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Tips for healthy spinal discs

Mykel Mason, doctor of chiropractic, shown bending the knees and curving the low back forwards which will increase disc pressure, in picture 1; and shown lifting a box bending his knees and hips keeping the low back straight to reduce disc pressure in picture 2.

July 11th, 2016 619 post views

Lumbar Disc: My top tips to protect your spinal discs

My top tips to protect your spinal discs is the first of a group of self-help blog posts I am planning. As a chiropractor at Lushington Chiropractic in Eastbourne, people often ask me what they can do to help themselves and so this is my opportunity to share advice with everyone.

      1.Drink plenty of water. The disc is primarily made up of water. The disc is made up of two parts: a jelly centre and harder onion skin like layers on the outside. This jelly centre allows for the movement in the spine and also for shock absorption. So every time you step, jump or walk the discs help to absorb that pressure. If it wasn’t for the water in the disc, this could not happen.

Often after having imaging of the low back such as an MRI, people are told that they have dehydration within their discs. Part of this can be due to actually not drinking enough water. Water is essential for a healthy disc.

    2.Reduce alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. Following on from the previous point, all three of these are known to dehydrate the disc. So, as important as it is to drink water, it is also important to limit these as best you can. Obviously if you do have lots of these, it’s incredibly important that you do everything else on this list to keep the discs healthy.

   3. Keep moving. The disc in the spine has a very poor blood supply and gets all the nutrients it needs through a process called imbibing. This is where fluid is moved in and out of the disc taking nutrients with it. This process only occurs with movement. Therefore if you do not move, you do not get the nutrients you need. This is also why having a well-hydrated disc is very important. The more dehydrated the disc, the less fluid you move and the fewer nutrients you get.

Pressure in kilograms placed upon the low back spinal disc in different positions. Lying on your back 25kg, side lying 75kg, standing straight 100kg, leaning forwards 150kg, leaning forwards with a weight in you’re the hands 220kg, sitting 140kg, sitting slouched forwards 185kg, sitting slouched forward with a weight in the hands 275kg. Table from original research by Nachemson, 1981.

The table shows the pressure exerted on the low back disc in different postures in kilograms.


    4. Take care when lifting and bending. We all know by now that we should be bending our knees when we lift heavy objects. However, lots of people pay less attention to how their upper body bends during this motion. Many people are bending with their backs as well as their knees. This puts extra pressure on the disc (see below chart). This chart shows that bending whilst standing increases the pressure on the disc by an extra 50%, e.g. if you have 100kgs pressure on the disc standing up straight, when you bend forward it will be 150kgs pressure. Imagine if you then add a weight in your hand, like a heavy box. This will put even more unnecessary pressure on the low back discs.

Good and poor lifting techniques

Mykel Mason, doctor of chiropractic, shown bending the knees and curving the low back forwards which will increase pressure on the discs.

In the picture of me lifting a box you can see me demonstrating poor  lifting techniques. Poor lifting will increase the pressure on the lumbar discs.

Mykel Mason, doctor of chiropractic, shown lifting a box bending his knees and hips keeping the low back straight to reduce pressure on discs.

This is the correct way to lift to ensure you reduce disc pressure.

Avoid twisting and bending at the same time. This puts extra pressure on the disc and therefore makes you more susceptible to injury. How many times have you heard people say, “I just bent over to grab something and my back went!” Often this is when people are doing a combination of bending and twisting.


5. Pay attention to your posture. The same as point 4: disc pressures are displayed in the table. This shows the difference in the pressure on the disc with a good sitting posture and a poor sitting posture. These days it is incredibly important to keep posture as good as possible as most of us spend most of the day sitting at a desk.

If you do this, it is incredibly important that you keep your posture as good as possible to keep the discs as healthy as possible. Obviously take regular breaks as well so that we can do what it says in point 3 and keep moving.

If you like these tips there are more tips on my website.

Yours in health,

Mykel Mason your Eastbourne Chiropractor



Categories: Health and Advice from Expert Chiropractors in Eastbourne

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