Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Looking after your spine

How many of us sit for long periods of time, stand slouched over or have our heads stuck in our phones most of the day. I’m pretty sure we all do at least one of these things. Have you ever thought what this does to your body especially your spine?

The spine is one of the things that distinguishes us from many other animals. The spine provides structural support for our bodies, protection for our central nerves, and facilitates locomotion (aka movement). It’s kind of a big deal and we need to look after it.

When we sit for long periods of time, have poor posture or our head is glued down towards our phones, we are placing a lot of stress on our spine. One thing we can look at it is fixing these problems.

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Sitting for long periods of time

Try to limit this to 20 minutes if you can and then get up and move. It can be very hard especially for our children who sit in a classroom for long periods. My watch vibrates and says ‘move’ when I have been sitting too long – simple but effective.

Also watch how you sit, is your spine long and are you looking straight ahead. When you are working or watching TV try to stand or at least have your eyes looking forward and not down.

Poor posture

Learn to recognise when you have arched your back or let your shoulders slump forward. Just think big chest, shoulders back and long spine.

Using our phones

A recent study showed that 79 per-cent of the population between the ages of 18 and 44 have their mobile phones with them almost all the time – with only two hours of their waking day spent without their phone in hand. This accumulation has made way for the medical term text neck.

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It is the term used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long. When this happens there is major pressure put on the spine. One thing to do is hold your phone or use your electronic device at eye level, or better still put it away for a while.

Daily Spine hygiene

Another way to counteract all this pressure put on the spine is to have a daily spine hygiene routine.

Every morning either in the gym or waiting for the kettle to boil I go through my spine hygiene routine and here’s how it flows. Work up to 30 reps of each exercise.

• Neck rotations – Stand with your hands by your side palms facing out and rotate the head left and right.

• Neck rotations (lateral flexion) – In the same position tilt the head laterally left and right.

• Neck flexion/extension – in the same starting position tilt the head back and forth.

• Spinal rotations – stand with your arms up at 90 degrees, level with your chest and fingers nearly touching. Rotate the head to one side and then keeping your arms where they are, rotate to the same side as you turned your head without moving your lower body.

• Spinal lateral bend – Place both hands above your head and with one hand grab the other wrist and lean to the side before returning to the start. After a few reps switch the grip of your wrist and repeat on the other side.

• Spine rolling – standing up tall, tuck the chin into the chest, bring the shoulders in and slowly starting rolling the spine by creeping the hands down the inside of your leg until you cannot bend any further. Slowly come back up and when you reach the top open your arms out wide and lead back as far as you can.

From here I would move onto my other mobility work but if you can get into the habit of doing this routine it will be a fantastic start and your spine will thank you for it.

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