Spine. The Lifeline
Your health is your lifeline! And by health, we not only mean eating right or indulging in exercise but also keeping a tab on our regular habits, sitting and sleeping postures, and other body movements. So what allows you to walk, run, sit, bend, and sleep? What helps you get up from the bed and do the everyday task with ease? What is that one thing that keeps you going? Well, the answer is your SPINE. The spine plays the most vital role in your body that supports all your movements. As we will be celebrating World Spine Day on 16th October 2021, let us discuss in detail why your spine is your lifeline.
The spine provides the needed balance to the skeletal frame. It absorbs jolts and bumps and allows your body to move. Meanwhile, the spine also protects the spinal cord and spinal nerves. It is known as the backbone, both literally and figuratively. So let us break down this in parts to understand more about the spine.
How Spine Functions
A strong and healthy spine has three curves that form an S-shape. These curves efficiently absorb shocks to protect your spine from injuries. Our spine is made up of the vertebrae, intervertebral disks, facet joints, spinal cord and nerves, and soft tissues.
The vertebrae comprises of 33 bones that make up the spine segments. Starting from the neck and all the way towards your buttocks, these segments include: Neck (Cervical), Middle Back (Thoracic), Lower Back (Lumbar), Sacrum, and Tailbone (Coccyx).
It is the top part of the spine that has 7 vertebrae (C1 to C7). These vertebrae allow you to tilt, nod, and turn your head.
It is the chest part of the spine that consists of 12 vertebrae (T1 to T12). Your ribs are attached to the middle back.
It comprises 5 vertebrae (L1 to L5). The lower back connects to the pelvis and supports most of your body’s weight. The lower back is one of the strongest yet vulnerable parts of the spine and many back problems occur in the lumbar spine.
The 5 sacral vertebrae (S1 to S5) fuse as a baby develops in the womb, which means this part doesn’t move.
This part is made from 4 fused vertebrae. As the name suggests, it is found at the bottom of the spine.
Common Spine Problems
Back pain is something that most of us might have experienced or even going through it now. Your back or spine may feel the pain when you put excess pressure on it or the pain may be constant. Most of the time, back pain is not itself a problem but a symptom of an existing problem. The reasons may be an existing spinal or medical condition, poor posture or a sudden trauma. People experience different degrees of the pain depending on the reason and severity of the condition. Back pain restricts our day to day movements as well as activities.
You can have a slipped disc when the intervertebral disc of the spine loses its shape or consistency. This happens when the soft jelly like material inside it which is responsible to endure compression, trauma or jerks, comes out due to any reason. Once out, it presses on the nerves which causes discomfort and severe pain depending on the degree of slip disc. It is also known as herniated or prolapsed disc, and if ignored, a slipped disc can cause permanent nerve damage.
Compressed nerves can also lead to saddle anesthesia, where your body starts losing sensation in the inner thighs, the back of the legs, and around the rectum.
Spondylosis is a painful condition of the spine caused due to various reasons like inflammation of the spinal bones (osteoarthritis), narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis) or degeneration of the spinal bones, joints or intervertebral discs. While it is most likely to affect people above the age of 60 years, patients report their initial symptoms between 20 to 50 years of age.
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed due to degeneration of the disc, narrowing of the spine or bone spur. Sciatic nerve starts travels from the lower back to hips to each leg. It mostly affects one side of the body and the pain radiates along the route of sciatic nerve.
Scoliosis is a condition where your spine is curved sideways. The angles of the curve may vary and this condition is usually detected in childhood or adolescent stage. It is characterized by the uneven appearance of the waist , shoulder, etc depending where has the curve taken place and at what angle.
Kyphosis is characterized by the forward rounding of the back which gives a hunch back or slouching posture. It is caused when the curve from front to back is increased in the upper spine area. Degeneration of the bone , ageing and muscle weakness are the common causes of kyphosis. It leads to pain & stiffness in the back, numbness in legs, poor balance, etc. In severe cases, it may lead to shortness of breath and poor bowel and bladder control.
