YOU’RE ONLY AS OLD AS YOUR SPINE!
October 7th is Back care awareness week and we have a saying in yoga which goes “ You are only as old as your spine”. If you stop to think about it for a moment, your spine does a pretty amazing job! It supports you in an upright position, against the force of gravity and it also manages to balance a very heavy ( 10 – 12 lbs ) large ball on top of its small cervical vertebrae.
There are 24 vertebrae in the spine:
- 5 lumbar
- 12 thoracic
- 7 cervical
- Low back painprobably affects around one-third of the UK adult population each year. Of these, around 20% (1 in 15 of the population) will consult their GP about their back pain.
- Back pain is the largest single cause of disability in the UK, with lower back pain alone accounting for 11% of the total disability of the UK population.
- An estimated three million peopleare taking long-term sick leave or say they are unable to work due to back pain according to research from Nuffield Health. (2015)
So why do we have so many problems with our spine?
Your spine should be able to move in the following ways:
Forward bends, Backward bends, Sideways bends and Twists.
Everything is connected to your spine (everything in or body is connected to everything else via fascia or connective tissue) so if your spine is tight or weak in a certain area this may have a knock on effect to the muscles and organs in the surrounding area. If we don’t keep it moving and maintain its strength and flexibility then we can end up with issues and are more likely to pull muscles when we lift objects and twist at the same time. Add to that the fact that the average westerner sits for 14.6 hours a day on a chair of some description (which means you don’t use the core muscles of your abdomen and back to support you, and compress the base of your spine) and you can see the pressure we put our spines under.
What can we do to “care” for our spines? Keep it both strong and flexible. Yoga and Pilates are perfect examples of mind body movement that can be of huge benefit to people with back issues. The core strengthening exercises of Pilates work wonders on your posture and help prevent pressure being put on the lumbar spine through weak abdominal muscles and the Core exercises in yoga together with back bends, forward bends, twists and hip openers keep the whole of the pelvis and spine strong and flexible.
Here are my favourite poses to try:
Standing Forward Bend – releases the lower back and stretches the hamstrings which if tight can pull on the lumbar spine causing back pain.
Cobra – strengthens the muscles of the lower back whilst also bending backwards to stretch the front of the body and open the shoulders and chest.
Lying Twist – stretches all the muscles of the spine from the neck down to the lower back and also releases tight shoulders, opens the front of the chest and allows the hips to release.
Pigeon pose – a great hip opener that helps release a tight piriformis muscle which can be another cause of back pain and sciatica.
Squat – what every other culture in the world does instead of sitting in chairs – no compression in the lumbar spine, open hips, strong thighs and flexible knees and ankles.
Boat and ½ Boat pose – works to strengthen the lower abdominal muscles which support your spine and prevent you putting pressure on your back.
If you can spare just 15 mins a day to do some of these simple poses then you will be well on the way to preventing many back issues as you get older.
Look after your spine, it’s the only one you have and you are going to need its support the whole of your life!
If you would like a free hand out on any of these yoga poses then please email me:
Please be advised the health suggestions contained in this article are only the personal opinion of Carole Baker, they do not constitute medical advice. Please always consult your GP before taking any alternative or complementary remedies, particularly if you are currently on prescription medication. Please ensure you always see a professionally qualified and insured complementary therapist or teacher.