Your spinal discs play a key role in helping your spine stay mobile, but they have to absorb stress in order to facilitate certain movements. Over time, this pressure can lead to disc degeneration, which can make movements painful. If you want to ensure you have a healthy spine long into your wonder years, you need to make sure you’re caring for these small intervertebral discs. In today’s blog, we share some tips for protecting these crucial discs and keeping them healthy.
Here are six ways to ensure you’re strengthening your spinal discs and working to keep them healthy as you age.
1. Controlled Exercise – Exercise helps to strengthen our spine and its supportive structures, but we also need to be smart about how we exercise. Running is a great form of exercise, but it’s also one of the more stressful exercise activities for your spine because your spinal discs need to displace the stress that is felt with every step you take. Try to vary your workouts and consider some less impactful exercises, like swimming, cycling or yoga.
2. Weight Management – A lot of these tips focus on either strengthening your discs or avoiding putting excessive pressure on them, and this tip involves the latter. By maintaining a healthy weight or working to lose extra weight, you’ll be taking pressure off your spine because it will need to displace less stress. Work towards a healthy weight, and you’ll slow down spinal disc degeneration.
3. Posture Awareness – People think that disc breakdown only occurs when you’re active, but inactivity is also a big contributing factor. Not only are you not strengthening your spine when you’re inactive, but if you have poor posture when you’re on the couch or watching TV, you may actually be overstressing one or more spinal discs. Be aware of your posture when you’re at the office or driving in your car, and practice good posture positioning to help evenly displace stress.
4. Proactive Prevention – Some spinal disc degeneration occurs naturally as we age, but we can help slow that process by following the above tips and taking some proactive prevention steps. For example, targeted physical therapy can help slow this disc degeneration. Physical therapy is one of if not the most commonly recommended course of action for patients we see with varying degrees of spinal degeneration.
5. Avoid Smoking – Smoking works to dehydrate your spinal discs, and when they lose fluids and can’t operate optimally, they are more prone to breakdown. Smoking also inhibits healthy blood flow, and this lack of healthy blood speeds up degeneration. Kick the habit to help protect your spinal discs.
6. Check Your Mattress – Another time in which your spine can handle more stress than you’re aware of is when you’re sleeping. If you haven’t replaced your mattress in a decade, it may no longer be safely supporting your body as you sleep. Invest in a quality mattress that helps push your spine into a natural alignment as you sleep. This will vary a bit from person to person, but if you’re really sinking into your old mattress or your can’t remember the last time you replaced it, consider investing in your spine by purchasing a more supportive mattress.
For more tips, or to talk to a specialist about your spine issue, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.