Causes of Spine Problems
Poor posture is the most neglected and the most common cause of spine problems. While our spine is built to absorb shocks and bumps, poor body postures can cause the most damage. Postures are not only limited to the way you sit but also comprise your sleeping and exercising positions. A flawed chair, an uncomfortable sleeping mattress, and an inaccurately aligned desk equally affect your spine. Your backbone is meant to maintain an S shape, and when the same is not attained, you face pain and other related problems like nerve constriction and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Poor posture can lead to blood vessel constriction. The constriction may affect the oxygen and nutrient supply and can ultimately lead to blood clots and deep vein thrombosis.
Your backbone is designed to support a certain weight, and when you surpass that weight, your spine starts losing its natural curve. Excess weight can put pressure on the shock-absorbing disks, leading to misalignment or causing stress on nerves that travel through the central canal that supports your back.
Repeated heavy lifting
Repeated heavy weight lifting more than what your body can handle poses a lot of pressure on the spine and can lead to loss of stature, slip disc, spinal injuries and back pain
Accidental Injuries / sudden jerks
Accidental injuries are unpredictable. A mere fall or a major accident can cause unimaginable body pain. While cuts or bleeding can be treated immediately, some injuries like whiplashes, herniated discs, and vertebral fractures stay with you for a long time. Spinal injuries can lead to disturbance in sleep, numbness, stiffness, and burning pain.
Medical conditions like osteoarthritis or osteoporosis
Osteoarthritis or osteoporosis in the bones of spine can make it weak and vulnerable to many spine problems. It also increase the chances of fall and leads to severe back pain, poor stature, imbalance as well as shortened height.
Osteoarthritis or osteoporosis in the bones of spine can make it weak and vulnerable to many spine problems. It also increase the chances of fall and leads to severe back pain, poor stature, imbalance as well as shortened height.No matter what your age bracket is, your body requires some movement and activities. And when the same is not achieved, your body feels back and joint pains. A sedentary lifestyle or prolonged inactivity increases your chances of having pinched back nerves, herniated discs, and discomfort.
Tips to keep your spine healthy
Taking care of the spine isn't much of a stressful task. A healthy spine can be attained when the below-mentioned things are taken care of and are formed as a habit:
Correct your posture. A correct body posture, be it sitting, standing, working, or sleeping, prevents putting excess pressure on your backbone. Getting up from your seat/chair at regular intervals and taking short breaks from your everyday tasks can help you maintain a healthy spine. Seek guidance if you are not sure what the correct posture should be.
Make sure you include foods which contain nutrients that support and promote bone and joint health. Meals that are rich in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D3 promote bone health. Foods rich in vitamin C provide antioxidants as well as promote collagen formation. Protein-rich food as well as foods rich in Vit K also play a vital role in keeping your backbone strong. Dairy products, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, omega fatty acids, pulses should be included in your daily diet to keep the bones and joints strong.
Indulge In Regular Exercise
Be it walking, running, or a full-fledged gym session, your spine stays in the best position when you indulge in regular exercise. Exercising or working out strengthens your muscle, alleviates stiffness, helps reduce excess weight, improves blood circulation and flexibility which promotes overall bone health.
Maintain Your Body Weight
A balanced and healthy weight keeps the vertebral discs well aligned, maintains the correct spine curvature, and puts less strain on the back.
Sound sleep and a good sleeping posture ease your muscles and ligaments. According to studies, sleeping with a small pillow under the back of your knees helps reduce stress on your spine. The position supports the natural curve of your head, back, neck, shoulders, and lower back. Seek guidance from a professional for correct sleeping postures.
Yoga encourages you to stretch your body beyond your regular flexibility. Yoga positions strengthen your core, help relax your muscles, and fix the curvature of your spine. Indulging in yoga allows your muscles to attain stability and balance. It helps you get rid of the stiffness and eases the pain.
Those who are picky with their food choices can rely on natural supplements to fulfill their nutritional requirements for overall bone health and a healthy spine. Supplements like calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3, vitamin K2, collagen, and protein support overall bone health.
Benefits of a Healthy Spine
- Reduces back pain
- Reduces risk of injury
- Less Tension on Neck and Shoulders
- Improves overall balance of the body
- Increased lung capacity
- Helps You work out and carry on daily tasks better
- Makes you appear taller
- Reduces the risk of degenerative spine diseases
- Promotes healthy blood circulation and improves heart health
A healthy spine is literally our support system and it is our duty to take care of it. Those having severe back problems should consult a doctor and take necessary actions. After all, “we don’t want our back bone to back out”, right?