What is spinal health?
Spinal health is a broad term which refers to many important functions of the spine. Part of spinal health is mobility. Your spine is made up of 24 moving bones, each attached by two different joints. One joint is the disc, which is like a cushion made of cartilage, providing spring and smooth bending between each vertebrae. The disc has a fibrous outer ring, holding in a jelly-like substance called the nucleus. The other type of joint is called the facet joint. There is one facet joint on each side, which sit at the back of the spine forming an almost cage-like structure around your spinal cord and nerves.
Another important aspect to spinal health is posture. Correct posture simply means correct weight distribution throughout your spine, as well as minimal stress on all the postural muscles.
So why is mobility so important?
One reason is that the discs in your spine do not contain any blood vessels, meaning that nutrients and fluids cannot be pumped into the cartilage to keep it healthy. This means that the disc must be pressed, squashed and moved around in order to draw in those important nutrients (a little like squashing a sponge to soak up water). Movement also strengthens muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Another reason why mobility in the spine is important, is that your brain needs movement in the spine for nutrition and stimulation. A study was published in 2019 (Hammerle M, 2019) which showed that patients suffering from dizziness following mild traumatic brain injury showed improvement in outcomes following treatment focusing on improving proprioception (joint position sense) rather than vestibular rehabilitation. This shows the importance of the movement of the spine in brain and nervous system health.
While these two factors are important, another reason why spinal mobility is so important, is because a lack of spinal mobility is essentially stiffness! In my own experience, people who describe feeling stiff often have very little spinal mobility and describe difficulty in bending down, turning their back, or performing basic duties at work.
What does this mean for tradies?
Many trade jobs involve bending down, such as floor construction, tiling, plumbing and many others. This means that flexion of the spine happens almost constantly throughout the day. If there is a lack of mobility throughout the spine, bending in these roles can be difficult to sustain.
Another reason why proper spinal mobility is important for tradies is that tradies often work dangerous jobs. Construction or other higher risk jobs often involve working at heights, or working on surfaces which mean a mistake can involve risk of injury. The more mobile the spine is, the more it may be able to move to compensate for a potential trip or stumble.
Posture is another aspect of spinal health which is essential to get right for tradies. When lifting heavy objects, particularly overhead, it is very important that the strong postural muscles including the lats, rhomboids, traps and quadratus lumborum to be supporting the spine to avoid injury. A study published in 2001 (Granata K, Wilson S, 2001) detailed the relationship between spinal instability and postural abnormalities. Specifically, asymmetrical postural disorders have a significant relationship with the stability of the spine.
In summary, spinal health is important for everyone, however tradies physically bend and twist their spines all the time as part of working. Without correct posture and adequate spinal mobility, there may be an increased risk of injury. If you’ve never had your spine assessed, feel free to contact our practice with any questions.
Granata, K. P., & Wilson, S. E. (2001). Trunk posture and spinal stability. Clinical Biomechanics, 16(8), 650–659. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0268-0033(01)00064-X
Hammerle, M., Swan, A. A., Nelson, J. T., & Treleaven, J. M. (2019). Retrospective Review: Effectiveness of Cervical Proprioception Retraining for Dizziness After Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in a Military Population With Abnormal Cervical Proprioception. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 42(6), 399–406. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JMPT.2018.12.002