Does Your Spine Need a Drink at Christmas?
At this time of year when we get colder, we do a number of things that increase our chance of injury in both the spine and our general joints. One of these is drying out. Yes, its easy not to drink as much as we need to during colder times and with central heating in homes work and shops as well as our layers of clothing, it’s easy to dehydrate without noticing.
Body hydration helps our tissues to be spongier and when it comes to the spine, it’s the proteins in our discs between our vertebra which hold this water. These discs are therefore more spongy the more water they hold, and with age and change in fluids in the body, we lose some of this ‘bounce’. This is also why we’re taller in the morning than we are by the end of the day; these fluids are squashed out of the spine by then.
Interestingly, our skin is made of a similar substance as our spinal discs (collagen) and therefore the less water we hold, the less elastic we are all round.. quite literally!
With a reduction in fluid intake at this time of year, and with a lack of movement compared to the warmer months, it’s easy to see how stiffness can arise without trauma. Often the body suffers from simple issues rather than a raft of larger, more complex ones. So keeping hydrated and keeping on the move is key to function and flexibility at this time of year. That doesn’t require a gym membership, however this is a good place to go when the weather outside is uninviting.
Daily dog walks, regardless of weather and wrapping up, can be fun. Considering how long you’ve sat throughout the day, it can be an interesting observation. If you work all day, is it really wise to come home and sit for dinner and then sit in front of the TV? How about parking a little further away from work so you have to walk to and from the office before driving home?
Also, why not consider lying facedown on the floor when relaxing after dinner at home whilst watching the telly or reading? This shouldn’t be for long and should be discontinued if you feel uncomfortable, but why not try it for five minutes first one night? Then, the next night you might feel like trying ten minutes.
Prone position is the name for lying on your front and it has an interesting effect on the disc. It’s exactly the opposite of lifting or sitting. Lifting and sitting causes your disc to bulge out at the back. Lying prone creates negative pressure in the disc, drawing the walls back in! Voila… your own traction moment.
This was known as McKenzie exercise and is now a well known phenomenon. However, a warning: this is not for everyone. The best outcome is you lie there and feel surprisingly good, which reflects the benefits. If there is some reduction in your aches and pains, that’s good. However, if the pain does not clear or even worsens, then stop.
The science of fluid intake isn’t absolutely clear, however it is known that thirst is often something we notice initially but soon disappears. It is then replaced by hunger which isn’t easily satisfied, because it’s thirst, but with the wrong ‘cues’. So we keep eating to resolve the sense of need, but to no avail other than putting on weight unnecessarily.
So, in a nutshell, remember to drink more water and juice during the cold months in order to make up for the natural reduction that occurs. Be more active and also take up lying on your stomach to help your discs. Be aware that unsatisfied snacking may be thirst in disguise.
Finally, if you’re feeling short, drink lots before you go to bed and measure yourself immediately on rising. If you are an inch taller… job done! Just don’t measure yourself again in the evening!
Here’s to your health this Christmas season,
Michael Noone, BSc, MSc (paediatrics), DC
Kernow Chiropractic and Natural Health Clinic,
No.6 Ferris Town,