Your spine is your body’s support structure that helps you do a wide range of tasks like walking, sitting, and bending. It’s also responsible for allowing you to move freely, twist into different positions, and perform various movements. More importantly, it protects your spinal cord, the column of nerves that coordinates your body’s movements with your brain.
While the spine can be strong and robust, it can also be vulnerable as it’s made up of a complex set of joints. An injury, trauma, spine condition, and other issues could cause back pain and long-term damage to your spine, which could limit your mobility, flexibility, and quality of life.
On top of these, there are also small, seemingly normal things you do every day that affect your spine health. If you want your body’s main support structure to stay strong and flexible, here are habits you should watch out for:
1. Improper form when exercising
Regular exercise is a great way to build strength and flexibility, but improper form or overexercising could damage your musculoskeletal system, including your spine. When lifting heavy weights, make sure you’re observing proper form, and avoid moving to heavier weights abruptly. If your preferred exercise routine is cycling and spin classes, keep each session under 30 minutes, as leaning forward for prolonged periods could hurt your neck and back.
2. Your lack of exercise
Exercise is one of the best and natural ways to build bone density. Not only is your lack of exercise back-breaking, but it could also lead to a slew of health problems, as well. Start with short and simple exercises focused on deep stretching to prime your body for tougher workouts.
3. Your poor posture
Poor posture can affect the entire length of your spine, from the cervical vertebrae down to the coccyx. It’s important to check your posture at all times and correct it as you go to prevent back pain and other serious problems down the line. To remedy back pains and posture problems, consider practicing spine-lengthening yoga poses, as well as core-strengthening exercises. If your condition is serious, you might have to undergo scoliosis treatment.
4. Not enough calcium
If you’re lactose intolerant or on a strict no-dairy diet, your bones could suffer from calcium deficiency. When your bones get soft, you’ll start to feel pressure points all over your spine, which could lead to osteoporosis. To make for your lack of dairy sources, load up on leafy green vegetables, fish with soft bones like salmon and sardines, and other calcium-rich foods to achieve a daily calcium intake of 1,00 mg a day. You can also check with your doctor for calcium supplements.
5. Wearing too much sunscreen
While wearing sunscreen can reduce your risk for skin cancer and prevent premature aging, it can also prevent your body from producing vitamin D. It’s important to give yourself at least 15 minutes of sunlight exposure daily to boost your vitamin D production.
6. Your smartphone obsession
If you’re always finding yourself having stiff necks or upper backaches, the culprit could your smartphone. Unlike when watching TV or using a computer where your eyes are level with the screen, your smartphone lets you lean down to stare at the screen. This forward-head posture forces your spin into an over-flexed position, compressing your spinal discs. Limit your phone usage, if possible, and use ergonomic gadgets and work equipment as much as possible.
7. Your caffeine intake
Much like smoking, drinking too much coffee can hurt your back too. Caffeine in coffee, tea, and soda may reduce your body’s calcium absorption, increasing your risk of fractures and reducing your bone density. Try to reduce your caffeine intake, or counter its effects by taking calcium supplements.
8. Your high heels
Wearing high heels for hours every day is back-breaking, too. While we need our heels to power dress at work, look good during parties, or simply feel sexy and confident, they can put tension in your spine and cause all sorts of back pains. To stay comfortable while wearing heels, make sure they’re a perfect fit and are stable. You can also invest in orthotics or shoe inserts. Better yet, consult with a podiatrist and see if your feet’s biomechanical structure can tolerate high heels.
10. Your pent-up emotions
Holding back emotions like sadness, anger, and frustration can also affect your spine health. In particular, your emotional systems could channel pain into muscle groups and body structures like your spine. This is why it’s important to be able to talk about your feelings and express yourself, instead of keeping them in.