Strengthen Your Supporting Arch
If the body is a temple the spine is the supporting arch, but it should be treated like the sanctuary. That’s because the spine has more than a duty to keep the body upright. It’s more than just a bunch of bones as it homes the pathways of our central nervous system which allows our brain to communicate with everything else in our body. We should prioritize our spine’s health in our day-to-day life as lack of care can lead to physical discomfort and make us susceptible to future complications. Spine care is an everyday task that can be optimized with a few careful steps. This leads us straight into the crux and goal of this blog entry: keeping a good posture.
Keeping correct posture is the most difficult aspect of spine care, and it won’t happen overnight - although, you can get the process going immediately. Your spine wants to be in a slight S shape with your shoulders squared and your hip tucked in. Often, achieving this position is relatively easy, making it a subconscious and natural stance is where the difficulty lies.
· For starters, imagine a string tied to the back of your head. Now imagine someone lightly tugging it back as if you were a marionette. Your head should be lifted and held high and proud.
· Then, tighten your shoulders by pulling them back slightly (without puffing your chest out like a bird). They should be squared and back, not rounded and hunched.
· Tuck your pelvis in using your gluts. Stand up straight and distribute weight evenly between both your feet.
At this stage, you may feel slight discomfort – if not – great, just keep practicing until it becomes your natural stance. If you are feeling discomfort, then read on.
I frequently explain to patients who visit me about posture and back pain at the Mount Sinai Center of Rehabilitative Medicine that their discomfort in standing straight usually stems from underdeveloped supporting muscles. Either this, or the pain they are experiencing is due to their body weight – and I’ll explain why.
For every kilo you lose, your spine frees 8 kilos worth of tension, which means that thinner people put less strain on their spine and heavier people put on more. But an exercise regime isn’t just about losing weight, in fact, that is just a bonus. The real benefit comes from strengthening the muscles that support the skeletal structure.
Think about it, there are plenty of athletes who would score high on the BMI scale for being overweight, consequently meaning their back should be under high levels of pressure, but do not suffer from back problems as their muscles are sufficiently developed to handle the extra stress. Once your muscles have been adequately strengthened, holding the aforementioned posture will no longer be uncomfortable.
The balancing act lies between being at a suitable weight comparative to your core strength. That’s why a focus on exercising the abdominals and lower back muscles will immediately reduce the impact the spine sustains throughout everyday life.
But of course, make sure your lifting technique is spot-on. There would be nothing worse than damaging your spine in your attempt to strengthen it.