Most people don’t equate the word hygiene with bones or muscles, ligaments or tendons. The word hygiene means sciences, Conditions or practices that promote and preserve health. We observe the meaning of this word when we maintain personal hygiene, dental hygiene as well as mental hygiene in the form of mindfulness, meditation and affirmations. Why not maintain the health or hygiene of the spine? Nothing in the human body with the exception perhaps of the brain does more to ensure the health and well-being of the whole body. Spine hygiene, therefore, is something we must practice and maintain daily for optimal health.

Must?

Yes, must. Studies have proven that a healthful diet and exercise prevent and might contribute to lessening disease. However, proper posture is often overlooked in spine maintenance. That is, it is overlooked until back pain happens, and then it’s the first thing the patient is advised to practice.Promoting and preserving the health of the spine, therefore, must begin with proper posture. The head should be up, chin not tucked into the chest. The shoulders should be above the hips and not slumped forward or pushed back. This maintains the natural curvature of the spine, ensuring the natural placement of the ligaments, tendons and other things stay there.

Lack of proper posture results in headaches, back pain, muscle stress and other problems. Today, most people sit for hours at a time doing their jobs. The above description of proper posture is ideal for sitting jobs. Make sure the knees are bent at a 90 degree angle, the back against the chair back and the feet slightly in front of the knees.

Those who must stand to do their jobs have it a little easier. Standing with the feet hip width apart, tuck in the abdomen so the curvature of the spine remains natural. Shoulders should be above the hips and not rounded or slung too far back in an effort to do it right. The head should be straight up, chin slightly tucked under. This ensures the curvature of the neck portion of the spine or the cervical spine is in its natural place.

Do I Have to Exercise?

You’d have a good idea if you exercised to maintain a healthy spine. Just because we generally don’t think of the spine doesn’t mean it doesn’t benefit from exercise. We’ve been discussing the natural alignment of the spine in addition to good posture to keep it in place. Now, we’re going to discuss gentle stretching exercises to keep the spine, from top to bottom, in healthy shape. You’ll need no equipment for these stretches, but you might need a folded blanket or towel or perhaps a yoga mat if you have one to support the body during these exercises.

To gently stretch the neck, sit or stand as described above. Tip the head onto one shoulder. Slowly and gently let the head drop and swing to the other shoulder. This should look like a pendulum in an old-fashioned grandfather clock. Alternate putting the head on the other shoulder and allowing the pendulum movement to follow its natural course. Repeat this ten times.

To gently stretch the upper to lower back, get onto your hands and knees, hands beneath the shoulders, back straight. Gently bow up the upper back until you feel like an inverted “u”.  Hold this pose for ten seconds. Now sit onto the legs, stretching the arms out in front of you on the floor. The body will look like a puppy stretching, but your behind will be on your legs. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat ten times.

Stretching the lower back prevents back pain. This stretch will benefit the lower and middle spine. Sit on the floor with one leg straight and the other foot tucked into the straight leg. Sitting straight up, stretch both arms toward the straight ankle. Round the back as you stretch. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Repeat ten times.

Learning to keep the spine as straight as possible is as simple as doing a plank. On hands and knees, place the forearms on the floor, hands gripping each other for support. Lift the legs until the body is resting on forearms and toes. Your head and neck should be in a straight line with the spine. Don’t allow the lower back to droop; suck in the abs to prevent this. Hold for ten seconds and repeat ten times.

A healthy spine is essential to whole body health. Remember your posture, and do some stretching exercises to keep the spine in good shape, and you can enjoy a healthy happy life.

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