Nutrition for Spine Health

Nutrition for Spine Health

You’ve often heard about brain food, foods that can boost your immune system, or diets that will make you healthy, right? But what about nutrition for spine health? Do you know that our spine is what makes us stand and gives us the flexibility to bend and twist?

What is spine?

The spine also referred to as the Backbone, Vertebral or Spinal Column consists of 33 bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. It looks like a series of bones stacked together from top to bottom. A normal adult backbone looks like a natural S curve when viewed from the side, but spinal disorders like Scoliosis, Kyphosis, and Lordosis can alter the shape of your spine.

The spine is divided into five regions: Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar, Sacrum, and Coccyx.

  • Cervical spine (neck region) is divided into 7 bones consisting of C1 to C7. These regions support the skull, allows head movement, and protects the spinal cord.

  • The Thoracic spine is divided into 12 thoracic vertebrae consisting of the T1 to T12 wherein T1 is the smallest thoracic and T12 is the largest.  The Thoracic Spine limits range of motion and protects most of our vital organs.

  • Lumbar spine – consists of 5 big bones consisting of L1 to L7. This region of the backbone allows our body to flex and extend and it also carries most of our body’s weight.

  • The Sacral Spine consists of 5 bones abbreviated as L1 to L5. These bones are fused together forming a triangular shape called the sacrum.

  • Coccyx – at the base of the sacrum are 5 more bones fused together as Coccyx, or the Tailbone. 

3 main functions of the spine

  • It protects the spinal cord — a group of nerves that allows you to control your movements.

  • It provides structural support and balance. It is the part of your body that supports your weight.

  • It enables us to turn, bend and move freely.

Most common spine conditions

Unfortunately, our backbone is subject to a lot of daily stress that may cause spinal diseases or spinal injuries. Aging is one factor that affects our spine. As we age, the spine deteriorates. This is a normal part of getting old. Disc degeneration, as well as Spinal Stenosis, which is the narrowing of the spinal spaces within the spine, are just a few of the many wear and tear ailments.

  • Lordosis - is an excessive inward curvature of the spine. It mostly affects the lumbar region, or lower back and neck. People with Lordosis experience low back pain and discomfort.

  • Kyphosis - is an excessive outward curving of the spine. It primarily affects the thoracic region of your spinal column that causes humpback or a hunchback appearance.

  • Facet Joint Osteoarthritis (FJ OA) - happens when the cartilage that separates the facet joints positioned at the back of the vertebral column breakdown gradually. Symptoms include stiffness, low back pain, and neck pain. This is very common in older adults.

  • Herniated Disc - Vertebral Discs are soft, jelly-looking pads between the Spinal Vertebrae. Besides acting as shock absorbers, these discs allow us to bend and twist. Herniated Disc or Slipped Disc happens when part of the middle Vertebral disc ruptures or slips out through the outer part of the disc, creating pressure on the nerves and muscles around it. This causes pain, discomfort, numbness and a tingling sensation.

  • Scoliosis - is an abnormal lateral curving of the spine. It affects the Thoracic Spine and primarily affects children. Mild Scoliosis may not cause any pain, except in severe cases. Scoliosis may interfere with breathing.

  • Osteoporosis - is a bone disease that weakens and things out the bones. It is most commonly seen in older adults, especially women.

What type of foods is best for spine health?

With the right amount of vitamins and nutrients, spinal diseases may be reduced and/or prevented. Our muscles, discs, bones and other parts of the spine need nourishment, not only to support the body but also to perform other functions.  This is the time to start including healthy spine food choices.

  • Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral found in our body that makes our bones strong and healthy. Magnesium balances out calcium. If you have too much calcium in your body, but not enough magnesium, you may suffer from muscle spasms, tightness, and lactate buildup which causes back pain and a burning sensation during intense exercise.

  • Calcium - is a mineral needed for vascular contraction, nerve transmission, and muscle function. It is found in our body, supplements, and medicines.

  • Iron- is essential to keep our cells healthy. It also helps in myoglobin production that supports the spine. Myoglobin is found in muscle cells.

