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Invest in your health this summer

By: Our Medical Team | April 18, 2024

Waking up strong, healthy and ready to dive into the activities you love is a great way to greet the day. Being mindful of your posture, the way you move and the lifestyle choices helps you maintain a supple, flexible spine and full range of motion in your joints. As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are five essential tips for keeping pain and inflammation at bay this year.

Stand up straight – Sit up straight, too. Maintaining good posture reduces stress on your joints. Throughout the day, turn your attention to the way you are sitting, standing, walking and moving through more vigorous activities. Your spine should be erect but not rigid—what we call a “neutral spine position.” That momentary mindfulness will enable you to adjust what often goes unnoticed. If you find yourself sitting down a lot, make sure your furniture is ergonomically suited to your body. If you do a lot of bending and lifting, take care to engage your legs and core properly. If you’re engaging in sports, take care to develop muscular strength and flexibility so your back and joints don’t overcompensate.

Stretch and exercise often – A body in motion stays in motion. Tense or underdeveloped muscles put your spine and joints at risk. Stiff muscles can restrict blood flow, increase pressure on your nerves and even pull your frame out of alignment. Muscle imbalances in terms of tone, flexibility and strength can also alter spinal mechanics. Muscle pain that limits your range of motion can cause imbalances, too, as you compensate (sometimes unknowingly) to bypass it. A regular exercise routine— preferably daily—that encompasses stretching and balanced strength-building reduces stiffness and supports the spine and joints.

Practice proper body mechanics – We’ve all heard it: lift with your legs, not your back. That’s one example of proper body mechanics—bending at the knees, keeping the object close to your core, and putting those quads, hamstrings and glutes to good use. Body mechanics are all about engaging your muscles properly to keep from stressing your spine and joints. Repetitive motion can cause injury, too. If you find yourself moving through tasks or activities in the same way over and over again—whether that’s swinging a racquet or typing a novel—change it up. Take a break, rearrange a workspace or try a new technique.

Drink to your health – And we don’t mean alcoholic beverages. Proper hydration is vital to a well-functioning frame. Adult bodies average 60 percent water (some parts more, some less), which means those intervertebral discs in the spine are watery wonders of bodily mechanics, too. Dehydration can compromise disk height, which means less cushioning between vertebrae. It can impact the synovial fluid that reduces friction in your joints, leading to painful conditions that restrict movement. It affects shock absorption, inflammation and tissue repair. Drink adequate amounts of water throughout the day for musculoskeletal health.

Be wary of weight gain – Excess pounds put a strain on your lower back and load- bearing joints such as knees, ankles, and hips, and any joint can be affected when full motion is restricted. An overabundance of adipose tissue also contributes to chronic inflammation and its unwelcome companion, chronic pain. And where you carry weight can throw the curvature of the spine out of alignment, putting pressure on intravertebral discs. Maintaining a healthy weight protects your spine and joints from undue stress they simply were not designed to accommodate.

To maintain the life you love, actively listen to your body and make adjustments that support spine and joint health. If your body still cries uncle, reach out to Dr. Wolff at Southwest Spine and Sports to address lingering discomfort or persistent pain. With healthful habits andproper intervention as needed, all that you enjoy is within reach.