Monthly Archive for April 2012
Hydrate and oxygenate in care of your spine. Injured or not!
The Intervertebral disks sit in between your vertebrae. They are flat and round, and about a half inch thick. The Intervertebral disks are made up of two components, the Nucleus pulposus, which is jelly-like substance and makes up the center of the disk. This jelly is partly made of water and gives the disk flexibility and strength. These Intervertebral discs will benefit from good hydration. The Annulus fibrosus is the flexible outer ring of the disk, which is made up of several layers, similar to elastic bands. When you are standing or moving, weight is put onto the nucleus and in response, the nucleus expands. The annulus holds the nucleus in place. This allows movement to take place, yet maintains the strength of the spine. So in effect, disks act as the shock absorbers for the spine. Many nerve endings supply the annulus so an injured annulus can cause pain. Improve hydration by sipping water throughout the day, especially during and after exercise.
The pain from injury or degeneration can be adequately controlled (although it will most likely not go away completely) but the most important thing that you can do is stay active. Exercise not only preserves functionality, but it is also the single best way of healing the back. The invertebral discs will benefit from oxygenation. Exercise increases the flow of blood and oxygen, and other nutrients to the back and discs, thereby keeping them hydrated and as pliable as possible. If stress fractures weaken the bones so much that they are unable to maintain their proper position, the vertebra can start to shift out of place. This condition is called spondylolisthesis. If too much slippage occurs, the bones may begin to press on nerves.
Pain usually spreads across the lower back and may feel like a muscle strain.
Spondylolisthesis can cause spasms that stiffen the back and tighten the hamstring muscles, resulting in changes to posture and gait. If the slippage is significant, and begins to compress the nerves there is narrowing of the spinal canal.
Stretching and strengthening exercises for the back and abdominal muscles can be effective and helpful.
Exercise can also improve one’s sense of well-being by promoting the release of endorphins, a natural pain-reliever and stress reducer. Alternating 30 minutes of strengthening exercises with low-impact exercise like walking, biking or swimming every other day can maintain flexibility and mobility. Doing five minutes of stretches (e.g. hamstring stretches) first thing in the morning and the last thing before bed will also significantly increase mobility. Correct posture and use low back support when necessary. Degenerated discs are frequently more painful when an individual is sitting, especially if he or she is slumped forward putting more pressure on the lower back. Change position often to relieve stress and increase blood flow. Just standing and walking 10 paces every 20 or 30 minutes is enough to prevent low back stiffness from setting in. When lifting heavier objects leaning over from the waist should be avoided. And also sleeping on a comfortable, supportive mattress can make the difference.
Take care of you. Stay Strong!
Lisa Buohler. Runner/Duathlete.
CFT, SPN, RRCA & USATF Certified Run coach.