Did you know spinal health greatly impacts your physical and mental well-being? Poor spinal health can lead to various symptoms, including joint pain, headaches, fatigue, sore muscles, and even numbness. Luckily, we can take several steps towards securing our spinal and central nervous system health by taking better care of the spine. Let’s explore what these preventive or restorative measures entail to identify those potential trouble spots early before they cause more serious issues in the future.
The Initial Impact
It was a rough start to 2021 after Adam’s life-altering car accident that left him with a herniated disc along the C5-C6 portion of his spine, protruding onto the cord itself. In a moment, everything changed. After receiving treatment and advice from four different doctors, Adam received discouraging advice against surgery for at least twelve months. The effects of the pain were reducing his quality of life. Thinking surgery was the only option, he began learning about and prioritizing spinal health during the waiting period in an attempt for even slight relief. Made especially difficult due to chronic pain – he managed consistent physical therapy and began supplemental activities such as yoga, workouts, swimming sessions, and more. Fifteen months later, much of the disc material protruding on his spinal cord had worked its way back between the vertebrae. “I still feel a little sore sometimes; however, I’m in nowhere near as much pain as I was in a year ago,” says Adam.
Making a Positive Impact
Board-certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Dr. Marc Matarazzo did not treat Adam directly but concurred that physical therapy and self-treatment could benefit patients suffering from spinal trauma or poor spinal health.
“It is possible to be proactive and corrective with spinal health. Remaining active, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking, maintaining healthy body weight, and getting screened for psychological stressors are all things you can do to help promote a healthy spine,” says Dr. Matarazzo, who extols screenings for depression or anxiety related to an injury. “Chronic pain from trauma to the spine can increase psychological stressors such as depression or anxiety.”
Specific exercises are proven to strengthen and increase the back, and supporting muscles are a powerful way to protect the spine. “Core stabilization exercises, deep trunk muscle training, transverse abdominal muscle exercises, and strengthening the lumbar multifidus can preserve spinal health,” states Dr. Matarazzo. “You also want to focus on increasing trunk flexibility and pelvic tilt range and increase hip hinges with lumbopelvic dissociation– meaning keep the back straight while flexing and extending at the hips.”
Some Next Steps
Consult your healthcare provider before beginning new exercise routines. While there, you can also ask to see if detailed screenings like scoliosis or osteoporosis screenings, leg length discrepancies, and back pain questionnaires are appropriate for identifying your risk of developing chronic back conditions.
Whether you’re already experiencing back pain, living with a preexisting condition, or staying ahead of one, there are things you can do to improve. We should all be paying attention to spinal health, regardless of age. Investing in your spinal health today can significantly positively affect how you feel tomorrow and for years to come.
Marc Matarazzo, MD, is a Board Certified and Fellowship Trained Orthopedic Surgeon specializing in sports medicine and related injuries. He performs minimally invasive and complex reconstructions and joint replacements of the shoulder and knee. He is certified in the MAKO robotic-assisted knee replacement system and has more than 20 years of orthopedic experience. He has a special interest in cartilage restoration and preservation.