Our body is one large unit filled with many different parts. Because our bodies our so interconnected, when one part suffers- like dominos, it can affect another part/system of the body. The spine is one of the most important body parts, as it serves as an information highway to and from the brain. But, did you know that some injuries and pains we may be feeling, can be attributed to spinal misalignment? Here, I will discuss what pains can be directly related to the spine along with some exercises and stretches to help improve your spinal health.
Our posture is a reflection of our spine. The spine does have natural curves that are important. However, there are some exaggerated curves that can affect one’s posture:
- Lordosis- Denotes an exaggerated curve of the lumbar (lower back) section of the spine. This can result in the forward tilting of the pelvis and weakening of the hip flexors.
- Kyphosis- Is classified as a curvature of the thoracic (middle of the back) section of the spine. This can lead to the rounding of the upper back and shoulders (known as a hunchback).
- Scoliosis- Generally speaking, the spine can have an “S” shape as opposed to a neutral-aligned position. Here, the pelvis and shoulders can appear to be uneven- especially when looking at the body from the front or back.
The smallest misalignment of the spine (by even ¼ of a millimeter) can affect communication to and from the brain and have affects on other parts of the body. Here are some ways our spine’s health can affect our overall health:
- Headaches/Migraines: The cervical (neck) section of the spine has a number of nerve endings that send signals to the brain. There are also vessels that supply blood to the brain. When the flow of blood is constricted or fluctuates, it can cause a headache or migraine (and in more severe cases a stroke). A misalignment of the spine can hinder the flow of blood to the brain.
- Dizziness/Vertigo: Dizziness gives you the feeling of being weak, faint or unsteady. Vertigo is the sensation that your surroundings of moving/spinning. In both cases, the flow of blood to the inner ear or lower part of the brain is disrupted. A misalignment of the cervical section of the spine can hinder the flow of blood to the brain.
- Post-Concussive Syndrome (PCS): Following a head/neck injury, such as a blow to the head or whiplash, there are a number of symptoms that can occur following (post) the injury. This event can cause a misalignment of the spine that can affect the mobility (movement) of the neck and numbness of the extremities such as the hands and feet.
In addition to an injury caused by a car accident or an athletic blow to the head (football, boxing, hockey), spinal misalignment can be caused by sitting for an extended period of time. Here are some exercises and stretches that can help improve your spinal alignment and posture:
- Cat-Cow: This is a stretch that can help to relieve tension in your neck, shoulders and torso. As you inhale, drop the shoulders, lift the chest to the sky and extend the spine. On the exhale, arch your spine into a curve as you tuck your chin into your chest. Repeat movement. This can be done standing, seated or on the floor in tabletop position.
- Chest Opener: This is a nice stretch to do if you spend a lot of time sitting which tends to move your chest inward. Strengthening this part of the body, can help you stand up straighter. Standing up with your legs hip-length apart, bring your arms behind you, pressing the palms together as you reach out. As you inhale, lift the check up towards the sky as you bring your hands to the floor. Breathe deeply as you hold the position for a few seconds. Release, relax and repeat.
- Isometric Rows: This is a good exercise to do to help relieve pain and stiffness (especially after sitting in one place for an extended period of time). It also gives you the strength to maintain a good posture. Bend your arms so that the palms of the hands are facing each other, bringing the elbows close to your side. As you exhale, bring your elbows back slightly behind you as you squeeze your shoulder blades. Breathe deeply as you hold the position for a few moments. Release from the position on your inhale and repeat.
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