Did you know that 50% to 80% of people in the U.S. are affected by spinal pain at some point in their lives? And that low-back pain affects 50% of adults over the age of 60?
You don’t have to let osteoporosis, arthritis, and resulting back and neck issues limit your ability to savor life. Put together your Recipe for a Healthy Lifestyle by mixing your own ingredients with some from your Master Chef Team at Punxsutawney Physician Group.
When Should You Seek Out Spine Care?
- Symptoms started after an injury
- You are concerned, or aren’t better within 3 days
- Immediately, if you have any of these symptoms or conditions:
› Shooting pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms or legs
› Continuous or severe pain while lying down
› More than 50 years old and have not had back pain before
› Can’t touch your chin to your chest, stand up straight
› Difficulty with balance or walking
› Change in bowel or bladder habits
› History of cancer or osteoporosis
› Take steroid medication
› Use drugs or drink a lot of alcohol
› Unintended weight loss
› Fever that does not subside
The best place to start is with your primary care provider, unless you already have a neurologist, pain management specialist, rheumatologist, orthopedist, or physiatrist. If it’s determined after a physical exam that you need diagnostic tests or treatment, next steps will be set in motion.
Fortifying Your Spine is Important
Back pain is more common as we age − but it doesn’t have to be a normal part of life. With some preventive action and lifestyle changes, you can fortify your bones and joints − and the muscles surrounding your spine − so that if you don’t already have spine issues, you can work on avoiding them as you get older.
Create Your Recipe for a Healthy Spine
- Exercise to remain flexible, strengthen muscles and ligaments that support your spine, and help keep your weight within 10 pounds of your ideal.
- Weight-bearing exercise such as walking helps to build bones. Water aerobics, bike riding, and elliptical trainers are great for flexibility, your heart, and weight, but they don’t build bone.
- Learn good body mechanics. See a physical therapist or physiatrist to learn how to lift, turn, sit, stand, bend, perfect your posture, and sleep without straining your back.
- Resist repetitive stress injuries. Take frequent breaks and stretch.
- If you smoke, stop. Smoking decreases the blood supply to bones and joints.
- Get a DEXA scan to find out if you have or are at risk for osteoporosis.
Do It with Diet
- Take your vitamin D and get enough calcium. If your body isn’t getting enough calcium, it steals it from your bones.
- Cut back on caffeine, alcohol, and salty foods. Drinking heavily, and coffee, tea and cola can also leach calcium from your bones.
- Lose weight if you need to. Excess weight, especially around your middle, puts pressure on the spine and is associated with higher estrogen levels, which contribute to osteoporosis.
- Mix in magnesium-containing foods. Green, leafy vegetables, almonds, white and sweet potatoes, beans, wheat, brown rice, and milk contain magnesium. Men over 30 need 200mg daily; women need at least 320mg daily. A medical center registered dietitian can help you meet your goal
Food for Thought:
Most neck and back pain is muscular — 85% is caused by muscle and ligament strains and sprains and other less-serious problems
- About 90% of the time, low-back pain resolves without surgery
Osteoarthritis is a major cause of spine issues
- Years of wear and tear cause the cartilage that covers vertebrae and makes up discs to deteriorate. Nerve compression can cause pain and disability
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints, heart, liver, and kidneys. If not treated, it, too, can cause pain and disability
- RA is 3 times more common in women and usually is diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60. RA is increasing rapidly in women