When you’re reading about taking care of your health on the internet or in magazines, you’re bound to come across the same kinds of tips in lots of articles. Most of these lists tend to be generalized, which may not be helpful if you are trying to get specific help for a specific problem like chronic back or neck pain. They can get pretty repetitive, so no one would blame you if you start to roll your eyes when you read an article touting the same old basic benefits. It’s not that they’re wrong… it’s just that it’s nothing new. But you don’t hear this same advice over and over again for no reason–it’s all stuff that works. And you know what? It’s also advice that can have specific benefits for your back health.
That’s right, the big one, the one that’s on every list. While it seems like every health guru on the web swears by yoga, you may feel like you know more people who wear yoga pants or talk about yoga than actually practice yoga. If you’ve tried it yourself, you may have been dissatisfied by feeling that it did not offer a stronger and more immediate pain relief than you’d hoped.
Here’s the truth: Yoga is absolutely beneficial for the back, but the effects are slow, subtle, and cumulative. If you focus on yoga for the back, the biggest benefit will be in the way that it stretches your core muscles. As you sleep or sit, your muscles get stiff. Stretching and lengthening these muscles helps them become looser and more tolerant of stress. In addition, practicing yoga that focuses on the supporting muscles of your spine like the shoulders and core can make it easier for your back to bear stress to a degree. However, while yoga can be extremely beneficial, is best done as an accompaniment to other forms of exercise rather than alone. It’s also important that you work with an instructor who is knowledgeable about back pain and who can help ensure that you are not inadvertently causing harm.
Yes, you already know you should be having more fruits and veggies and fewer hamburgers. No news there. So what does it have to do with your back? Apart from the fact that maintaining a healthy weight benefits your whole body, it also has specific benefits for the back. Being overweight is a stress on your spine, causing “wear and tear” damage to accumulate more quickly. Eating healthfully also ensures that your body gets the necessary nutrients to support spinal health. If you’re not accustomed to eating right, you may have forgotten just how good you actually feel when avoid unhealthy foods!
There are a million reasons to quit smoking, and improving back health is just one of them. But it’s an important factor in back health. Smoking decreases your blood flow, which limits the circulation of oxygen and nutrients in your body. This weakens your muscles and organs, and can make it more difficult for injuries to heal. Thus, even a small injury to your spine could turn into a larger problem than it would otherwise be. At the Spine Institute Northwest, we will not perform any of our minimally invasive spine procedures until you have successfully quit smoking.
Even though you’ve heard these tips thousands of times, don’t let them just become background noise in your mission towards better back health! These steps that benefit your whole body health also support your back health, so it’s really a win-win situation.