When your spine is properly aligned, your body maintains a relatively straight line from your head through your shoulders and back, as well as your hips, knees, and feet.
Having proper alignment goes beyond maintaininggood posture- can also help prevent pain in the long run. Misalignment can affect your range of motion, and serious problems can affect your quality of life.
There may be signs that your spine is out of alignment, along with pain in various joints throughout your body. Exercise and stretching can help, along with making simple changes to your daily routine. In some cases, severe misalignment may require medical treatment.
Here's how to tell if your spine is out of alignment and the steps you can take to find relief.
Your backbone is a column of bones, called vertebrae, that extend from the bottom of your skull to your pelvis. Provides stability and support for the upper body.
But your spine does more than stabilize your back. Any type of misalignment can also affect other parts of the body.
Possible signs that your spine is out of alignment include:
- chronic headaches
- lower back pain
- Neck Pain
- knee pain
- Hip pain
- frequent diseases
- excessive fatigue
- numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- a shoe that wears out before the other, due towalking abnormalities
Spinal misalignment can eventually cause more serious problems beyond mild pain and discomfort. If your spine is not aligned correctly, you may be at higher risk of:
- chronic pain
- joint stiffness
- reduced range of motion
- mobility problems
- discomfortwhen sitting, standing and lying down
- permanent joint and bone deformities
- broken bones, mainly in the column
- breathing problems
Just as spinal misalignment occurs over time, correcting it requires long-term effort. You can start by being more aware of your spinal alignment and making sure to stretch your body and exercise regularly.
More serious cases of spinal problems may require medical attention or surgery. Talk to a doctor to see which strategies are best for you.
Exercises and Stretches
If you're like many Americans, you probably spend most of your day sitting at work and enjoying yourself. This can exacerbate your back pain and lead topoor posture. It can also affect spinal alignment over time.
You can help reverse these effects with exercise and stretching.
walk and stretch
One way to combat the negative effects of sitting is by takinggoingbreaks throughout the day. This helps relieve pressure on the sit bones and lower back.
You can take brisk walks throughout the day, adapting them before work, during lunch and after dinner.
Consider the following tips to get the most out of your hike:
- Before you begin, make sure your head and shoulders are in line with your hips and legs.
- Roll your shoulders up and then back so you don't shrug them forward.
- Walk only as fast as you can maintain good posture; if you slouch at any point, it's better to take smaller steps.
boardsThey are recommended by fitness instructors as well as physical therapists and chiropractors. When done correctly, they strengthen the core muscles of the back and abdomen, which can relieve unnecessary pressure on the spine.
To make a classic plank:
- Position yourself on your knees and forearms, making sure your elbows are in line with your shoulders.
- Step back to come up on your toes, keeping pressure on your heels as you squeeze your glutes and abs. Keep your shoulders back and your chin slightly down.
- Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds at a time.
- You can also practice a variation calledhigh plank, which is performed on the hands instead of the forearms.
If you've ever been to a yoga class, you've probably done more than a few cat and cow poses. This pose lengthens the spine and relieves pressure from the lower back and shoulders.
- Get on all fours, with your hands and knees equally weighted. Start with a neutral spine.
- As you inhale, look slightly up and lower your abdomen toward the floor.
- As you exhale, bring your chin in toward your chest and your navel in toward your spine.
- Repeat as many times as you like, making sure to move with your own breath.
Trade your office chair for a stability ball
Using a stability ball as a chair can help reinforce spinal alignment throughout the day. If you are considering a stability ball chair:
- Start by sitting on it for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, two to three times a day.
- Pull your belly button in toward your spine to contract your core muscles.
- Sit with your shoulders back and feet firmly planted on the ground.
UNchiropractoris a type of medical professional who specializes in the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, including the spine.
One of the most common chiropractic treatments is called a spinal adjustment, orspinal manipulation. The chiropractor will have you lie down and then physically adjust your joints and tissues to reduce pain and inflammation. They may also use a portable device called an activator.
You may notice improvements in spinal alignment after undergoing chiropractic adjustments at regular intervals over a long period of time. Your general mobility may also improve.
In addition to spinal manipulation, a chiropractor can teach mobility exercises, such as planks, to help strengthen your core muscles. They can also offer nutritional advice and other tips on a healthy lifestyle.
If exercise, medication, and spinal adjustments aren't effective, you may want to consider surgery.
Corrective surgery for spinal misalignment may be considered when:
- non-surgical methods failed to improve severe pain
- there are neurological symptoms
- symptoms became rapidly progressive
- quality of life is affected
Misalignment is usually corrected withspinal fusion surgery. During this procedure, the spine is fused into a correct position with screws and rods.
There are countless devices out there that claim to "fix" spinal alignment in the comfort of your own home without the need to see a doctor.
Examples include compression garments, posture pumps, andinversion tablesThe problem with these devices is that they may treat pain in the short term, but they don't necessarily help align the spine in the long term.
Other devices may be helpful for short-term pain relief, such asdozens of machines. You can buy these devices at your local pharmacy. They only provide temporary pain relief and do not correct spinal alignment problems.
Another consideration is yoursleeping alignment. Sleeping on your back is best for your spine, but may not be feasible if you snore or haveSleep apnea.
You can sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees, but you shouldn't sleep on your stomach as it's not good for your spine or neck.
Getting the right mattress can also help your back. A medium-firm mattress can help support your joints without collapsing. Placing towels and seat cushions on the chair can also provide support for the lower back and hips.
If you experience recurring back pain despite exercise and lifestyle changes, see a doctor. They can refer you to a chiropractor.
You should also see a doctor if back pain or problems walking interfere with your mobility. In addition to prescribing medical treatments, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist who can guide you through exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your movement.
Call a doctor right away if you have bladder problems or loss of feeling in your legs and feet.
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Minor issues with spinal alignment may not be a cause for concern. But it's important to see a doctor if you have any signs of misalignment to help prevent complications. If you can, consider exercising, stretching, and sitting less to help relieve pain and strengthen your core.