By Osteopath Anisha Joshi
Osteopathy is a way of detecting, treating, and preventing health problems by moving, stretching and massaging a person’s muscles and joints. Osteopaths use physical manipulation, stretching and massage with the aim of increasing the mobility of joints, relieving muscle tension, enhancing the blood supply to tissues helping the body to heal.
Osteopaths most commonly treat pain and injury related to the spine. However, award-winning Osteopath Anisha Joshi wants to encourage more people to care for their spinal health every day; not just when they start experiencing issues.
Anisha says, “About 80% of adults experience lower back pain, but not many people actually consider how to safeguard their spinal health day-to-day. We only one have one spine, and so it is paramount that we know how to look after it properly. The more you can do in the present to prevent pain from occurring later in life, the better.”
Here, Anisha shares 5 simple ways to look after your spinal health, now and always:
1 Monitor your stress levels
In many of my patients, I see first-hand how emotions can affect our body physically. When we are stressed or anxious our body has a physical response. Symptoms of this include clenching your jaw, headaches, insomnia, IBS symptoms and change in heart rate. All these symptoms will have an impact on the muscles and joints within your body.
For example, the muscles in your jaw are connected to your neck, and if they are contracted for a long period of time (potentially hours if you are asleep) this can lead to agonising neck pain.
If your breathing rate is altered by stress it can have an effect on your entire body. You rib cage is huge and has many muscles attached to it. The diaphragm is also part of the rib cage but also goes down to attach in your lower back. If these muscles are used in a different way, it can be the same as going to the gym and working out incorrectly.
I would encourage anyone with a particularly stressful lifestyle to actively monitor their stress levels, and use mindfulness techniques such as stretching, meditation and deep breathing each day to reduce tension in the body – which ultimately can result in debilitating back pain.
2 Watch out for bad work habits
When working from home, it’s so easy to go from sitting at your desk, to sitting at the dinner table to the sofa for the remainder of the evening – which can leave our bodies feeling stiff and achy.
The key here is to keep moving throughout the day; you could set an alarm on your watch or phone to remind yourself to stand up and walk around the house for a few minutes every hour.
In addition, make sure you lift up any phones, tablets or laptop screens so they are at eye level – looking down into your lap can predispose your upper back into getting tight, leading to lower back pain. It may not feel like the most natural positioning, but bring any screens closer to your face, opposed to craning forward to read from them.
Reduce the amount of time your head is tilted down throughout the day to reduce your risk of developing back pain.
3 Drink more water
It may be obvious, but it can never be said enough; drink more water! Water is the primary source within everyone’s life. Every system within your body, whether it be your organs, muscles, blood, or spine, is impacted by the amount of water you consume.
If you are not drinking enough, your body will not be able to perform at its highest potential and therefore, when it is at its worst can have serious consequences – including back pain.
4 Stretch daily
Especially for those over 40, daily stretching can go a long way in maintaining our overall mobility and reducing your risk of back pain and injury by releasing tension. Take a couple of minutes to stretch, both in the morning and before you go to bed. It’s also the perfect time to practise some mindfulness! My top 3 stretches to improve your spinal health are:
1 Child’s Pose – Lower your bottom onto your heels and stretch out in front of you reaching your arms forwards.
2 Neck stretch – Sitting on a chair, use the opposite arm to gently pull your head down to stretch the muscles in the side of your neck.
3 Pec stretch – Interlace your fingers behind your back and stretch out your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades behind you.
5 Personalise your pillow set-up
A good pillow set-up can significantly reduce your risk of back pain long-term. As Osteopaths, we wish we could give you the miracle pillow that suited everyone perfectly; but the reality is that we are all different, all unique and all have different requirements. One rule stands; you want to ensure your neck is in a neutral position when falling asleep. If you are a back sleeper, ensuring the neck is not too far lifted (flexed) or drooped backwards (extended). For a side sleeper, ensuring you are not too far bent downwards (too little pillows) or too far upwards (too many).
In a nutshell, use as many as feels right for you and a good balance between comfort and support.
To book a consultation with Anisha today, visit www.osteoanisha.com.
(Follow Anisha @osteoanisha)