How many times did you think about your spine today? Most of us don’t pay attention to our spinal health, even though we rely on our spine to perform daily tasks like getting out of bed, lifting objects, sitting and standing.
Back pain is the biggest single cause of disability in the world¹ and Australians of all ages are suffering from back pain and other spinal health issues. Every year on 16 October, people from around the world come together on World Spine Day to raise awareness about spinal disorders. This year, the theme is ‘Love your Spine’ and the focus is on prevention.
A healthy spine is more achievable than you think. Making small incremental changes to your lifestyle can have a big impact on the health of your spine and overall well-being.
1. Be mindful of your posture
Poor posture puts enormous stress on the body. Slouching, hunching and other awkward positions affect more than just your appearance. Poor posture can deteriorate the health of your spine over time, causing pain, decreasing flexibility and even impacting mobility.
Being mindful of your posture and correcting it may take a bit of practice but eventually, good posture will become second nature.
The key to good posture is keeping your spine neutral and maintaining its natural curves. Hold your head up with the chin parallel to the floor and keep your shoulders back, but relaxed. Make sure you distribute your weight evenly on both feet. When sitting, don’t cross your legs – keep your feet flat on the floor or use a footrest.
2. Practise responsible lifting
We do a lot of lifting without thinking twice about the effect it may be having on our backs. Proper lifting technique is important to make sure we don’t put our spine in vulnerable positions or increase the likelihood of injury.
When lifting heavy objects maintain an upright position and bend at your knees, not your waist. Use the muscles in your legs to lift, keeping your back straight. Holding objects close to your body also helps reduce the strain your back.
Whether it’s heavy objects, groceries or shopping bags, it’s important to know your limits while lifting – don’t carry more than you can hold.
3. Get moving and stay active
Movement is medicine for your spine and overall health. Exercising is one of the best things you can do to benefit your entire body and it also helps keep the spine flexible and strong. Whether it’s walking, running, swimming or dancing, every time you exercise you are investing in your health.
While you work towards exercising more and improving your fitness level, there are little things you can do to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine.
If you spend most of your day sitting, take regular breaks and walk around every 20-30 minutes. Look for opportunities where you could be moving instead of sitting or standing still. Choosing the stairs instead of the lift, getting off one bus or train stop before your destination and walking around while speaking on the phone are great ways to keep moving as you go about your day.
4. Download the Straighten Up app
Despite having the best intentions of paying attention to spinal health, our busy lives can make it challenging. Make it easier to take care of your health by downloading the Straighten Up app.
The Straighten Up app is designed to help you get started on your journey to improve spinal health and overall well-being. This free app includes reminders prompting users to sit right, stretch, take breaks, drink water and improve their posture.
The Straighten Up app also includes a 3-minute stretching program especially designed to improve spinal health, stabilise core muscles and enhance health. The app tracks the number of exercises completed so it’s perfect for setting yourself a challenge.
Find your local ACA chiropractor, access tips on how to improve spinal health and much more with the Straighten Up app. Download the Straighten Up (Australia) app from the App Store or Google Play today.
Make spinal health a priority
Love your spine by implementing small lifestyle changes and over time these little adjustments will become habits that strengthen your back and improve your health.
If you have existing spinal health issues or need advice on how to improve your spinal health, visit your local ACA chiropractor to find out how they can help.
For more information on maintaining a healthy spine, please visit the Australian Chiropractors Association (ACA) website at www.chirorpactors.asn.au.
World Spine Day is an initiative of the Global Alliance for Musculoskeletal Health, proudly supported by the Australian Chiropractors Association. For more information visit www.worldspineday.com.au.
¹World Spine Day 2018 – “Love your Spine!”, 2018, www.worldspineday.org