Here at Reflex Spinal Health we have come up with our 5 key ‘Pillars of Health’ that we believe are the key ingredients to have a happy and healthy spine and body! The pillars of health are set out here, in no particular order of importance. Each section has been written by one of our fantastic Reading Chiropractors or Osteopaths. Since COVID Lockdown has continued for so long this advice is even more important that usual! There has also been a recent piece on the BBC website on 5 ways to reduce lockdown back pain – it’s worth a look also!
The first of the pillars of health is hydration. Two thirds of your body is made of water, so this is important!! Good hydration Is key to our spinal health. The gelatinous part of the disc that sits between of vertebrae offers support, mobility and shock absorption Is predominantly water. They reduce the pressure put on our spine In every movement we do from getting out of bed, to sitting at our desks, to playing football in the evenings. If your discs dehydrate, the the pressure increases on your spine and you are more likely to experience problems. Most people are chronically dehydrated and don’t even know it! Make sure you’re consistently drinking good quality fluids (not fizzy drinks and coffee) throughout the day and not only will this help your spine, you’ll probably see a difference In those nagging afternoon headaches and even your sporting performance! Read this earlier blog by us as a guide to how to hydrate and how much water to drink.
Sleep is crucial for everybody but the way we sleep can affect the alignment of our spine. As well as the abnormal sleeping position, not enough sleep can contribute to a poor health and increased pain in our body like lower back pain or neck pain. Your spine works very hard all day and every day, supporting your body and it’s movements. Therefore we must give our spine a good quality of sleep to maintain this function.
It’s important to sleep in the best possible position but also pick the right mattress and the right pillow, and to use additional cushions or bolsters if needed.
Let’s not forget about staying hydrated at all times as this will unquestionably improve the quality of sleep, and let all the connective tissues and joints to repair. Make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep every day!
We talk about Posture all day every day. It is a really important part of your health. Maintaining a healthy posture ensures that your bones stay aligned and tension through your muscles and ligaments are balanced. If posture is neglected this balance can become disrupted, leading to some muscles becoming overused and other muscled becoming neglected and losing their strength. Poor posture can also put undue pressure on some joints, disks and nerves. Good posture is described as having your shoulders back, chest open and ears in line with your shoulders. This position allows your muscles to relax and your head to be carried by the skeleton and ligaments. Are you reading this on your mobile or laptop? If so take note of where your head is positioned and SIT UP!
We commonly see shoulders hunched and head forwards. Take the head for example, weighing in on average at around 10lb. Every inch your head sits forward its weight increases by 50%. The extra weight is carried by the muscles of your neck and upper back. They get tired, sore and can give you tension headaches or neck pain.
A lot of our work, as chiropractors and osteopaths, is directed at enabling your body to move into a healthier posture. Once this has been achieved we hand the baton over to you to maintain this posture. At Reflex Spinal Health we can help you complete a spinal rehabilitation program. A rehab program aims to strengthen those long neglected muscles allowing your body to maintain that improved posture and he happy and healthy for longer.
Many of the 5 pillars of health principles are very closely aligned to Andy Green’s book; One Body One Life: Don’t Screw it Up! In the book Andy discusses functional health, and its constituent elements of: Framework, Fuel and Feel. At Reflex we have had lots of great feedback about how useful the book has been, and how clearly it is written. To find out more, or to grab a copy yourself click the link here
….and back to the 5 pillars of health…
Exercise is crucial for the health of our spines!! Yes, that’s right, CRUCIAL! And I’m kindly going to let you all know why. Our intervertebral discs are the shock absorbers of the spine and they stop our vertebrae from grinding against one another. This allows us to have the flexibility to bend and twist without causing irritation to the spine. Pretty cool, right? I would say that because I’m an osteopath, obviously. But it is cool, end of story. Oh and one more thing about our cool discs, they help to protect all of the nerves which exit the spine, which supply all of the muscles and organs in our bodies. Woah, they just got even cooler!
Anyway, back to why exercise is important for our spines. When we exercise the intervertebral discs exchange fluid which is how they receive the nutrients to function properly. If there is a lack of movement in our spines the discs can become malnourished and degenerate. This can increase the rate of arthritis in our spines. Do you really want that? No, me neither!
Another reason why exercise is good for our spines is that it helps to strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine which gives it more stability. This results in less chance of injury and again slows down the degenerative process. Exercise helps to keep our tendons and ligaments flexible. Increased mobility means these structures are less likely to be damaged when under tension.
If the last paragraph won’t encourage you to exercise to help your spinal health I don’t know what will! A quick piece of advice. Find something you enjoy and can keep doing consistently and you’ll be on your way to a healthy spine. Then maintain your exercise, whilst also maintaining your spinal adjustments by our amazing Chiropractors and Osteopaths here at Reflex Spinal Health.
Another important element to exercise is rest and recuperation. This is one of the many benefits of soft tissue therapy. At Reflex most of the specific soft tissue therapy is done by our team of highly trained clinical massage therapists. In many cases your healing process may be accelerated by combining chiropractic or osteopathy with soft tissue therapy.
Your brain is your mainframe computer that works 24/7 to process information from every cell in your body. It then processes the information and send messages out to adapt to whatever needs arise. From wiggling your little finger, to interpreting sight to controlling the rate of which we breath! Some of these messages our conscious brain doesn’t even know about, it’s so clever.
Your brain creates the messages, then sends these down into our spinal cord, and out into our nerves to which ever section of the body needs the message! In other words these messages are sent out of the computer and are whizzed along wires to the appropriate receiver. If you cut these wires, unfortunately there is no way (currently) of mending these back together. So if you cut the spinal cord at waist level you wont be able to move your legs as the messages from the brain can’t reach them.
Thinking back to GCSE/O Level science you can also put resistance on the wires. If we increased the resistance of a wire to a light bulb, that light bulb would become dimmer and dimmer. Reduce the resistance to the light bulb and suddenly it is as bright as can be! This same process can happen to our nerves. If there is an area in our spine which is not functioning correctly it puts irritation on our nerves, effectively increasing resistance on our circuit and interrupting the nerve signals. This can lead to muscle weakness, pain and pins and needles. This is why we are obsessed with the spine and how it works! Now you Know!
Quite often we have people present to us with symptoms that don’t quite appear to be a normal musculoskeletal presentation. One of the techniques we can use to check the nervous system using the Neurological Integration System (NIS). This technique bases its treatment methods on the neurophysiological principle that the brain governs function of all the body’s systems through its neurological circuitry. Find out more about Neurological Integration System (NIS) at Reflex Spinal Health in Reading here.
I hope that our 5 pillars of health have been useful, or have got you thinking about at least on of the elements that you can improve!
17 Church Road, Caversham, Reading, Berkshire RG4 7AA
Reflex Spinal Health are a passionate, dynamic spinal health team. We are committed to help as many in our community of Reading, Berkshire and South Oxfordshire to enjoy the vitality of great health, to reach their health goals and feel truly alive! Our chiropractors and osteopaths offer the highest standards of care in a superb environment.