When a spine is unhealthy it might be because it is in poor alignment, there is poor joint function, or there might be some form of disease within the spine. An unhealthy spine is going to create stress and tension on the nervous system. If your nervous system is under stress, you are not going to function well on a physiological level. In order to function at an optimal level, your spine has to be healthy.
Here are 4 tips for achieving a healthy spine:
1. Get Your Spine Checked
Chiropractors specialize in the treatment of the spine and nervous system. A chiropractor will consult with you and take a full medical history to determine what issues you may have and how they are affecting your life. A chiropractor will conduct a functional exam, both orthopedic and neurological, to figure out what’s going on within your spine, and then take x-rays.
X-rays allow chiropractors to figure out the blueprint of your spine. By examining x-rays and going through some really detailed analysis, chiropractors can figure out how unhealthy your spine is from an alignment aspect. From there, they can build out a treatment plan to fix that issue.
Over 80% of the stimulation of the brain comes from movement in the spine. By adjusting the spine with a chiropractic adjustment, it’s going to allow the joint to move better. It’s going to create the synapses within the joint and the nerve, which is going to create stimulation of the brain. When the spine moves via an adjustment, activity happens in the brain. And that’s how we communicate, and then we heal. So, adjustments are key. Get joints moving and get the stress and tension off the joint and the nerves.
Chiropractors will also address the soft tissue, because when a joint shifts and it doesn’t move well, muscles and tendons compensate, shorten up and get taxed. Chiropractors will try to improve the health of the tissue by taking it from a short to a long position while it’s under tension.
Chiropractors also examine postural changes. For example, if you’ve got a lot of neck pain and headaches, chances are the muscles that stabilize your spine are inactive and the big muscles that are designed to move you are taking over like the big trap muscles, chest muscles, and shoulder muscles. The muscles that sit intrinsically to the spine, from the spine between your shoulder blades, help keep the spine aligned. A Chiropractor will take you through an exercise program to address all those postural changes via physical therapy and address the postural muscles.
Lastly, chiropractors will look at the spine alignment. Based on any misalignment, they will take you through spinal traction. Repetitively over time, you can change the shape of your spine objectively.
2. Maintain Good Posture
Maintaining good posture throughout the day will help you gain a healthier spine and function better. When you’re using any form of a handheld device, looking at a monitor on your computer screen or your laptop, a good thing you need to focus on is keeping your chin four fingers off of your chest. If you’re on your iPhone, your iPad or on your computer, if you can take your four fingers, pinky finger through to the index finger and you can slide it comfortably under your chin, great. However, if you’re not able to slide those fingers under your chin, you’re in too much flexion. Your head is coming forward too much.
Start with limiting your screen time and taking breaks. During the last five minutes of the hour, every hour you are working, just get up and move around and make sure you’re in good posture.
Doing less sitting should also be a goal we try to achieve on a day-to-day basis. This is easily done with acquiring a stand-up desk. When you have a stand-up desk, do not try and stand all day, as this will also create compensatory issues due to poor posture when standing. Before you use a stand-up desk, do a quick google search on ‘stand-up desk ergonomics,’ and make sure to mimic the appropriate set up. Once you start using a stand-up desk, make sure to work into standing for extended periods of time. Start with the last ten minutes of every hour, and then each week if no discomfort is felt, add 5-10 minutes until you can split the hour in half between sitting and standing.
When standing make sure to have an even weight load on each foot, and your pelvis tucked underneath your low back. Many people tend to lean to one side and load one hip with most of their weight, this will cause pain in the hips and low back. Also make sure that you do not have your butt sticking out and hips rocked forwards as this will create stress and tension in the lower portion of your low back and inside of your knees, and over time this will cause pain and dysfunction. Make sure your shoulders are down and back, with your shoulder blades flush against your back and not winging out as this will cause upper back pain.
Lastly when standing or sitting, make sure your ear is directly above your shoulders and chin is a minimum of four fingers off your chest.
3. Stretch and Exercise
Stretching and exercise will help you achieve a healthier spine, and it should be done periodically throughout the week.
Exercises that we should be doing are for example, drawing your chin towards your neck, because it’s going to activate those neck flexors. We call those the clucking chicken. You should be doing those periodically throughout the day.
Exercises that involve bringing your shoulders back and down and then moving your shoulders North to South is going to activate those muscles between your shoulder blades. We want to make sure that we’re avoiding those muscles that kind of do all the work.
When we sit in a flexed position for long periods of time, that tissue shortens and then the muscles in your lower back start to work really hard. When we don’t move our pelvic floor, our core is never activated. When we go to move, the lower back does all the work. So, we need to be moving while we sit. A couple of things we prescribe for our patients here is a wobble disk. It is a simple little inflatable disk that you put on your chair. So, when you’re sitting, it creates instability and that essentially activates the pelvic floor. Some of our patients go an extra mile and they sit on an exercise ball. This way they are constantly moving and recruiting those little muscles and stabilizers.
Stretch the hip flexors, stretch the glutes, and make sure we’re doing exercises that address the muscles that are used to be stabilizers and don’t get used like some pelvic floor work and some basic diaphragmatic breathing. Exercises such planks are a great exercise. Make sure we are activating the hamstrings and the glutes by doing things like a glute bridge or a single leg glute bridge to make sure those muscles are nice and active.
4. Visit a Chiropractor on a Regular Basis
A healthy spine is a spine that’s in alignment and moves well. Life is stressful. Stress could be ergonomic stress from having to work 50-60 hours a week, strapped to your desk, working from home during a pandemic. It might be being rear-ended in a car accident that we had previously months or years ago. These stresses over time add up, and when they add up, they cause subluxations. A subluxation is essentially an advanced term for a spine that is out of alignment and not functioning well. Subluxations create stress and tension on the nervous system. When the nervous system is stressed, we don’t function well and that might mean pain or dysfunction within that organ system.
Just like putting oil in your car every 3,000 miles, it does not necessarily need it every 3,000 miles, but you do it to make sure your car runs well and you’re not breaking down and dealing with AAA.
By visiting a chiropractor and getting your spine evaluated on a weekly, biweekly, monthly basis to make sure your spine is functioning well and you are you are not subluxating, you are going to be able to function on an optimal level.