Why discs need to be primed
Except for a small outer portion, discs do not have a direct blood supply. This is in contrast to joints like the knee, for example, which have direct blood supply through the bone adjacent to the cartilage. In fact, the disc is the largest avascular structure in the whole body. This has important implications for nutrition and repair of the disc. Since there is no direct blood supply, nutrients diffuse in and waste products are pushed out of the disc partly by the pumping mechanism that occurs when we move. Hence it’s important to feed the spine through movement, stretching, and exercise, or it will starve and degenerate sooner. Essentially, the more you move, the more adequately you infuse your spine with nutrients and help optimize its function. This is why people of all ages—usually including those who are currently experiencing back pain need to consciously make physical activity part of their life. When sitting at work or at home, I advise all patients to set a timer and get up briefly to stretch or take a short walk every half-hour.
Additionally, getting adequate hydration (eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day) will also mean that you make more trips to the restroom—further ensuring that you get enough movement throughout your day.
One activity that I find especially helpful to maintain good spinal flexibility and health is a yoga-based exercise called “cat-cow.” Do not perform this exercise if you have knee or wrist injuries, or are in acute severe back pain. This exercise is done while kneeling on all fours with the knees directly under the hips and the wrists under the shoulders. Inhale and lengthen your spine, distributing the weight evenly to the hands and knees. Exhale and round your spine, pulling the abdominals in and tucking your pelvis under. This is the “cat” position. Next, inhale and rotate the tailbone toward the ceiling and the ribs and chest toward the floor. Lift your head and look to the ceiling. This is the “cow” position. Repeat these postures for five to ten breaths at least once a day.