Training a Healthy Spine

healthy spine

This is an article written for those of you that have lived through a back injury. It could have been that box you picked up awkwardly while helping a friend move, or that hard slip on the ice during our chilly winter months. Either way, I think we can all agree on one thing; we’d rather give Donald Trump daily sponge baths while we are naked in the tub with him, obviously face to face, legs intertwined, than have to go through that agony again. Do you want a healthy spine that feels good in every movement? You’ve come to the right place.

Your spine essentially controls everything you do. The muscles and nerves attached to, and surrounding it, are responsible for keeping you in motion and moving properly. So, what happens when we keep it in horrible positions for extended periods of time? Injury.

There is always going to be a natural curvature to your spine. Also, no two spines are made the same. What you need to figure out, is whether or not you are in YOUR optimal position for pain-free movements and longevity. 

Driving, computering (yes, it’s a verb), standing in high heels all day for years at work, excessive arching to stick that booty out, are all responsible for changing the natural curve of your spine, and when that curve changes, you create problems. Not just problems at your spine, but because your extremities are controlled by the muscles that are fed by the nerves which are all controlled by the spine, you’d better believe you want as many free pathways as possible.

Let’s first begin with the ladies. From a young age, you’re shown by the media that sticking your chest out and up, as well as driving the hips back is what will give you a look of confidence and beauty. Did the media also tell you that this will probably lead to eventual sciatic nerve issues as well as possible disk bulges? Probably not. They tend to keep that info out. Not the best selling feature. The truth is that keeping you in excessive lordosis isn’t doing you any favours. You need to bring yourself back to a relative version of neutral and get rid of that booty pop. 

The best way to achieve this is to lay on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. This is where you make deep core muscles work, and learn to control them. Think of your abdominals like a sexy onion. You want all layers to work together to create control. Put your hand on your lower abdomen and think about the muscles that are under your superficial “abdominals”. Learn how to contract those, without contracting your “abs”. Then, while breathing from your lower abdomen, contract your abdominals and obliques on top of that. Keep breathing. Now, your lower back will be closer to the floor. Keep that contraction, then practice marching. Lift one foot up, then set it down. Other side. Do this until it gets easy to do 10 on each side. Then lift your feet off of the floor and do the same. This will work to strengthen all of those muscles and pull you into a better pelvic position, putting much less strain on the lower back.

Now, gentlemen. Our problems generally come from the upper back. We round. A lot. Our shoulder blades are so pulled forward that our back looks as smooth as an ocean. We want to get those muscles to a point that it looks like a bag of angry snakes back there. Now, if we can’t help the amount we drive, pick up heavy things, or sit in front of a computer, we can at least work to even it out a bit. 

Lay on your side. Bend your top leg up towards your chest and prop it up on a pillow just above your hip. Straighten both arms out in front of you, and with your top arm, use your index finger to draw a circle up and over your head, but try to keep your finger on the ground the entire time that you are executing the movement. Follow that hand with your eyes. Finish the movement with that arm completely in line with your arm that stayed in the starting position. If you can keep that finger on the ground for the whole movement, congrats! You are one of the few. If not, that’s something to work on to get better rotation and extension through those muscles around your spine, which will help combat future injuries.

Remember, it’s not about getting the spine completely straight, that won’t happen. It’s about getting to a point that all of your muscles work together to support your spine, and to keep you healthy for a few more years before you’re hunched over your walker, checking out the nurses in the retirement home.  

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