If you’ve been told that you have arthritis or degenerative disc or joint disease, you are far from alone. Around 80% of people over the age of 55 have some sort of x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis. No matter what your age, whether a teenager, a senior, or somewhere in between, there are things you can do to avoid or minimize the effects of degenerative conditions like arthritis.
Although genetics do play a role in developing osteoarthritis and how severe it will be, a lot is in your control. Movement is one of the main contributing factors that cause degeneration of joints including the hip, knee, and spine. Our bodies are designed for constant mobility; however, when our movement patters are poor and repeated daily, it causes excessive wear and tear on your joints. These problems don’t develop overnight and learning to move properly and purposefully will enable you to do your favorite activities without pain well into your senior years.
Below are four great tips to help you move properly:
Hip hinge: Bend from the hips and not the back. Practicing “hip hinging” spares your low back from repetitive stress and strain. Lumbar disc herniation is usually the result of bending from the back repeatedly daily.
Rotate from the hips and not the waist. Our lumbar spines weren’t designed to rotate very much and repetitive rotation wears down the discs. Imagine squeezing and twisting a sponge over and over and you get the picture. Eventually that sponge will crumble and tear and so will your discs. Combining bending and twisting from the low back is a very bad combo.
Squat instead of bending when possible.Use your gluteal muscles and legs to lift objects instead of your low back.
Use your butt. The gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in the human body. It has the job of keeping the trunk straight during a standing posture and for propelling us upward and forward. You should feel your butt muscles (gluteal) working when you stand from a squat position, climb stairs, jump, or brace yourself during weight lifting. Using the gluteal muscles spares the spine of unhealthy loads and repetitive stress.
For a more in depth discussion, a great resource is Thinner This Year, the follow-up to the New York Times bestseller, Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley.
As always, feel free to send us a message with all your questions about spine health and fitness at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck!