Many people don’t give much thought to their spine until they experience back pain. But your spine is crucial to your overall health, and it needs regular support to function at its best. Here are a few reasons why you should make spine support a priority in your life.

Your vertebral column is actually a machine composed of 24 moving parts. Its design is so ingenious that these parts all move and articulate together to allow the movement that we take for granted and are accustomed to in our day-to-day lives. To ensure that this movement is at its most optimal these bones (vertebrae) form curves.

How does our spine work?

The spinal curves differ between our neck, mid back and lower back. The curves of the neck and the low back are convex towards the back of our body, while the curves of the thoracic spine are convex towards the front of our body. With the thoracic curve in the middle between the neck and lower back and it’s curve opposite to both of them, the spine is given maximum potential for mobility.

To understand the importance of these curves, let’s compare two animals, the flamingo and the giraffe. Have you ever seen a giraffe try and pick something up off the ground with its mouth? It has to separate its legs to lower its trunk close enough to the ground so that it’s straight neck can get low enough to pick something up. Because it has no curve in its neck it also has absolutely no mobility. It is completely rigid.

Contrary to the giraffe, the flamingo has two curves in its neck which allow it to have 360° of movement. It can literally turn right or left and rotate its head around completely to be able to pick fleas off his back. So how does the spinal anatomy of these two very distinct animals apply to us?

Why we can feel stiff

When our spinal curves are modified we also lose our mobility. For humans that’s a disaster, as we need to move and execute all of the tasks that our life demands. We feel stiff, our chances of falling over are greatly increased and we simply can’t do every day activities the way that we could when we were children. Sadly, while this is very common, it is very avoidable. Too many people accept this stiffening up and reduction in mobility as a normal part of ageing. It most definitely isn’t.

Our spinal curves are lost predominantly due to the prolonged postures that we hold when we are working, sitting, sleeping and now in modern times, doing such things as texting and using laptops. Any activity where we are looking down, such as gardening, working in many professions and even watching television in bed, compromises the integrity of our neck and thoracic curves. In a very short amount of time we have gone from being a very active species to an embarrassingly sedentary one and this is causing an enormous amount of grief to not only our spine, but also to our health in general.

How our body communicates

Our spine directly affects our health due to the fact that between each vertebra spinal nerves transmit messages from the brain to the rest of the body. Literally every single cell, tissue and organ our body needs this line of communication open to be able to be coordinated by the brain in its function.

A common example of a situation where this communication is broken is sciatic pain where problems of the lower back can cause excruciating and debilitating pain down the leg. Unless the pressure is taken off the nerve root exiting the L4/5 or L5/S1 segment of the lumbar spine this interference to nerve communication will continue and compromise the health of the leg.

Similarly any nerve interference in any level of the spinal column can result in diminished tissue or organ health. This is why it is absolutely crucial that the health of the vertebral column is considered and prioritised during our lives. We are perfectly accustomed to attending to our dental health by brushing our teeth regularly.

Due to this fact people in their 90s frequently still have their teeth. It’s not rocket science, they have simply cared for their teeth during their lifetimes. The importance of spinal hygiene is not as obvious as dental hygiene simply because we cannot see our spine and only think about it when we lose the health of our spine, meaning when we have pain or other symptoms related to our back.

When these symptoms do occur many people are already older with advanced arthritis and other degenerative conditions occurring. This is a sad situation as these problems are 100% avoidable. If only their spine had been considered earlier.

How do we care best for our spine?

One of the best ways to care for your spine is to maintain its curves during life. This means ensuring that Correct posture is maintained whilst sitting at work, in a car, at a desk, whilst eating and whilst sleeping. The longer our spine goes through life with it’s curves maintained, the more of a chance that we have of maintaining spinal health. Many people complain about the pain but don’t realise that they are sitting incorrectly or in a chair that does not support their lower back.

Other people may complain of neck pain or stiffness between the shoulders when they work at a desk, but don’t stop to think about their incorrect posture with falling shoulders and forward head carriage being the cause. And others may wake with neck pain or low back pain but never join the dots to recognise that it is actually their inadequate pillow or mattress lacking in support that is responsible for those pains.

Ask any spinal specialist such as a chiropractor, physiotherapist or osteopath and they will tell you that the cause of the majority of their patient’s symptoms is actually due to poor posture. As poor posture can occur from so many different actions in our life we need to look at those actions and see how they can be supported.

Tools to care for your spine

Using tools such as orthopaedic pillows, lumbar supports, posture correctors to stabilise the spine and foam rollers and other accessories to mobilise the spine after hard days work, can maintain its health. This is because they help it maintain its structure while it is under the effects of gravity or the demands of a certain occupation. Or they promote normal segmental function to compensate for those times that it is sedentary and immobile.

Learning about spinal hygiene and implementing the use of supports and other aids is an investment in the longevity of your spine and consequent general health. As a spinal specialist one of the saddest things that you can see is an elderly person debilitated by the pain caused by a degenerated spine. Degeneration is 100% avoidable if a knowledge of spinal hygiene is acquired early in life, the spine is continually supported and we correct spinal function compromise when it occurs.

If you are an employee who isn’t supporting your spine at work, please don’t rely on your employer to change it. While this would be ideal it is not always financially viable for the company. And just because somebody else won’t pay for it, doesn’t mean that it should be done. The devastation caused by certain jobs over a lifetime of work cannot be reverted when somebody retires. If the chair at the office is inadequate and unable to provide the support that your spine needs, investing in a lumbar support is just as effective.

Pillows and other posture correctors

If you are using a pillow that is thin and worn out and is not supporting your neck, then invest in a new one. One that gives you support while you sleep. Pillows wear out in the same way that running shoes wear out with use. No marathon runner uses a pair of shoes for longer than two months. Why would you expect your pillow to last years and years when it has the weight of your head on it, night after night. Your mattress also needs to be of good quality to support your spine, so if you’re waking up in pain, especially in your low back or hips, look at your mattress and change it as soon as possible.

Posture correctors remind us when our shoulders have fallen forward of the centre of gravity line. When this happens the shoulders allow the head to fall even further forward. When you look at the amount of people these days looking down at their phones or laptops or work in occupations that demand a poor posture to be able to perform their job, it is easy to understand why there are so many people in chronic pain. Many of the spinal support aids mentioned are cheaper than a single treatment with a health practitioner. Investing in the support that your spine needs simply makes sense.


Think about the future that you want to be living in. Now imagine how chronic pain caused by your job and all of the activities that you do today, can increase the chances of you suffering from this avoidable degenerative condition. Is that the future that you wish for yourself? Take it from me, a spinal specialist who has over 25 years of experience, that almost all of the suffering that I see in people in their senior years of life, is related to spinal dysfunction that occurs in the earlier years.

Accessories that support and mobilise the spine can greatly decrease the chance of this dysfunction ever occurring.