  • Vitamin A - this vitamin is crucial for bone formation and tissue repair.

  • Vitamin C - we’ve often heard about the need to take this vitamin to boost our immune system, but it is essential for your spine health to take Vitamin C supplements or foods high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C promotes collagen formation — a protein that holds our cells together. Lack of collagen may lead to disc rupture. Remember, our bones are made up of cells. Lack of Vitamin C may also lead to lower back pain like Sciatica and Spinal Stenosis.

  • Vitamin B12 - is vital for neurological function, as well as for red blood cell formation. Lack of Vit. B12 may lead to Subacute Combined Degeneration (SCD) — a disorder mainly affecting the spine, nerve, and brain.

  • Vitamin D - is an essential nutrient primarily for bone and muscle strength. It is also needed for the absorption of calcium. Lack of this nutrient increases the risks of fractures, especially in older adults.

  • Vitamin K - Vitamin K increases bone mass and reduces the risks of bone fractures and helps prevent degenerative spine disorders such as Osteoporosis.

  • Phosphorous- is a naturally occurring mineral that works hand in hand with calcium to promote overall bone health. It gives you more energy, especially when you are exercising or engaging in physical activities.

  • Omega 3 fatty acids - is an essential fatty acid that is needed by our body. Aside from the fact that it helps reduce the risks of chronic diseases such as arthritis and heart diseases, it also helps keep the vertebral discs and ligaments healthy and strong. Unfortunately, our body can’t make omega 3 fatty acids on its own.

Figure 1 RDA and Food Sources

Vitamins & Minerals

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)

Food Sources

Magnesium (Mg)

Women:

310mg/day (19-30 yrs. old )

320mg/day (31 yrs. Old & above)

Men:

400mg/day  (19-30 yrs. old )

420mg/day (31 yrs. old & above)

Beans, nuts, legumes, milk, yogurt, spinach, fortified cereal, dark chocolate, bananas, potatoes,  and whole grains

Calcium (Ca)

 

1000 mg/day for men & women below 50

1200mg 50 years old & above

 

Raw milk, kale, sardines, yogurt, broccoli, cheese, Bok Choy, Okra, watercress, black beans,  fish, peanuts, almonds and other dairy products

Iron (Fe)

18 mg/day for women (19-50 yrs. old)

8mg/day for men and women 51 and up

Beans, lentils, tofu, spinach, turnip greens, kale, romaine lettuce, broccoli and other soy foods

Vitamin A

 

Women:2310 IU/day

Men: 3000 IU/day

 

Spinach and other green leafy vegetables, beef, chicken, low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products

Vitamin C

 

Women: 90mg/day

Men: 75 mg/day

Bell peppers, cantaloupe, papaya, pineapples, kiwi, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, and citrus fruits, and juices

Vitamin B12

 

2.4 mcg/day for 14 years old & above

Fish, beef, liver, fish, fruit, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products

Vitamin D

 

600 IU/day for 19-70 yrs. Old

800 IU/day for 70 yrs. old & above

 

Egg yolk, fish oil, salmon tuna, mackerel, fortified orange juice and natural sunlight

Vitamin K

 

75 mcg/day for ages 14 to 18

Men: 120mcg/day for ages 19 & above

Women: 90mcg/day for ages 19 & above

Pork, liver, spinach, kale, pumpkin, lettuce, grapes, canola oil, okra, beans, carrot juice, chicken, salmon, yogurt, milk, and other dairy products

Phosphorous

700 mg/day

Pumpkin, sunflower seeds, fish, meat, nut, beans and other protein-rich foods

Omega 3 fatty acids

1.6 g/day for ages 14-50 and older

Fish: salmon, tuna, tilapia

Seafood: algae, krill

Flaxseed, canola oil, egg, oysters, bread, baked beans

 

To ensure that the right amount of nutrients is delivered in our body, we have to know the basic elements of dietary intake. Remember that our body systems are interconnected, which means a poor diet affects our spine health and it also negatively affects our overall health.

Show Less Show Comments
Questions & Answers
Q:
What is the best way to treat permanent back and neck pain and stiffness?
A:

Here are some tips:

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep with a cervical pillow

Orthopedic or cervical pillows are made with special contours to support the space beneath the neck and head. They are also more concave for the head and provide more support to the neck.

