October 16 is World Spine Day – a day to raise awareness on spine health. Even after a spinal cord injury, it is very important to take care of your spine. For people without disabilities, the most common impacts of poor spine health is back pain. In addition to pain, people with spinal cord injuries can also suffer pressure sores and reduced respiratory function due to compression on the lungs due to slouching.
Poor spine health in people with spinal cord injuries are often caused by slumping due to a lack of trunk muscles, inactivity which can decrease physical fitness, habitual activities such as hooking the same arm on the chair back for support. Poorly fitted equipment can also be a big contributor.
Fortunately, spine health can easily be improved with some lifestyle changes. Here are a few easy ways to improve your spine health. If you are concerned with hurting your spine with any of the exercises, please consult a medical professional before attempting the exercises.
When lying down, you want to ensure that your spine can relax and recover from the strain placed on it during the day. It is recommended to sleep on a firm or medium-firm mattress that supports the spine. A soft mattrass allows the spine to sag.
In addition to ensuring the spine is aligned, you also want the spine to naturally align. When sleeping on your back, place a pillow beneath your knees to remove the stress placed on your lower back. When sleeping on your side, place a pillow between your knees. This ensures that the hips are balanced. A neck pillow can also assist with supporting the cervical spine.
Equipment, such as wheelchairs and cushions, play an important role in maintaining good posture. If the equipment is older, it might not function as it should. There might be new technology that would better suit your injury or your mobility might have declined, which might require equipment that provides better support.
Your cushion should distribute your weight evenly to keep the hips balanced. When purchasing a cushion, consult a seating specialist to ensure that your cushion works correctly. If your core or trunk muscles are weak and you are unable to strengthen them through exercise, consider purchasing a chair with a high back.
Massage the muscles
A professional massage offers many therapeutic benefits including increasing blood flow to an area, loosening muscles and boosting the feeling of relaxation. Consider booking yourself a regular, professional massage to ease the pressure on your back.
Posture and exercise
Poor posture is one of the biggest culprits of poor spine health. Often, poor posture is a result of weak back and core (stomach) muscles. Strengthening your back and core through exercises like push ups or sit ups will assist with posture.
Exercising in a pool by, for example swimming laps, is a great way to strengthen your upper body without placing additional pressure or strain on the back. The water offers a more gentle form of resistance.