Sunday Health Hack No. 25 – Spine up & hang in there!

Sunday Health Hack No. 25 – Get a pull-up bar, but not for doing pull-ups, but just to hang on with your own body weight. Several times a day.

After a quick Pentecost break, we are back with our next Sunday Hack regarding your most important mission in life – To take utmost care of the “health” of your “spine”.

First and foremost, your spine is your body’s central support structure. The support of the spine is essential to various bodily movements and functions, such as standing and walking. Additionally, your spine allows for flexible movements, such as bending and twisting.
Another function of the spine is that it protects the delicate spinal cord from potential damage. Your spinal cord carries the nerve signals from your brain to your body and vice versa. These nerve signals help you feel sensations and move your body. The spinal cord helps the body and internal organs function properly. Any damage to your spinal cord can negatively affect your movement or bodily functions like even breathing and using the bathroom. Blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate are also regulated and controlled by the spinal cord and brain.

Many people may only notice or pay attention to the spine unless there is an issue or pain (or worse), but a healthy spine is a key aspect of leading a healthy and “self-confident” life!

The spine is composed of 33 bones, called vertebrae, divided into five sections: the main, “flexible” cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back/chest), and lumbar (lower back) spine sections, and the fixed sacrum (pelvic) and coccyx bones (tailbone).
Between the individual vertebrae in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions (not in the sacrum and coccyx) are oval shaped pads made of fibrocartilage called intervertebral discs. The intervertebral disc helps absorb the shock and stress the body may experience during movement while preventing the vertebrae from grinding against one another.
The discs have a tough outer covering of cartilage that provides support and a soft, jellylike center that provides the cushioning (the nucleus pulposus).
They provide cushioning for the vertebrae and reduce the stress caused by impact. By keeping the vertebrae separated from each other, they act as a type of shock absorber for the spine. They help protect the nerves that run down the spine and between the vertebrae. And they increase the flexibility of the spine and allow us to bend over at the waist without rubbing the vertebrae into each other.

But, we “office warriors” now face several challenges. “Sitting” in an office chair actually puts these sensitive intervertebral discs under constant pressure. The whole head, shoulder, arms, back, and chest weight is resting on them, for hours and hours.
On average, we are 2-3cm shorter in the evening. Primarily because of the constant compression of our spine that take place throughout the day. During the night, when there is no load placed on your spine, fluid is slowly diffusing into the discs again.
So no wonder that most “disc locations” also do happen in the evening.

Another problem is that the only way to protect our spine are strong muscles, especially the core muscles (abs and lower back). Only strong muscles can absorb most of the (compression) “force” put on your spine, protect you against dislocated disc (and back pain), and prevent early “degeneration” processes.

But there is a trick, without now having to hit the gym every day, how to strengthen your “spine” (and the muscles involved) without much “effort”.
My Sunday Health Hack for today – Get a pull-up bar, but not for doing pull-ups, but just to hang on with your own body weight. Several times a day. Just a couple of “moments”.
And don’t get too scientific about it. This can be a simple pull-up bar which you place in your doorframe.
And the best locations are either your kitchen door or your bathroom door, because you visit these rooms several times a day. And eg. while you are waiting for your tea water to boil, you hang on at the pull-up bar. Easy, right?!

Again, especially if you are untrained, don’t even bother to try making some pull-ups. Because pretty quick you will realize that just hanging from that pull-up bar is far not as “easy” as it sounds.
First, your grip strength will give away (under your body weight). Then the muscles in your forearms. Then your biceps and triceps. Then your shoulders and neck. Then your back and chest. Then your lower back and abs.
On a positive note, and that’s the goal, in small, incremental steps, you will gradually strengthen all these muscles, which most of them are important for protecting your spine, just by hanging from a pull-up bar with your body weight.
Additionally, you also “decompress” your intervertebral discs while hanging. “Fluid” enters the clenched “gel cushions” again. You will even “feel” that you (your spine) will be much more flexible again after this “treatment”.
With this goes along an improved functioning of the “electric signals” and communication between the body and the brain, which even has a positive influence on your breathing pattern (oxygen for your brain) etc..
Last but not least, your body posture will improve significantly too, for not only standing up straight, but also to the benefit of your internal organs, eg. lung capacity etc..
And at your next business meeting, you also greet your guests and colleagues with a strong, confident handshake thanks to your increased grip-strength.

Interesting sidenote: There are many studies out there which prove the direct link between your body posture and your “mood”. If you want to feel “depressed” just slump over, pull in your shoulders, drop your head to your chest – you will immediately “feel” how “bad thoughts” start to creep into your mind.
But it works the other way around too. Scientists had clinically depressed patients talking brief but regular walks during the day with a straight spine, with shoulders back, with the head up (picturing to move the “clouds” with their head), taking deep breaths from the core, opening the chest.
The scientists measured the endorphins of these patients after a couple of days, which were sort of non-existent before, and the numbers had gone through the roof. Besides the overwhelming subjective statements of the patients how much better they “felt”. So, now imagine what this little posture-supporting exercise can do for you! Your mood. Your self-confidence.

Extra hack: I know, I said, no pull-ups. But how about you start to slowly turn your upper body left and right after a while, when your grip and forearm strength has improved. This will additionally strengthen your shoulder, neck and upper body muscles. Next you lean a bit forward and then backwards (for engaging your upper chest and back muscles). Eventually you “employ” your legs. Slowly moving them left to right which will have a positive effect on your core muscles. And then you even start to pull up your knees towards your chest. Not all the way immediately. Again, “slow movements” is the magic, “healthy” word here.

Stay straight and hang on, Yours  Andreas

Sunday Quote
Unfortunately, some people develop a wishbone where their backbone should be.

Sunday Music
Okay, if you have to hang in there, before you get bored, at least let’s get some (spine) “Twist” mood and adrenaline rushing too –