The last article was about posture improvement. A huge part of improving posture comes down to spinal health, or spinal love, as I like to call it. 

The spine is the centre of our body. It houses our central nervous system and supports our torso; organs and all our bodily systems. Actually if you think about it, the spine is core to our health and happiness. Back care isn’t just about being pain free. Spinal health equals wellbeing. Physical, mental, emotional and even psychological. Back care can literally change your life. Spinal love starts with understanding our spines needs and catering to simple but effective back care.  So what’s spinal love? Well let’s see how incredible our spine is and what it needs to keep being so amazing. 

Amazing facts about our spine

– The human spine starts to develop in utero at two months of development – It connects the brain to the body allowing the mind and body to communicate so that we can do all we want to do with our body in this world – The spine has over 120 muscles, 200 ligaments and 100 joints – Luckily the spine is incredibly strong and can hold hundreds of kilograms of weight – It’s also incredibly flexible, if bent forward and backward it does 2/3 of a circle – It can expand and contract, as well as, move in all direction because of all these muscles – The spine has an exceptional memory of posture, so what you create it will maintain – 80 % of all back pain can be relieved through improved posture and healthy movement patterns – Sitting puts around 100kg of pressure onto your spine. Bending forward from standing or sitting puts double that pressure on your back.

Healthy spine happy back, body and brain  

The wellbeing of our organs, digestion, respiration, and the entire muscular system, directly depends on spinal health and functionality to serve their purpose. Our immune, endocrine and neurological system all indirectly benefit from back and spinal health. The human spine is unique in that it’s upright in relation to earth and the force of gravity. So the way we care for it also unique. Our spine developed over millions of years of evolution to the way it is now as a culminative process. The four curves we have also developed according to our needs as bipeds. Each curve of our spine developed at a different stage of our development, accommodating differing needs and purposes. 

When we first get curious about the world around us and lift the head to see at 3-6 months, we develop the cervical and lumbar curve. When we start to interact and want to reach for and move toward other persons, objects and places through crawling, we further develop those two curves. Then as we begin to find our autonomy and start walking, the last curve, our sacral curve gives balance to our upright posture. The natural curves of our spine give both our bones and discs resilience and bounce back. They create the flexibility and strength for our back and all that’s attached to it. Think about it, these curves create the room for movement of both the discs and bones to slide, slip and transition, forward, back, sideways and even to twist.  So our aim is to allow these natural curves its full range of movement. Physical, mental and emotional health are depend upon spinal health. For a full description of the health benefits of healthy posture look click here.

Effects of an unhealthy spine

Without the room to move each movement would be painful, laborious and awkward. The natural curves help our back and spine withstand huge amounts of stress. Without these curves, and spinal health all the bodily functions; digestive, nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, circulatory, lymphatic, urinary, and metabolic, are affected adversely. This in turn affects our hormonal and immune system, our sense of self as a whole connected and embodied person. This spills over to our sense of self and connection to others. Articles have been written on why back pain might be inherent to our upright position. But this misses the point that, we as a species developed to move, walk, run, climb and be active at least 6-8 hrs a day. In active and mobile cultures people don’t suffer back issues. And without daily activity our back and spinal health gives way to aches.

Symptoms of our back needing Spinal Love

– Pain, Tingling – Headaches, Migraines – Dizziness, Foggy brain – Restricted movement – Restriction of daily activites – Radiating pain in leg – Bony growth of cartilage in joint  – Fear of falling, Balance & Proprioception issues – Stiffness – Fatigue – Tightness – Inflammation, Fusion of vertebrae – Postural problems – Breathing difficulties – Altered cardiopulmonary function – Osteopenia, Stenosis, Spondilitis, Osteoporosis – Unbalanced spinal muscles, Muscular imbalance – Changes in bone density – Asymmetry causing degenerative changes in the spine and pelvis.

4 Ways to Spinal Love & Back Care 

If we don’t listen to the wisdom and wonder of our body’s natural intelligence we can end up with spinal conditions, back pain and problems. These changes are the body’s only way to communicate our unhealthy habit. And if we ignore this too long we will be hearing louder calls of communication, “Hey? Hello up there! This part of you needs some tender loving movement! It needs some attention!” So, Let’s listen to our body & give it some Spinal Love!

1. Move Daily

Most important!! Move. Whether its dancing to loud music when you get home, or going for a run, walking in the forest or Yoga practice, do it daily and do it with passion. Preferably a few times a day, get some real motion. Motion is lotion.

2. The Six Directions

Make sure to move the spine in its 6 direction everyday, a few times a day. Forward, backward, sideways L & R, and twisting L & R. That’s why Yoga is so amazing, and makes us feel so great. Because we take the time to do all the postitions and really squeeze, release, free and slide the spinal discs. This allows them to really absorb moisture, nutrients and blood supplies. Remember disc health from the last article. 

3. Body Awareness

Listening to our body is only an option when we have body awareness. Becoming aware of it’s language it a process. And it can be a playful process if we let it be a dialogue, a dance, a deliberate yet dallying of attention. It doesn’t need to be a chore. Again Yoga provides a perfect setting to cultivate this skill.

4. Hydrate

Drink. Drink. Drink lots of water. A hydrated spine is a happy, healthy spine. Tea, green, white or black, is dehydrating, so they don’t count 😉 It’s that easy, and dare I say even fun. So give that spine some TenderLovingCare, Spinal Love. It doesn’t ask for much, when you think of all it does in return. Spinal Love infleunces how we feel, think, move and live. Back care and health is intimately linked to our respiration. Respiration and inspiration come from the Latin root, spirare, to breathe. Spinal health revitalises and brings our whole body into physiological balance! So let’s celebrate the flex-ability, the strength and the amazingness of our spine with Yoga, which so easily caters to all the spine’s needs.  Namaste, and lot’s of love to you and your amazing spine,

Shira.