The spine saga

Hunching over a computer or phone, sleeping in uncomfortable positions and lack of exercise — Dr G Prakash lets us in on all that is contributing to that never-ending back pain

author_img DR G Prakash Published :  24th November 2021 04:27 PM   |   Published :   |  24th November 2021 04:27 PM
The spine saga

The spine saga

Present-day lifestyle involves prolonged hours spent sitting, either working in front of computers, watching television at home, or even travelling. Sitting for long hours every day not only increases the chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure but also adversely affects spine health.

Neck and back pain are the most common complaints among desk workers who spend around 8-10 hours a day in a sitting position. Research has shown that prolonged sitting affects the ligaments, muscles, joints, and discs of the spine. Inactivity weakens the spinal, gluteal and abdominal muscles which reduces core strength. Bad posture like hunching or slouching forward, sliding to the chair’s edge and leaning back too much, neck bent to look high or low while looking at the computer screen — all of these can lead to chronic repetitive stress on the trunk muscles and spine structure that can cause significant back, neck or shoulder pain.

Poor posture

With age, gravity starts to work against us which further compresses the spine. Poor posture can add to the problem, compressing the spine even further, rounding the body, troubling the discs and leading to pain. Millions of people around the world are suffering from back and neck pain that can diminish the quality of life and prevent a person from accomplishing even the smallest of tasks.

Wearing high heels

Wearing high heels can often disrupt the alignment of the spine’s curvature. This can severely affect posture and cause the back and hips to flex.

Carrying load

Carrying heavy grocery bags, backpacks, shopping bags, etc. can make a person lean on one side. When the body stays tilted for long periods, it can cause pain in the neck and damage the spine.

Using mobile phones

Though using a mobile is a habit that has become a part of our lifestyle, it is important to remember that it can immensely damage the spine. Craning the neck to use a mobile or tilting the neck while talking on the phone puts a lot of pressure on the backbone.

Bad sleeping position

Wrong or bad sleeping positions can be detrimental to spine health. It can put increasing pressure on the spine arch and neck which ultimately leads pains the neck, joint and back. Ways to strengthen the spine

Maintain good posture

It is crucial to maintain good posture all day long, especially while doing daily routine activities like sitting at work, doing household chores, bending and lifting weights, travelling, etc. There should be adequate back support and the head and neck should be in alignment with the back while working in front of computers. Also, one should choose ergonomic chairs with adjustable height and armrests, and thigh support. It is also good to walk or stretch the back muscles every half an hour.

Exercise

Regular exercises can strengthen the spinal muscles and improve core muscle strength which can help

prevent spinal pain. Those who sit for long durations are likely to have weaker core strength. This adds more stress on the structures in the spine. Exercising regularly can improve the core strength and strengthen the muscles of the back as well as the neck and shoulders.

Sunlight and diet

The functionality of the discs in the spine depends to a large extent on their ability to retain water in their matrix. That’s why adequate water intake is important.  Also, a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is essential for muscle and bone strength. Low vitamin D is associated with reduced muscle coordination. Loss of calcium from bones can lead to osteoporosis which can lead to fractures and also result in acceleration of disc degeneration. Therefore, one should always get some sunlight, eat healthily and hydrate well.

Quit smoking

The only factor that is proven to lead to early disc degeneration, apart from genetic composition, is tobacco smoking. Smoking can cause reduced blood supply to the vertebral bodies which affects the permeation of nutrients into the discs.

(The author is Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jindal Naturecure Institute)

Rest assured

The spine is an essential factor in all movements of the body.  A central and crucial connector within the human skeletal structure and an integral part of the body’s central nervous system, the spine also serves as the communication conduit for the body and brain. It is also responsible for regulating blood pressure and works with the brain to control bodily functions, including movement and behaviour.

It’s also prone to injury. That’s why neck and back pain are so common. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), back pain is the leading cause of disability globally, and at any given moment, it affects 577 million people worldwide.

There are certain ways to improve the strength of your spine to prevent and relieve painful neck and back injuries. N Elumalai, PhD Scholar in Yoga Science at Meenakshi Academy of Higher Education & Research, Chennai, shares five important asanas to keep your spine strong and injury-free.

TADASANA (mountain pose)

STEPS

With your feet slightly apart, inhale, raise your arms above your head, and interlock your fingers with palms facing upwards.

