We often think about adjusting our posture and taking care of our spine as simply a means to avoid pain or to just look taller and more confident. But how often do we take into consideration what the spine actually does and how our posture could be affecting the rest of our body? Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, an orthopedic and spinal surgeon in Poughkeepsie, New York says, “the spine is part of the central nervous system… An unhealthy spine interferes with this entire system, causing a host of unwelcome health issues such as pain, numbness, and weakness in the arms and legs, impaired breathing and digestion and impaired control of the bowel and bladder.” There’s good news though! Taking some of the following steps to correct your posture now will allow you to prevent and even help to cure back pain and a host of other issues surrounding perpetual misalignment of the spine.
- Stop Slouching: As much as it pains me to say this, your mother really was right. Dr. Hansraj explains, “Good posture is defined as ears aligned with the shoulders and the ‘angel wings,’ or the shoulder blades, retracted.” This simple, conscious adjustment can prevent migraines, heartburn, anxiety and even possibly weight gain according to a study by San Francisco State University. It can also enhance height, energy, well-being and deeper breathing.
- Belly Breathing: This kind of breathing helps the spinal nerves move within the spinal channels creating a greater sense of well-being and reducing back pain. To do this, Dr. Hansraj instructs, “Place your hands on your abdominal area and feel your belly move as you inhale and exhale. Do this as many times a day as possible to improve your posture and overall spinal health.”
- Targeted Exercise: For only 10 minutes a day, you can improve your spinal health and posture and decrease and prevent pain. Yoga poses like downward dog, easy neck stretches and exercises like push-ups can help loosen up tension and build muscles to support the spine.
- Watch What You Eat: excess weight can put added pressure on your spine. So, following a diet made up of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables will keep your body trim and will make sure your spine is getting all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. To give your spine an even bigger nutrient boost, Dr. Hansraj recommends supplementing your diet with a multivitamin, B-complex and Omega 3’s.
- Sleep Well: Some studies point to poor quality sleep as a trigger for neck and back pain. It’s imperative that you get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to maintain optimum health – including in your spine. To get the best sleep possible, choose a position that takes the pressure off your spine – ideally on your side. Then eliminate all light, make sure the temperature of your room is about 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit, turn off electronics and splurge on your mattress and pillow so you can create a beautiful safe haven of sleep.
Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.
Image Credit: Spine by Suraj Mehta. Used under creative commons license.
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