For optimum health, the discs in your spine need two things more than anything else – Water and movement. Providing the first of these requirements is easy and straightforward to accomplish. All you need to do is drink plenty of water to keep your body, including your spinal discs hydrated. Meeting the latter need requires a little more focus, especially in the midst of the busy, yet sedentary lives that many of us tend to lead.
Why Your Spinal Discs Need Movement
The nucleus or inner-most core of our spinal discs are a bit like balls of jelly and when healthy are hydrophilic, which means they attract water. However in order to attract water effectively and remain sufficiently hydrated, our discs need to keep on the move. This becomes even more important as we age, since whether we are aware of it or not, the structure of our spinal discs degenerates little by little as the years pass by.
Regular exercise and correcting postural problems associated with sitting for long hours is important whether or not your spinal discs are currently healthy. Providing them with the movement they need will help keep you free from problems causing neck or lower back pain, as well as preventing disc degeneration. If you already have a disc disorder, moving your way to a healthier spinal disc is not just beneficial, it can also be a very enjoyable way to spend some recreational time.
Ways to Use Movement for Spinal Health
You can begin to focus on keeping your spinal discs healthy through movement with nothing more complicated than a few stretches. If you start every day with some stretching exercises you will feel invigorated as well as being a step closer to optimal disc health. Next come a few simple lifestyle changes to become more physically active, especially if your job has you sitting all day or you’re just not accustomed to aerobic exercise.
For example, walking and cycling are two low impact forms of aerobic exercise which you may be able to incorporate into your daily life. If you live close to your workplace, consider walking or cycling to and from work each day. Even if you take public transport into work, walking home can be a great way to switch out of work mode and see your community from a different viewpoint. At the same time you will be actively working out those spinal discs.
Of course if you want to take the exercise regime a step further, you could swim a few times per week or join a gym and use their aerobic equipment. Another form of exercise you could invest time in is Pilates, which is a pleasurable way to work out and great for spinal disc health.
Pilates for a Healthy Spine
Pilates is a low impact exercise program which emphasizes alignment of the spine and strengthening of the core muscles which support it. More specifically, Pilates focuses on the following principles:
- Using mental concentration to enhance muscle control and movement efficiency
- The use of breathing to maintain concentration and to remain centered
- Maintaining neutral spine alignment during all exercises
- Development of the abdominal muscles and deep muscles in your back
- Building muscle strength, length and flexibility
There are two main formats of the Pilates exercise system and you can choose the format that you prefer. One format is focused on the use of unique equipment, while the other consists of mat exercises without the use of any apparatus.
Pilates is suitable even if you suffer from a condition which causes lower back pain (although you should always check with your physician before starting any exercise program). In this case it can be beneficial to have some private sessions with a Pilates instructor initially, as it can be critical to perform the exercises correctly. After a while you should be able to safely move on to less expensive group Pilates classes.
The beauty of Pilates is that although many of the movements can be challenging, the best exercises for spinal disc health are the simplest ones to learn. These movements are the ones which focus most on correct spinal alignment, movement of the hips and shoulders and strengthening of your core muscles. Even better, once you have learned these exercises you can easily practice them at home to keep improving the health of your discs in between group sessions.
Remember – It Costs More to Do Nothing
Joining a gym, taking yoga or Pilates classes and even going to the local pool might cost a few dollars. However that’s nothing compared to the financial and personal costs of chronic lower back or neck pain and those associated with treating spinal disc disorders. Think of any money you spend as an investment in the only spine you will ever have – Surely a worthy cause.
Even if you don’t want to shell out for organized exercise programs, taking a daily walk and stretching to start the day cost nothing, whereas doing nothing could ultimately cost you a lot of lost earnings as well as the quality of life you have when your spinal discs are healthy and hydrated.