Aging means different things to different people, but older adults are more active and expect more out of life than ever before. Traveling, hiking, biking and other activities are on the wish list for many men and women entering into mature adulthood.
But many of these activities are only possible if you are healthy – and a healthy spine is key for maintaining a good quality of life, energy, and enthusiasm for the adventure ahead. Here are a few tips on how to ensure that you keep your spine and back in the best possible condition.
Focus On Your Posture
“Stand up straight” might sound like a reprimand from the Victorian era, but keeping a strong, erect posture is one of the easiest ways to ensure a healthy spine over the years. Unfortunately, computer use, more casual ways of sitting, and being sedentary can lead to a misalignment of the spine. Try to keep your back in a neutral position when you walk. Avoid slouching when sitting, and maintain an ergonomic position when working on your computer. Stabilize your back by tucking in your pelvis whether sitting, standing, or moving.
Wear Comfortable, Supportive Shoes
Support your spine by choosing comfortable and supportive footwear. An investment in well-made shoes will pay off years to come. Unsupportive shoes or high-heeled shoes throw your body off balance, and then your spine is called upon to counter any instability. Over time, that can result in muscular aches and pains, hunched shoulders, and disc problems. Consider getting orthotic shoes, either customized for your feet and physical condition, or shoes that offer more support at the arch.
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Your spine is only as strong as its bones or vertebrae that are stacked one on top of the other, from your tailbone all the way up to your skull. Eating a diet rich in vitamin D, calcium, and potassium is essential for maintaining healthy bones. So-called anti-inflammatory diets (such as those eliminating added sugars or artificial ingredients) may help prevent certain chronic conditions such as arthritis, or at the least, help manage flare-ups from occurring. You might also choose to supplement your diet with vitamins and minerals to be sure you’re getting what you need.
Build Strength With Exercises
The extensor muscles attached to your lower back support your spine to keep you upright, flexible, and strong. To support the spine and these important, overburdened muscles, perform strength-building exercises that focus on the abdominal core. Your core muscles located deep in the abdomen and pelvic area wrap around your lower back, forming a girdle of support. Pilates and yoga are just some of the many forms of exercise that focus on building core strength, along with physical therapy exercises. It’s helpful to get guidance from a physical therapist who can show you proper techniques for working with and without weights to build your strength.
Staying flexible is no easy task as you age, but it should remain a constant goal to prevent or alleviate any physical problems with your vertebrae or discs. Yoga is famous for its ability to stretch out muscles and increase and maintain flexibility, all while building strength – but a simple activity like walking also keeps the spine flexible with gentle movement of the back muscles as you walk using proper form. Talk with your doctor about which exercise regimen is right for you at your stage of life.
Mind-body connections are real, and more is understood about these links now than ever before. Stress and physical problems – back problems in particular – have been proven linked together. The better you feel, the more relaxed you feel, and the reverse is also true. Find a mindset that works on your behalf to keep your stress level in check.
Follow Your Doctor’s Advice
Keep all your doctor appointments and be sure to mention any new problems with your back or musculoskeletal system that have developed. In addition to taking all your medications as prescribed, consider a bone density screening if your doctor advises it. If you have a condition that requires medical or surgical intervention, make sure you choose a qualified and experienced expert in the field.
Expert Orthopedics in Cleveland Area
At Orthopaedic Associates, we are dedicated to keeping you moving, free of pain. So, if you or a loved one experiences back pain, stiffness, or any other musculoskeletal concern, rely on our experienced and dedicated orthopedic physicians and specialists to help you find a solution.
To schedule an appointment or a consultation, call us at (440) 892-1440 or fill out our online form.