Raise your shoulders up towards your ears. Exhale, then roll your shoulders back and down, straightening your posture.

Relax all muscles in your face, including your tongue. Maintain a steady gaze.

Return and relax.

BENEFITS

It improves posture, opens up the chest and lengthens the spine.

Strengthens the thighs, buttock and leg muscles and increases awareness and concentration.

Reduces flat feet and relieves sciatica.

Releases tension from the face.

UTTHITA PARSVAKONASANA (EXTENDED SIDE ANGLE POSE)

STEPS

Start in Tadasana, with deep exhalation, and keep your feet three to four feet apart.

Turn your right foot outwards, 90 degrees. Turn your left foot slightly inwards; 45 to 60 degrees to the right.

Align your right heel with your left heel. Keep your thigh parallel to the floor.

Raise your arms parallel to the floor; palms facing down.

With a deep inhalation, firm your lower belly in and up.

Stretch your body over the right leg. Bring the right arm down. Put your palm on the floor beside your right foot.

Your left arm goes straight up; the tip of your hand above your head. (Spin the left palm down to face the ground).

Your head turns up to look under your left armpit.

Begin the breathing and stay in the pose for 30 seconds in eight breaths, and 90 seconds in 18-20 breaths approximately.

Breathe in deeply, come back to Tadasana and then relax.

Repeat this on each side.

BENEFITS

Helps stretch and shape your body.

Stimulates both the Manipura Chakra and abdominal organs.

Strengthens the spine cord.

Stretches and strengthens the hips, legs, abdomen, knees, palms, and ankles.

It also works the core muscles.

Increases more flexibility in the shoulder, neck, and arms.

Prevents osteoporosis as well as relieves lower back pain.

More beneficial for those who suffer from sciatica pain.

Relieves constipation and opens the chest and shoulders.

ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA (DOWNWARD FACING DOG POSE)

STEPS

Stand on four limbs i.e., arms and knees.

With toes firm on the ground,  lift your knees off the floor while exhaling.

Keep your elbows and knees straight.

Stretch your arms forward to keep the upper body tilted towards the front.

Lift your hips as much as you can so that the body makes an inverted V-shape.

Press your arms on the floor.

Keep the inner side touching your ears while stretching

the neck.

Now face inwards; gazing at your navel.

Hold the position for a few seconds and then, lower the body and knees, coming back to the starting position.

Repeat this asana three times, gradually increasing the length of time in following practices.

BENEFITS

Strengthens the back, arms and shoulders and stretches the spine.

Strengthens and lengthens all the muscles of the body.

Brings blood flow to the brain.

Helps to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

Improves focus.

Relieves lower and middle back pain.

Tones the waist and abdomen.

Makes the person longer, taller and stronger.

Helps in relieving the stress and anxiety.

Helps supply oxygen to the brain, increasing the memory and making the mind sharp.

TRIKONASANA (TRIANGLE POSE)

STEPS

Stand straight and keep the legs apart. Extend both the arms parallel to the ground. Inhale. Raise the right hand up.

Exhale, bend at the waist to the left side. Bring your left arm to the left foot.

Slowly, hold the ankle. Keep your right hand upward, above the shoulder.

Turn the head up and hold for a few seconds. Return and repeat on other side.

BENEFITS

Stretches spine, hips, back muscles, chest and shoulders.

Strengthens thighs, pelvic area, calves and buttocks. Stimulates the spinal nerves.

Improves the flexibility of the spine, correct alignment of shoulders.

Relieves from backache, gastritis, indigestion, acidity, flatulence. Reduces stiffness in the neck, shoulders and knees.

BHUJANGASANA (COBRA POSE)

STEPS

Lie flat on your stomach with the legs straight and toes pointed outward.

Put your palms below the shoulders; arms should be bent with the elbows facing backward.

Rest the forehead on the ground. This relaxes the body, especially the back.

Inhale, raise the body up to the navel and try to see the roof by bending your back backward.

Keep the back and legs as relaxed as possible.

Inhale and exhale slowly

and deeply.

Maintain the pose as long as you can.

Exhale. Bring your upper body down and come to the original position.

Do this two or three more times.

BENEFITS

Strengthens the spine, shoulders and back muscles.

Helps to open up your neck and shoulders.

Tone up and strengthen your abdomen muscles.

Expands the chest muscles.

Increases the middle-and upper back flexibility.

Improves blood circulation in the body.

Reduces stress and fatigue.

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