Best Exercises for Spinal Health

 Best Exercises for Spinal Health

            Chiropractors are no strangers to incorporating exercise into their spinal manipulation treatment plans, and in fact, are often necessary. It is best that we are able to utilize all tools in our figurative toolbox not least of which being exercise both in office and at home. Moving the body is a vital part of keeping the body in a pain-free state as well as maintaining spine mobility and health.

Importance of Spinal Health

            There are an infinite number of reasons that spinal health is arguably one of the most important things in the body to keep healthy. Many things can cause spinal problems from injuries to daily life caused by things like poor posture and lack of exercise. Spinal health is important because it impacts the patient’s overall health being that the spine controls the body’s vital functions via the central nervous system. Additionally, the spine plays an important role in sending sensory information such as cold, hot, pain or pressure. Although neck and back pain are the most common symptoms of poor spinal health, if the problems progress, there can also be nerve and spinal cord compression issues leading to numbness in the limbs.
The importance of a healthy spine is imperative to perform everyday tasks or movements that are often not thought of like bending over, sitting up straight, walking, etc. Any of these common movements can become very difficult and painful to move through seemingly simple tasks as well as create a lower quality of life. Overall, we should express to our patients that spinal health is important for all of the above, but also, for their general health and well-being.


Maintaining Spinal Health

            Our goal as chiropractic providers is to provide the knowledge that patient’s need both in and out of the office in order to maintain their spinal health, and in turn, quality of life. This most often includes lifestyle changes in addition to spinal manipulations.

Basic Ways for Patients to Maintain a Healthy Spine:

  • Balanced diet – eating foods with the proper amount of nutrients and vitamins is essential such as Vitamin D3, magnesium, and calcium which are great for muscle and bone. Water intake is also amongst the most important things to convey to patients to upkeep, especially when it comes to the spine. Proper water intake enables the body to maintain disc height and keep soft tissue electricity.
  • Ergonomic adjustments in the workplace – this can go a long way in being helpful to keep the spine healthy by keeping the computer at eye level. Additionally, using furniture such as office chairs that provide good support for the back, and sit/stand desks that allow patients to not sit for long hours in the same position. If the desk isn’t an option, suggest that they take regular breaks and/or change their seated position whenever possible.
  • Sleep position – essentially, if the patient is a stomach sleeper, try to have them avoid sleeping this way as it puts far more pressure on the spine. Have the patient obtain a leg pillow to keep between their legs to maintain a lateral position and therefore a better sleeping posture for the back.
  • Exercise on a regular basis – maintaining a gentle exercise schedule promotes blood circulation within the body increasing joint flexibility. Patients should know that even the simplest of activities like swimming or walking can help their muscles stay active. Additionally, being sure that their exercise routine contains core strengthening is a must when it comes to maintaining a healthy spine.

Incorporating regular exercise with chiropractic treatment is one of the most sure-fire ways to maintain a healthy spine even as a patient gets older. Chiropractors that include exercise as part of their treatment plan find that chronic pain is often further reduced as a result, and the areas of the brain that decrease pain are activated by regular exercise. However, the time in which exercise is incorporated into a patient’s chiropractic treatment plan is crucial. Incorporating it too early in the treatment plan can hinder the effects of an adjustment. It is best to introduce various exercises slowly once the patient is on their way to recovery to maintain the corrected positions of the spine and speed up recovery.

Chiropractic Spine-Strengthening Exercises:

  • Trunk Rotation – the patient will lie on their back with knees bent, then have them allow their knees to gently fall to one side while keeping their shoulders flat. Return the knees to the center, and then allow them to fall gently to the other side. Repeat 5 times on each side.
  • Cat/Cow Stretches – the patient will position themselves on their hands and knees with hands parallel to the shoulders and knees parallel to the hips. While sucking in the abdominal muscles, lift the lower and middle back like a cat tipping the head forward. Then, do the opposite, pushing the abdomen and upper back down while lifting the head up. This should be done slowly 5 times.
  • Leg Extensions – the patient will lay on the back with the straight spine pulling the knees up and heels toward the buttocks. The feet should be kept flat on the floor. Extend the legs again and repeat 5 times.
  • Leg Lifts – the patient will lay on the right side supporting their head with their right arm. They will then lift the left leg up to hold at a 45-degree angle for a total of 30 seconds. Lower the leg and repeat the process 5 times, then switch to the other side and do the same.
  • Pelvic Tilt/Bridge – the patient will lie on their back with knees bent and arms at the sides. Lift the spine up off the floor or mattress one vertebrae at a time, and hold for a few seconds. Then roll back down in the opposite order. Rest for a few seonds, and then repeat 3 times.
  • Back Extension – the patient can lie face down on an exercise ball or flat on the floor and lift the chest off the ground.
  • Pointer – the patient will get on their hands and knees, and kick one leg straight behind them and reach out forward with opposite arm. Hold this for 10 – 30 seconds depending on the patient’s strength, and switch sides. This will strengthen the back muscles and core.
  • Walking – this can be recommended for at home exercise. Upright movement at a steady pace is beneficial for raising blood pressure around the spine.

Exercises that may hurt the back and hinder chiropractic treatment:

  • Running
  • Full Sit-ups – these put pressure on the neck and back rather than strengthening the core.
  • Toe Touches – these put a lot of pressure on the spine.
  • Lifting Weights – can cause lower back strains since lifting weights in a certain way leaves the lower back compromised such as in good morning lifts or military presses.
  • Full Squats – when squatting past the 90-degree angle the spine’s flexibility decreases, and causes the hips to go backward and the torso forward. This puts unnecessary strain on the lower back.

The benefit of incorporating exercise into the chiropractic treatment plan is not only is it helpful for the patient’s spine health, but it allows them to see and feel the value in their chiropractic care. Utilizing proper spine strengthening exercises can also potentially rectify other issues that the patient is dealing with and didn’t realize was from spinal misalignment and poor spinal health. According to research, incorporating exercise can reduce chronic pain overall, and as chiropractic providers, that is always the goal. Align the spine!