The four Cornerstones of a Healthy Back
Experts go round and round about the best habits for a healthy back. In this article I'll lay out the four cornerstones of a healthy back. Get these down and your body will work better, you'll perform better, and you'll feel better.
First Cornerstone: Regular Chiropractic Adjustments
Keeping your spinal joints well adjusted, properly moving through its full range of motion is the first cornerstone to a healthy back. For the most part, each of your 24 vertebra has two joints - so you have lots of movement that occurs in your back every time you move, even if you don't know it. When your back doesn’t move properly, you can’t move properly. Just as we see our dentists or family doctor for periodic tune-ups to nip any cavities or health problems in the bud, so do periodic spinal tune-ups nip any developing spinal problems in the bud. Keeping the joints moving smoothly, through a full, comfortable and free range of motion with periodic adjustments is the first cornerstone of a healthy back.
Second Cornerstone: Hydrate
Most people don't drink enough water. The second cornerstone of a healthy back is to hydrate. The spinal discs (the fluid-filled cushions between
each vertebrae) are comprised of mostly water. When you don’t hydrate sufficiently and the joints don’t move properly, the discs shrink in
size. Of course hydration isn't just important for a healthy back but for a healthy everything. Cardiovascular function, kidney function, bowels function . . . you name it -- our human body needs water.
The next question is how much water do we need. The old recommendation was simple to remember: eight 8-once glasses per day, or around 64 ounces. Fill up a half-gallon jug every morning and make sure you drink it by the time you go to bed every night and you've got you hydration needs taken care of.
If you want to fine tune it, the current recommendation is to drink at least half your weight in ounces of water daily. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink at least 75 ounces of water each day. If the weather is hot, you're exercising or otherwise sweating, kick up your water intake accordingly.
Third Cornerstone: Strengthen
The third cornerstone of a healthy back is to strengthen your core. The core refers to the deep tummy muscles, the deepest spinal muscles, glutes, and the muscle at the floor of the pelvis. These are the muscles that bridge between the upper and lower parts of the body and provide the greatest amount of stability for the spine. People that sit a lot during the day (most of us) often have very weak core muscles.
Strengthening the core is hard work. There are many resources available. If you want to try something online, this article from Mayo Clinic is a good place to start. If you feel like you would like supervision (and have a lot of fun while working out!), the very best gym in Watertown and maybe all of South Dakota is Barefoot Fitness. Run by Abby Keyes and her team of trainers, I can't say enough good about these folks. And last, if you develop back pain and see us at Deutsch Chiropractic, you can almost be guaranteed you'll be prescribed some form of core strengthening exercise at the appropriate time in your treatment plan.
Fourth Cornerstone: Stretch
The last basic cornerstone of a healthy back is stretching. Spend time lengthening your spine and your back muscles. The practice of
stretching doesn’t need to be difficult. You can build in brief stretches while while sitting at your desk or while taking a break. Stretch first thing in the morning; when you get out of bed, do a full reach to the sky. Bend side to side. Pull your knees up to you chest. Do slow, big arm and shoulder circles. Be creative and have fun. Again, there's lots of resources online, and the same gym I recommended above is masterful with stretching.
Putting it all together for a healthy back
Health can get really complicated, but it doesn’t need to be. Keep these four simple rules as part of your regular routine and you and your health will benefit. If you’re looking for improved function, better performance and a healthier, more active lifestyle, create a happier and healthier spine.