The highways of the body venture far and wide, serving as vital routes for the hormones and health stimulators that keep the show of life running. But no matter where these passages run, they all come back to the core of the body: the spine.
It’s hard to think of a part of the body, other than the brain, that’s more important than the 33 vertebrae that make up the spine. It’s the mast onto which the ship is built, connecting the legs, hips and lower body to the head, arms and chest.
If you’ve got a central pillar holding up your house, you’ll want to make sure that that pillar is in the best shape possible. The spine is just the same, and it can begin to show its age with the natural passage of time.
Here in this blog today, we’re going to be climbing the body’s most important structural elements to understand both why the spine is important and how you can look after yours.
The Front Line Spine
As we’ve established, the spine is an important piece of the musculoskeletal system, and is a major component of daily movements. Whether you sit, stand, twist, run or jump, your spine is being engaged in some way.
A healthy spine has three natural points of curvature, usually reminiscent of the ’S’ shape, and has a maximum total of 33 vertebrae; although this naturally decreases with age as some of the smaller vertebrae begin to fuse together.
The spine has five sections of vertebrae. Top to bottom, these are the cervical vertebrae in the neck, followed by the thoracic vertebrae, the lumbar vertebrae, and the sacrum and the coccyx at the base of the spine. These two latter sections are commonly the first to fuse together.
The structure of the vertebrae is supported and protected by its surrounding facet joints, intervertebral disks and tendons. Together these help to cushion the blow of any impact that the spine may encounter, and the system also ensures that no two vertebrae rub together and cause pain.
All this protection is for a very important reason, as there’s a lot going on with the spine. These vertebrae create a secure channel for the spinal cord and its column of nerves to run from the brain all the way to the lower back.
The length of the vertebrae is joined by 31 pairs of openings, called neural foramen, through which nerves branch off of the encased spinal cord and travel to over parts of the body, carrying messages between the brain and the muscles.
However, these neural foramen, the bridges between the brain and its functions, can become narrower or sometimes completely blocked, causing a whole host of different, detrimental and complex problems.
A problem in the area can feel anywhere between a slight loss of sensation to complete paralysis, and the ability of the foramen can even impact the physical curvature of the spine.
You’d be pretty hard-pressed to track down anyone that doesn’t agree that the spine should be kept healthy, but how exactly can this be achieved?
As we highlighted before, there are so many different ways to engage the spine, and therefore an equal number of ways in which to train its strength and prolong its productivity.
Here are some of our favourite back-benefitting techniques:
To Support your Spine, Support your Assets
We’re sorry to our male audience reading this right now, but let’s all agree that where there are big breasts, there are back issues. Indeed this extra added weight on the front can greatly impact what happens with the back, usually in the form of upper back pain and mobility issues.
It’s true that even those who don’t see themselves as having a bigger pair can suffer from breast-related back pain.
The Power of Pilates
As the spine is so central to many different things, you need a solution that’s equally as aquatinted with the holistic and spiritual flow of the body. A solution that is unlike any other.
Exercise as we know is a great way to strengthen the body in lots of different ways, but when considering the spine specifically, pilates is really the only way to go in this department. This balanced, gentle and comprehensive form of exercise is one of the best ways to ensure the health and longevity of those neural passages, and incorporating in things like a pilates bar can further the benefits of your efforts substantially.
To find out more about the power of holistic exercise, click here.
It’s All in the Waist
Although often associated with an hourglass figure and wildly envious silhouettes, one of the less-discussed byproducts of waist training is the strengthening of the spine. The pressure that a waist trainer generates encourages the core to work harder and thus become stronger.
When this happens, the muscles in the abdomen become noticeably much more defined, but so too do the soft tissues and ligaments that support the spine. Unfortunately, this isn’t a benefit that many people are aware of, but it’s one that you should definitely know if you’re struggling with back problems; especially lower-back pain.
We’re ready to lift the lid on waist training, find out more about how it could bring benefits to your back here.
A lot of the problems that the back encounters are caused by how we sleep. For hopefully eight-hours straight, the body is kept completely still, and retains a position for a more-than-usual period of time.
Sustaining the wrong position for too long will cause damage to your spine, and if you can train your body to adopt it, sleeping on your back is usually the best position. However, you shouldn’t discount the weight of the legs, as this can add stress to the hips and the sacrum and coccyx vertebrae. Placing a pillow under the knees (or between them if you’re sleeping on your side) can help offer support whilst you sleep.
To find the right position for your sleep, head on over to our blog about the most peaceful positions here.
Finishing on a familiar note that we briefly touched upon when discussing the benefits of waist training, keeping the core muscles strong is essential to strengthening your spine. This is because a lot of the movements and training schemes that seek to improve this department are very musculoskeletal focussed.
With this in mind, there are so many exciting ways to engage your core with exercise, and playing around with different techniques and styles will give you access to the very best benefits. Movements like the plank and mountain climbers should be at the top of your list - they’re really some of the most effective ways to keep your back in check.
A lot depends on the back being at its best. Take our advice on to a future of full mobility; free of soreness, sharp pains and no sleep.
Discover our favourite solutions for better sleep and better health here.
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