Anyone who's ever driven and maintained an automobile for an extended period of time has likely dealt with an alignment problem. The effects of a few simple fender-benders or a minor collision may create a misalignment that's not immediately obvious. Our bodies are very much like automobiles, and we may not realize that our own alignment is off until an ankle sprain leads to knee trouble or the occasional ache develops into chronic pain — or worse yet, we need surgery or a hip replacement.
When we lose proper alignment, we see joints begin to break down or wear out. This is due to uneven weight distribution. As a chiropractor, I understand the human body is better able to deal with stressors when there is balance in the spine, allowing the nerve system to work free of any structural interference. The focus of chiropractic care is to keep the bones of the spine (vertebrae) in their proper relationships with each other, which enhances the function of the spine and nerve system in order to allow the body to fully express its maximum potential and work optimally.
When the vertebral joints lose proper positioning and alignment, it leads to abnormal motion and movement, which affects how the brain communicates with the body and alters the firing pattern in the central nervous system. We call this nerve interference. This altered communication can affect your entire body, even your immune system. By reducing this nerve interference, your body can assume its true, healthful vigor.
To maintain proper alignment, follow these tips:
1. Work on your posture.
Practice getting into a Neutral Spine Position. This is when the pelvis, rib cage and skull are aligned on top of each other, preventing overload at any one vertebrae in the spine. When you're in this position, every movement from it activates the core muscles. When we're in alignment, we exert the least amount of energy to initiate and maintain movement, we have more balance, and there's less stress on the shoulder, hip, knee and spine joints.
2. Do exercise that promotes stabilization.
Stabilization consists of exercises that strengthen the core muscles of the back and abdomen so your spine can achieve neutral posture easier. These include (but are not limited to): squats, push-ups, planks, and lunges. Physical therapists can help with this, as they often include proprioceptive training, balance exercises and stabilization techniques in their treatment plans.
3. Practice yoga.
By balancing the muscles that flex and extend your hips, yoga promotes a healthy spine and efficient movement — and prevents back pain and injury. It can also increase strength in very specific muscle groups and work to strengthen major muscle groups that support the spine.
4. Maintain a healthy weight.
A healthy weight is essential for so many good things in life. When it comes to proper alignment, keeping your weight down can have benefits. If you are moderately overweight, there will be increased stress on joints and muscles that are already misaligned and dysfunctional. It's important to note that although extra weight can make things worse, even if you lose weight, the problem will still be there if the alignment is not corrected. There may be less stress on the misaligned joints, which could help the symptom, but it does not take away the problem.
5. Consider chiropractic care.
The best first step to achieving proper posture is to address the very thing that is causing the problem in the first place: spinal alignment. A chiropractor will be able to diagnose and correct alignment issues in the spine and give you the starting point for achieving better posture.
These are only a few tips, as there are other treatments you can incorporate — such as Pilates and massage — that can also promote spinal alignment. Remember, in the early, easiest-to-correct stages, spinal misalignments often produce no noticeable symptoms. That's why it's essential to your overall health to have a wellness plan that can identify problem areas that can be addressed before they become headaches, back pain or more serious health issues.