The decorations are put away and Starbucks has stopped using its holiday cup-strong indications that 2012 is nearly behind us. Now is the time when we begin to consider all of the wonderful things we resolve to accomplish in the coming year.
This year, I have a request on behalf of your spine. You see, it knows that so many other aspects of your health get all of the "resolution" attention and it's feeling left out in the cold. I'm probably not the first to tell you that neglecting your spine health for too long can have dire, sometimes irreversible consequences. And most who've suffered from chronic, debilitating back pain will tell anyone who will listen that they wish they had really paid attention sooner.
So this year, commit to adding your spine health to your New Year's Resolution list with these tips. The great news? You can knock out a couple of other list-toppers at the same time.
Posture- If you're constantly battling an achy back, have you considered your posture's contribution to it? Poor posture and back pain are BFFs. But it doesn't take a lot to dissolve their union. Stand in front of a mirror and check for the following:
- Head straight and stacked over your body with chin parallel to the floor; level shoulders that are not drooping forward or pulled too far back and are in line with your ears
- Equal spacing between arms on both sides and hands that are in line with hips
- Knees that are straight and not bent or hyper-extended
- Feet that are straight, not turned out.
Now focus on getting to this "perfect posture state" in your everyday activities. Your bonus for achieving it? Better posture makes you look thinner and younger too.
Weight Loss- It's no small coincidence over the last several years that we've seen a marked increase in both the number of people suffering from chronic back pain and those who are overweight. While our spines were designed to be strong, they weren't made for carrying too much weight over too long a period of time. For those who are overweight and experiencing back pain, losing some of the excess can have almost immediate benefits. If you're like the millions of Americans who've included weight-loss on their list of resolutions for the new year, your spine will likely respond well to your efforts.
Exercise- It isn't only for those who are overweight. It's for everyone who has a spine. That means YOU! If you're not overweight and don't think you need to exercise, you're wrong. I've seen plenty of slender patients who come to me with horrific spine issues and they've never really exercised. Exercise is critically important for maintaining muscle mass and a strong core – major supporters of a healthy, pain-free spine. Commit to making this the year you focus on adding more exercise to your schedule.
Stress-Relief- Another contributor to chronic back pain is stress. While it's impossible to completely eliminate stress from daily living, get in the habit this year of finding healthy ways to relieve it. Yoga, meditation, a good book, a warm bath – whatever you choose your back will breathe a sigh of relief along with your mind and the rest of your body.
Expert Advice- If you've been suffering from back pain that keeps you up at night, prevents you from doing things you enjoy or generally has you feeling less than you – get help ASAP. Make this the year that you stop explaining it away or worse, ignoring it all together. I can tell you from experience that the sooner you get an expert opinion about your pain, the more options you'll have in treating it and the faster you'll feel relief.
I wish you and your spine a Happy and Healthy New Year!