Giving your discs a drink

Otherwise known as Pressure Change Therapy.

Just as any other part of your body, your discs are living tissue which must receive nutrients, process them and cast off waste. The circular layers of the disc are porous with what we call the nucleus pulposa at the centre. This is a firm jelly-like substance acting as a ball bearing and upon which the disc balances and tips as we move. It too needs nutrients and has a substance called proteoglycan in it.

There are some things you can do to make sure that your discs receive enough fluid and so nutrients.

Of course the first is to sit as little as possible, so reducing the pressure on the discs which increases the exit of fluids from the disc. Changing position regularly increases movement in the spine, so tending to release the pressure. What the discs really need is changing pressure which helps draw fluids in. Any backwards and forwards movement of the lower back is ideal. These discs get squashed the most, being at the base of the pile. As you may guess, this means bending forwards, followed by arching your back backwards. Sometimes we instinctively do this much like cats and dogs.

Bending and arching the spine can be done in many ways and positions, even sitting in a chair.

To do the latter, sit forwards on the chair, sag your midriff backwards, keeping your head tucked in until your shoulders touch the back of the chair and then raise your head. Now reverse the movement, dropping your head onto your chest and sit forwards and up, finally lifting your head. Not only do you exercise the abdominal muscles but you move all the joints of your spine. In this way you can give your discs a drink without leaving your desk.

For this reason house work and gardening is ideal as long you do not remain in one postion for too long. This is when your connective tissue shortens to adapt to the position and can painfully stretch out as you move again. Small hand-held vacuum cleaners are ideal to use as we bend and reach into nooks and crannies. This advice may seem strange as we are so often told not to bend our backs, but rather our knees. This is discussed under Bending and Lifting. A further exercise which changes pressure, is segmental bridging, ideal at the end of the day.

It is mainly due to our changed lifestyles that we move far too little for our own good. We used to walk or ride horses, both of which keep the spine moving.See each chance to move as a blessing and make the most of it.