We only get one spine, so it’s important that we take as good care of it as possible. Avoid these habits because they are the top 5 ways to damage your spine.
Sleeping on Your Stomach
This is the one habit that is the most harmful to the health and function of our spine and our nervous system. When the head is turned to the side and then the weight of the body is placed upon it…the muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, discs, nerves, etc. are compressed. The application of this stress of stomach sleeping will lead to an acceleration of degeneration of the discs and joints. Some of the worst degenerative disc disease that I have seen in the spine is in those that have spent their life sleeping on their belly. We spend a third of our lives sleeping!
So if you shouldn’t sleep on your stomach…how should you sleep? Flat on your back is best. Some people will find that placing a pillow underneath the knees will be more comfortable. You should always sleep with only one pillow under your head though so the neck is in a relaxed position. If you are unable to sleep on your back then the next best option is on your side. When you are sleeping on your side, you want to make sure that your head and neck are in as an aligned position as possible. You should only use one pillow that is thick enough to support between your shoulder and your head. Most people have a pillow that is too thin to sleep on your side…so there head is side bent all night. The most vulnerable position for the neck to be in is side bent or extended.
Popping or Cracking Your Neck
This habit, which can feel good at the time will lead to hypermobility in the joints and more and more instability over time as this habit has a tendency to make you want to do it more and more. This is a sign that your spine is probably extremely misaligned and should be evaluated asap.
Laying on the Couch with Your Head Propped up on the Arm
Here is that vulnerable position again. A side bent head is much more likely to cause a misalignment, especially when kept in this position for 30, 60 minutes or longer why you watch TV.
The longer you sit the more your posture begins to breakdown. If you are sitting for a few minutes it is much easier to keep a good posture. When you sit for hours the chances that your posture is breaking down is very high. So tip #1 is to sit as little as possible. If you can stand to do a task then do it. A least once per hour you want to get out of your chair and walk around and change the posture that you are in…something that helps you to remember to do this is to drink lots of water…which is tip #2. Drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day…preferrably more. A good rule of thumb is to only drink water and drink about 1/2 of your body weight in ounces per day. So if you weigh 150 pounds then you should drink 75 ounces of water per day. The more you weigh the more you need to drink to be healthy. So if you are drinking water all day then you will need to get up and go to the bathroom which will greatly benefit your spine as well…it’s a win-win. The third tip is to change positions as much as possible when you are sitting. Change the angle of your chair, the height of your chair, move things around throughout the day. Your body gets bored sitting in the same position all the time!
Never Ever Exercising
The less we exercise the more the joints of the spine begin to stiffen and deteriorate. So move around! Our bodies were made to move! The best exercise is the one that you will do consistently. Fast walking, swimming, elliptical etc. Pick a cardiovascular exercise and get going.
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Dr. Pete Tsiglieris of Advanced Spinal Care in Redwood City, California is an Upper Cervical Specialist trained by the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA). His upper cervical clinic also serves San Mateo, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, San Carlos, and Sunnyvale. They are uniquely trained to correct problems in the upper cervical spine (upper neck). This vital area is intimately connected to the central nervous system and problems in this area have been shown to be an underlying cause of a variety of different health problems, including migraines and other headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain, back pain and shoulder pain and weakness. More information can be found on our website at http://www.bayareanuccacare.com/.