It’s Halloween time and we can see spooky skeletons everywhere. But how does this relate to our wellbeing? Apart from being an inspiration for costumes and decorations for Halloween parties, our skeletons are actually what sustain us everyday and allow us to move well. We usually think too little about it. All busy in building our muscles and refining our body shape, we often forget to look after the core part of our movement: our bones!
October is actually skeleton’s month, with national and international awareness campaigns putting lights on the importance of musculoskeletal and bone health.
At the beginning of this month, Backcare UK has organised a full week to raise awareness about the prevention of issues to a core part of our skeleton, our spinal column. This has been followed by a Bones and Joints Week promoted by the NHS, focused on prevention and early-intervention of MSK disorders at work, which is where most of those disorders have origin, either because of unhealthy postures, if we have a sedentary, desk-based job, or because of unhealthy movements - especially if we have a physically demanding job.
Regardless of our age, most of us have direct or indirect experience of back pain and we have a good level of awareness about our spinal health. But, we often tend to disregard the other (about) 200 bones we have in our body. We need to look after the health of our bones as any other part of our body. Raising awareness about this need is the purpose of World Osteoporosis Day, which took place on the 20th of October this year. Osteoporosis is a very common disease, affecting 1 in 3 of women and 1 in 5 of men over 50, causing bones to become weak and fragile, so that they break easily. Being aware of this is relevant for all of us at any age, because osteoporosis can be easily prevented through a healthy lifestyle.
We have followed experts and their advice across the month and here are the top 10 tips we have put together for you to look after your MSK health:
1. Sleep: our bed is the place where we spend most of our life. Choosing it accurately is essential to maintain our musculoskeletal health and prevent diseases. There’s not one mattress better than another, it must be fit to our body - not too hard and not too soft. Having a try before buying a new mattress is very important, as you and your bones are going to spend a lot of time with it.
2. Workplace: probably the second place where we spend most of our time in our life. Depending on your job, musculoskeletal risks related to it may differ, as well as the solutions that can be adopted to prevent diseases. Ask your manager about a risk assessment if you are not aware of it, and ensure your equipment follows ergonomic guidelines, especially if you report symptoms of pain. Make sure you have the same level of care if you work from home.
3. Weight lifting: when we are busy with households, we are very distracted about the efforts we ask to our body, to our skeleton in particular. When lifting something heavy from the floor, like a tin of water, always remember to carry the object you need to lift close to your body, to bend your knees and your hips - NOT your back. If you need to lift weights as a part of your job, this becomes even more essential.
4. Shopping: if you need to walk home after a big shopping trip, switch your shopping bags with a rucksack. This way it will be easier to carry heavy items with smaller effort on your spine.
5. Rest posture: when we relax, we don’t often realise that we are causing stress to our skeleton instead with unhealthy postures. Even if our muscles and nerves are released on the sofa, avoid slumping in among the cushions or let your shoulders hunch over. This can lead to unnatural positions that will be damaging for our spine when prolonged.
6. Nutrition: calcium is a key mineral for our bone health, which can be easily found in hard cheese like parmesan and more generally in all dairy foods. If you avoid dairy foods in your diet, it is important to include enough calcium in your meals, through tofu, nuts like almonds, legumes like lentils, and leafy vegetables.
7. Sun exposition: spending at least 10 minutes per day outdoors to expose our body to sunlight is essential for our bone health. Upon exposure to UVB rays from the sun our skin produces Vitamin D, which helps our body absorb calcium.
8. Exercise for your bones: weight-bearing and resistance exercises (with gradual intensity!) are recommended as the best for strengthening our bones, together with aerobic exercise such as hiking, dancing or Nordic walking.
9. Exercise for your joints: all types of movement are good for our skeleton, but you can increase the flexibility of your joints with targeted exercises such as yoga or pilates. Joints make our bones work together effectively, they are essential for keeping our skeleton active.
10. Healthy lifestyle: smoking and excessive drinking represent risk factors also for our bone health - maybe we never thought about it when having a shot or a cigarette.
Now that we know how to have a strong and shiny skeleton, we’re ready to head off and bring it to a Halloween party tonight and shake it!