The Decline of the Spine
First, ask yourself the following questions to get an idea of your spinal health:
1) Do your heels wear out unevenly? This may indicate an uneven leg length, which will cause stress along the spine.
2) Do you “crack” your neck, back or other joints frequently? If so, your spinal column may be out of alignment, forcing other joints to compensate and pop frequently.
3) Do your feet flare when walking? If your feet are not parallel (both facing forward) there may be a problem with the lower spine or hips.
4) Do you feel stiffness in the back or neck? Subluxations may cause stress to muscles by forcing them to tense frequently.
5) Do you have bad posture? If you stand on two bathroom scales, you can see if you carry your weight in an unbalanced way, forcing the spine to curve to one side or the other. Slouching, too, can cause vertebral damage over time or force a disk to bulge backward.
We might add to this list a general feeling of fatigue or uneasiness. Although fatigue can result from many things, it may indicate that the body is using some of its energy to correct an unbalanced spinal column. If the spine is aligned, then the body can direct its energy toward more productive tasks.
How, then, do we throw our spines off balance? The short answer is we do it everyday, without thinking about it. Most spinal injuries are the result not of a single accident, but of habitual misuse. Take sitting, for example, an apparently innocent and harmless activity. When standing, we put about 25 pounds of pressure on our backs. Sitting, however, puts almost 250 pounds of pressure on the spine. Imagine all the time you spend sitting at work, at home or in the car. A good recommendation is to take stretch breaks to restore the natural spinal curves and relieve muscle tension.
Another way we throw our backs off kilter is by twisting and turning our backs in daily life. A repetitive twisting motion, such as reaching for items around your desk, stresses and shears the facet joints on the vertebrae.
The cliché about lifting with your legs is a cliché for a reason: by bending the spine forward to an unnatural degree, there is a risk that the disks will bulge backward, stressing them. One should minimize the reaching distance to objects at work. Any activity that requires repetitive twisting or movement of the head should be arranged to reduce these movements.
Sleeping habits, too, can affect our spines. Because we spend one third of our lives sleeping, we have ample opportunity to inflict spinal damage. In fact, many patients complain of back pain in the morning, having gone to bed feeling fine. Sleeping in a fetal position, for example, reverses the primary curves of the spine, stressing the vertebrae. Lying on your stomach, too, can twist the upper, cervical vertebrae because the head is rotated ninety degrees. The best sleeping posture is lying on your side so that your spine is straight. When lying on your back, your head should be on an even level, not angled forward or backward.
So in general, use your common sense. A bad posture will clearly have detrimental effects over time. Weak back and stomach muscles make you less able to maintain a healthy posture. The long-term consequences could be pain and loss of mobility. One of the primary aims of chiropractic is to help people form better habits to reduce the possibility of injury, rather than fixing it after it has happened. This is, in the long run, more effective and cheaper.
About the Author:
Dr. Tuchinsky specializes in adult and pediatric precision spinal care.
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