Its mid summer and wakeboarding is in full swing. This means lots of riding, progression, new tricks, and unfortunately, tired and sore bodies. One part of the body that gets taxed the most during wakeboarding is the spine. The spine is our center where most of the shock absorption occurs. The discs, which sit in between each of our vertebra, or back bones, are little cushions that help translate the pressure that happens when we jump, land, twist, and bend. Keeping these discs healthy is important to avoid nerve injury, compression fractures to the spine, and disc bulging or herniation.
There are two very easy ways to keep discs healthy and continue riding safely and pain free. The first is simple has been written about before. Hydration. Drinking water hydrates the discs, making them taller and more supportive. Water also helps to keep the surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments pliable and stretchy, which are good qualities of tissue to keep you injury free. Keep a bottle of water with you wherever you are: home, boat, cable, work etc. This will encourage you to drink more. Also, be sure to replenish lost water from sweat and exercise after riding and/or working out. Sun, wind, and sweating can dehydrate you quickly!
The second way to keep your discs healthy is inversion. Inversion is the act of turning upside down in order to let gravity undo the daily pressures put on the spine. There are a few ways to invert, using a inversion table, which allows you to hang from your feet, or doing a head or handstand (freestanding or against a wall.) Both have astounding benefits for the body. These benefits include:
1. Natural decompression: Gravity pulls the spine in the opposite direction as our upright life, allowing for traction in the spine which increases the disc height, gives more space for the nerves and relieves pain. Not only does decompression help the spine, it also helps with hips, knees and ankles as well!
2. Posture correction and flexibility: Inversion stretches musculature and allows our bodies to elongate in the axial direction. This allows for misalignments in the spine to be corrected and slouching in the shoulders and middle back to be undone. Inversion keeps the muscles, tendons and ligaments flexible keeping joints healthy.
3. Circulation and Energy: Inversion allows for the heart to be above the head, causing a surge of circulation to the brain. This allows for increased energy, mental clarity and focus. The movement in the blood can cause a release in neurotransmitters causing an increase in mood as well. Increasing circulation also cleans the blood and moves lymph, helping with immunity.
Inversion can be done daily and should be held for 10-20 seconds upside down, then 10-20 seconds back at neutral (or right side up) for a total of 10 minutes maximum. This allows for a pumping motion in the spine, causing the most nutrients, blood flow and hydration to return to the discs. Also, it is not necessary to be completely upside down. Many of the benefits of inversion can be received by moving the head below the heart, like in downward dog or shoulder stand, the yoga poses.
Note: Inversion is not for everyone. If you suffer from a heart condition, glaucoma, bone weakness, high blood pressure, ear infection, pregnancy, stroke, retinal detachment or significant spinal injury, inversion is contraindicated. Please consult a medical professional before trying inversion.