Moms Are Special – Right Down to Their Bones!

As a mom, you’re the backbone of your family – a woman of all trades and a tireless supporter through thick and thin. But don’t forget to give your own back some tender loving care. In a 2012 survey by the Centers for Disease Control, almost a third of women said they’d experienced back pain within the last three months. When your back isn’t happy, it impacts your ability to work, play and even sleep. Advice from the experts can help you support your spine.

Nurture bones with good nutrition.

Though back pain in general, and osteoporosis in particular, are usually considered adult maladies, the foundation for a healthy spine is erected much earlier in life. Alan Cohn, Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) at Good Medicine’s Family Practice in Mount Shasta, says, “For women, peak bone mass is reached by age 30. After that there’s a decline, with a decidedly steeper curve of bone loss occurring after menopause.” Therefore, it’s important to boost the “bone bank” well before 30 with a diet rich in calcium, including foods such as dairy, almonds, and leafy greens like kale. Vitamin D also contributes to strong bones. However, Cohn notes, “It’s difficult to get enough Vitamin D through diet alone, and most people require supplements or fortified foods to meet the recommended daily allowance.”

Disorders that prevent absorption of nutrients, such as celiac and Crohn’s disease, may have a negative impact on bone density when the condition goes untreated. It should also be noted that eating disorders and repeated dieting, especially in adolescence, can prevent accrual of healthy bone mass; being underweight is a risk factor for osteoporosis. Cohn suggests, “Pay attention to your family history along with your personal risk factors and take action now. What’s good for your general health is good for your bones: Eat well, exercise and maintain a normal weight.”

Pay attention to position.

  Dale Mendenhall is a physical therapist specializing in orthopedic musculoskeletal conditions at the Physical Therapy and Wellness Center in Red Bluff. He says back pain and injury often result from remaining in one position for too long. “Any postural position that becomes habitual can be problematic,” he says. “People understand that sitting at a desk for hours isn’t good, but standing for too long can be detrimental as well.”

The answer is to change positions frequently. For sedentary work, the best practice is to follow the “20-8-2 rule.” That is, every 30-minute period should include 20 minutes seated, 8 minutes standing (easier if a standing desk is available) and 2 minutes walking. If this is impossible, be sure to get out of your seat for a couple minutes every half hour. Do some stretches or walk to the water fountain.

Ergonomics is also important. While seated, there should be a 90-degree angle at your elbows, hips and knees. Your monitor should be positioned directly in front of you, your line of vision maintained without tilting your chin up or down. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your wrists neutral.

Exercise for every body.

Joel Singer, personal trainer at Whole Body Fitness in Chico, helps clients of all ages meet their fitness goals. He says that people with sedentary jobs tend to suffer back trouble due to the weakening of spine-supporting musculature. Singer says, “The key to a healthy back and excellent posture is including exercises that focus on maintaining a healthy range of motion and that support the strengthening of key postural muscles.” Weight-bearing activities such as walking, running and yoga are essential for maintaining bone density. In addition, exercises such as planking, squatting and rowing can be beneficial. These target the glutes, transverse abdominals and muscles surrounding the thoracic spine.

Mendenhall adds that it’s important to have an active lifestyle from childhood on. He says, “Kids and adolescents should be encouraged to play hard, run and jump. Into adulthood, high intensity exercise has been shown to be the most beneficial, unless a person has already been diagnosed with low-bone density.” 

After an injury or post-diagnosis of a condition such as osteoporosis, some people may be fearful of exercise. And yet, research shows that inactivity actually increases recuperation time and can lead to further deterioration. Mendenhall acknowledges it’s important to remain active, but says guidance from an experienced professional is crucial in such cases. Certain types of exercise may be contraindicated and cause further injury. And some people have difficulty finding a reasonable starting point. Singer adds, “I help clients set both long-term and short-term goals that are tangible. This encourages them to focus on what is right in front of them, rather than get overwhelmed by what’s to come.”

What is most important for the health of your back? Good habits, practiced daily. As Cohn reminds us, “A doctor, physical therapist or other providers can be a good source of information and can help establish a good pattern, but consistent self-care is most important for spine health.”  

Give High Heels the Heave-ho!

Most women wear high heels, at least occasionally. But frequent multi-hour stints in sky-high stilettos can lead to foot, leg and back problems. Wearing high heels:

  • Changes the natural curve of the spine, forcing weight to come forward.
  • Shortens calf muscles.
  • Strains hips and lower back.
  • Can cause spondylolisthesis (one vertebra slipping over another) and nerve problems, including sciatica.

Can’t give them up? Follow these suggestions:

  • Avoid super-pointy toes
  • Stretch your calf muscles often
  • Don’t wear heels for long periods of time
  • Heels lower than two inches are best
  • Vary your footwear daily

Osteoporosis and You: The Facts

One of every two women will suffer an osteoporosis-related bone fracture in her lifetime.

The condition often goes undiagnosed until there is a fracture.

Fixed risk factors: Caucasian or Asian descent, early menopause and family history of the disease.

Lifestyle risk factors: smoking; alcohol (more than two drinks daily); long-term use of certain medications (e.g., corticosteroids, some antacids and some antidepressants).

Prevention: weight-bearing exercise (walking, running and dancing); resistance training targeting musculature around bones; diet with adequate calcium and protein; Vitamin D supplementation.

Ashley Talmadge is now feeling the occasional twinges and soreness that accompany an age something north of 50. She has recently incorporated spine-friendly exercises into her workout routine.
North State Parent
About North State Parent

North State Parent is a free monthly publication that circulates within five California counties: Butte, Glenn, Shasta, Southern Siskiyou and Tehama. Our pages are filled with family-oriented places to go, services and products geared for women and things to do; a focus on parenting, community, health, education, teens, youth, and much more.

Updated: Oct 10, 2017 @ 11:14 am