your doctor’s suggestions when it comes to pain management and healing.

If you require decompression surgery or a discectomy to repair a herniated disc, follow your doctor’s orders for the quickest recovery. Some benefits of back surgery include less need for pain medications, the ability to return to work without pain, and increased mobility, allowing you to return to the activities you love.

Posture, core strength, regular exercise, and the prevention of injuries are the keys to a healthy spine. Taking care of your back is the first step in maintaining overall health.

Keys to Spinal Health:

  • Know Your Body: a sore back is not the same as an injured back. Discuss the nature of your pain with a physician or chiropractor before beginning an exercise routine.
  • Learn Proper Form: “Exercising or practicing yoga with poor form is not more helpful than sitting around and doing nothing,” says Ms. Stier. “Healing is the goal of yoga, not fancy poses.”
  • Prevention is the Key: Taking a series of yoga classes or participating in regular exercise is much less expensive than medical care, spinal surgery and missing work due to an injury.
  • Know Your Risks: If spinal surgery is your best option, know your benefits and risks before going under the knife. The right doctor will explain your options and expectations for recovery.

 

By Susan Ishmael

Author: Living Magazine

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