Four Simple Ways to Care for Your Back/Spine
When it comes to the body, many of us often overlook the importance of caring for our spine. It usually isn’t until pain strikes that we learn the keys to reducing neck and back disorders.
As a fellowship-trained, board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon, Dr. Mir Ali recommends four steps to people who are trying to minimize pain associated with the neck and back, prevent deterioration, and avoid surgery:
Step 1 – Maintain a healthy body weight
Since the spine is a load-bearing structure, Dr. Ali points out a healthy body weight will reduce the daily strain placed on the back.
Body weight concentrates particularly on the lower back. Those who are able to maintain a healthy body weight will put much less stress on the disks in the spine and on the structure of the lower back. Dr. Ali points out this is also a key for reducing issues with hips and knees.
“Think about where all that weight goes,” Dr. Ali says. “Weight increases as you go down the spine and it concentrates on the lower part of your lumbar spine before it breaks off onto two hips and two knees.”
Step 2 – Avoid nicotine
When offering guidance to patients, Dr. Ali encourages those who have neck or back disorders to avoid nicotine.
No matter if it’s in the form of cigarettes, cigars, vaping or gum, nicotine decreases the blood flow to the disks in the spine. As result, the disks will deteriorate faster and nerves will take longer to heal if you get a pinched nerve.
Step 3 – Exercise regularly
A key step that Dr. Ali suggests to patients with neck issues or back stiffness is simply trying regular exercise. Thirty minutes of exercise per day, especially cardio exercise, has been shown to increase the body’s circulation of natural pain killers.
Regular exercise is especially beneficial for people over the age of 40 who are starting to experience age-related neck and back pain.
“The first thing I tell patients is to get some regular daily exercise, and then we see how that feels,” Dr. Ali says. “It works for a lot of things including getting that wear and tear and age-related neck or back pain much more manageable.”
Step 4 – Practice proper lifting techniques and biomechanics
Proper lifting techniques and biomechanics are important for people over the age of 40 and anyone who experiences work-related neck or back pain.
These techniques can be used for everything ranging from lifting a box to leaning over the bathroom sink in the morning. Dr. Ali often recommends his patients for this type of therapy to minimize flare ups and prevent further deterioration of the spine with age and activity.
“When you’re 16, you can lift a box however you want,” Dr. Ali says. “But when you start getting on the other side of 30, definitely the other side of 40, you have to be careful and understand body mechanics because you want to leverage and do things so your back is protected as the years go by.”
Experiencing neck or back pain?
If you are experiencing neck or back pain that prevents you from enjoying the activities you love, contact Dr. Ali at 815-942-4875 (Morris/Diamond), 815-433-0850 (Ottawa) or 815-741-4000 (Joliet). Or for more information, visit www.morrishospital.org/spinesurgery.