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Spine Health Resolutions–A New Year for a New You

As this year comes to an end and a new one approaches, you’re probably starting to think about your New Year’s resolutions. Why not make spine health a goal? In our everyday, busy lives, it’s common to fall into bad habits that can negatively affect spine health and lead to back pain. By working on all of the different factors to achieve spine health, you can improve your back pain or help prevent back pain in the future, giving you a better quality of life overall.

With New Year’s resolutions in mind, I ask you to take these spine health resolutions and join me in my #HealthyNewYou challenge. These resolutions are all an important part of spine health and can put you on the road to better health overall.

1. Work on your posture.

At the risk of sounding like a nagging parent, I cannot stress enough how important good posture is. Poor posture doesn’t just look bad, it also takes the spine out of its natural alignment, which strains the discs in our spine and the muscles and ligaments in our back. This can lead to degenerative disc disease, chronic neck, back, and shoulder pain, and eventually kyphosis, a disfiguring condition that is characterized by a hunched back. Work on straightening up now so you don’t develop these conditions in the future.

2. Don’t stay slumped over all day at your desk and on your phone.

In addition to poor posture, many people have jobs that require us to sit at a desk all day which can lead to back pain. Even if you don’t have to sit at a desk all day, with the popularity of smart phones, many of us are guilty of hunching over while sending texts and reading emails on our phones. When you focus in on a work task or texting, you may not realize how much you have hunched over. This constant hunching has created a problem that many spine doctors refer to as “text neck.” Believe it or not, hunching over our computers and phones can put as much as 60 pounds of extra pressure on the spine. Combine that with posture that is already poor, and you’re setting yourself up for back problems in the future.

3. Maintain a healthy weight.

If you are overweight, that extra weight puts stress on the spine. Extra weight around the midsection pulls the pelvis forward, straining the muscles and ligaments in the lower back. Excess weight can also damage the discs in the spine, possibly leading to herniated disc or pinched nerves.

4. Exercise regularly.

Not only will exercise help you to maintain a healthy weight, the right exercises can actually help with back pain. Exercise can strengthen the muscles in the back that support the spine, reducing your risk of future back pain. Exercise also helps the body distribute crucial nutrients to the discs and soft tissues to keep your spine and back healthy.

5. Eat a healthy, balanced diet.

A poor diet increases your likelihood of weight gain, which puts excess strain on the back. Also, if you’re eating an unhealthy diet filled with fast food, pre-packaged foods, and other overly-processed, high-calorie foods, you probably aren’t getting the vitamins and nutrients you need. Our bodies need these vitamins and nutrients to nourish the bones, muscles, and discs in the spine and throughout the body.

6. Stop smoking.

Smoking has been linked to a number of health problems, but did you know that it can affect your spine? Smoking decreases the blood supply to the spinal discs, which inhibits the disc’s ability to heal itself. The nicotine in cigarettes is also known to weaken the bones, which can contribute to conditions like osteoporosis.

7. Work on your sleeping habits.

Poor quality of sleep can affect your body in a number of ways. For one, lack of sleep can decrease your pain tolerance, making any existing back pain feel worse. Increased pain can make it more difficult for you to get the sleep that you need, so it becomes a vicious cycle. It’s also important to sleep on a mattress that gives your back the support it needs. The wrong mattress can leave you with back pain when you wake up.

8. Manage your stress.

People who are stressed and anxious often complain of back and neck pain. People who are stressed often have tensed muscles, which can lead to back and neck pain. Stress and anxiety can also cause negative changes in your posture and level of activity, which can both contribute to back pain.

Ready to take my #HealthyNewYou challenge and start off the new year healthy and free of back pain? Tweet me @GleiberMD and include #HealthyNewYou to let me know! You can also use this hashtag if you have questions about the challenge, want to let me know what you’re doing to achieve spine health, or just want encouragement. I’ve got your back!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be giving tips on how you can work on each resolution to achieve the outcomes you want. Stay tuned and follow me on Twitter @GleiberMD for updates!