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep on your back

The best position to lie to sleep is on your back. If you sleep on your stomach or on your side, make sure your pillow is not too thick. It should raise your head no more than 4 to 6 inches. This will keep your neck and head from turning to either side.

Neck Pain Tips: Position your computer screen at eye level

While you are working at a computer, sit comfortably in your chair with your computer in front of you. Close your eyes and then open them. When you open your eyes, you should see the middle of the computer screen. If your gaze is not in the middle of the screen, adjust the height of the screen using items like books.

To keep your head from gradually drifting forward, take frequent breaks to stretch. Getting up to walk around at least once every half-hour is one of the best neck pain tips.

Neck Pain Tips: Use a telephone headset

Never hold a phone between your shoulder and your ear. Use a headset or other hands-free system to talk on the phone and avoid abusing your neck and spine.

Neck Pain Tips: Exercise your neck muscles

One of the best neck pain tips is using the chin tuck. You can do this often throughout the day. In addition to helping strengthen the muscles that hold the head in alignment over the shoulders, it also helps strengthen the scalene and sub-occipital muscles.

Read more tips here: Neck Pain Tips: Sleeping, Posture, Exercising, Hydration & Prevention

Read more
Temed Holdings
4 answers
Q:
What is the best treatment for neck pain and shoulder Pain?
A:

One of the best treatment for neck pain and shoulder pain is exercises:

Neck Pain Exercises: Neck Extension

  1. To begin this neck pain exercise, sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place the palm of your hand on the back of your neck, at the base of your head
  4. Apply slight forward pressure with your hand, while resisting the forward motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax
  6. Repeat the neck pain exercises 5-10 times

Neck pain exercises: Side bend

  1. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place your left hand, palm down, on the left side of your head (around your ear)
  4. Slightly push your head to the right side with your hand, while resisting the sideways motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax.
  6. Repeat 5-10 times
  7. Repeat the neck pain exercises with the other side.

Neck pain exercises: Neck flexion

  1. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place the tips of your fingers on your forehead
  4. Slightly push your head backward with your fingers, while resisting the backward motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax.
  6. Repeat the neck pain exercises 5-10 times

More exercises here: Neck Pain Exercises

Read more
Temed Holdings
4 answers
Q:
How do I reduce the shoulder and neck pain?
A:

Here are some tips:

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep with a cervical pillow

Orthopedic or cervical pillows are made with special contours to support the space beneath the neck and head. They are also more concave for the head and provide more support to the neck.

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep on your back

The best position to lie to sleep is on your back. If you sleep on your stomach or on your side, make sure your pillow is not too thick. It should raise your head no more than 4 to 6 inches. This will keep your neck and head from turning to either side.

Neck Pain Tips: Position your computer screen at eye level

While you are working at a computer, sit comfortably in your chair with your computer in front of you. Close your eyes and then open them. When you open your eyes, you should see the middle of the computer screen. If your gaze is not in the middle of the screen, adjust the height of the screen using items like books.

To keep your head from gradually drifting forward, take frequent breaks to stretch. Getting up to walk around at least once every half-hour is one of the best neck pain tips.

Neck Pain Tips: Carry weight evenly

Many people make the mistake of carrying a heavy briefcase or their purse on their shoulder or on one side of their body. Doing this causes strain in the muscles and leads to pain.

Remove non-essentials from your briefcase or purse. Consider using a backpack to evenly distribute the weight across your shoulders. If you choose to carry a purse or backpack, keep your shoulders level while carrying it.

Neck Pain Tips: Maintain a proper posture

The most common posture contributing to neck pain is the “head-and-shoulders-forward” posture. In this position, the neck slopes forward, putting the head in front of the shoulders.

In this position, the head pulls the upper back forward also in a slumped position. This places a strain on the entire spinal column.

More tips here: Neck Pain Tips: Sleeping, Posture, Exercising, Hydration & Prevention

Read more
Temed Holdings
4 answers