Spine Health

Do you take your spine for granted?

Do you ignore the way it works and how it feels?

I’m guessing there is one time when you’re not ignoring your back, and that is when you have back pain.

That is how I am, at least. When my back has little tweaks or twinges of pain, I can no longer ignore it. I’d love to pay more conscious attention to my spine  and how it feels -- even when I am not in pain. If you would too, here’s some information that you might find helpful!

Anatomy of the Spine

The other day in prehab, John gave us an easy way to remember how many presacral vertebrae there are. It went like this:

“How many hours in the day are there?”

“Twenty-four.” There are twenty-four individual vertebrae in the back above the sacrum and coccyx.

Then, starting with the neck (cervical spine) he led us through a way to remember how many vertebrae are in each of the three major sections of the spine.

“What’s a typical hour for breakfast?”

“Seven am”. There are seven cervical vertebrae.

“When is lunch?”

“Twelve”. There are twelve thoracic vertebrae

“What’s an average time for dinner?”
“Five pm”. There are five lumbar vertebrae.

Knowing even this little bit of info about the spine helped me to have more awareness in my body with regards to my back and how it feels.

Spinal Stretching and Mobility

One of my favorite parts of yoga classes is when the instructor says to touch the toes and then slowly roll up, one vertebrae at a time. That’s a really easy way to practice articulating the spine, and it feels so good when you move really, really slowly! If you can’t touch your toes you can always start with placing your hands on your shins.

The stretching positions “cat” and “cow” feel really good, too. If you get onto your knees, with hands on the floor below your shoulders, round the back up towards the ceiling for “cat”. Then move into “cow” by letting the belly hang down and looking up towards the ceiling. It’s helpful to move between these poses several times in a row, paying attention to the transitions  (try to feel each vertebrae as your spine changes positions).

Twists are another option for stretching and moving the spine. Move slowly and pay attention to how your spine feels as you twist in either direction. It’s pretty incredible how much more range of motion you can gain with each rotation.

Spinal Stability and Strength

In addition to moving and stretching the spine, we can also work on spinal stability and strength. Before taking prehab classes with John, I always thought about exercises that worked the middle/torso area as “core exercises”. Now I’ve begun to think of them in terms of the spine.

The spine runs up through the core of the body, and the muscles in our abdomen and back stabilize our spine. Some examples of exercises that stabilize and strengthen the spine are doing a plank with feet up on a medicine ball, or performing Russian Twists while throwing and catching a ball.

I’d like to have a healthy, happy spine for a long, long time. What about you? How can you say no to that? Haha. Share your thoughts below:)

Bonnie WiegandComment