The alignment of your spine is extremely important because when it’s misaligned, it can lead to chronic pain, injury, or any number of health issues. Over time, a misaligned spine disrupts joint and disc health, neuro-communication, range of motion, immune response, and nerve dysfunction. The spine is the foundational support system for your entire body, and every movement you make engages it.
Following these spine alignment tips can help you preserve a healthy spinal alignment and prevent many painful ailments associated with poor spinal health.
Seven Tips for Maintaining Proper Spine Alignment
For a healthy back and a robust range of motion, it’s important to implement the following practices to maintain proper spine alignment:
1. Maintain Good Posture
Poor posture places stress on the spine and is a common cause of chronic neck and back pain. You can improve your posture by training your body to stand, walk, sit, and lay so that your muscles and ligaments receive the least amount of strain while you move or perform weight-bearing activities. Common poor postures include:
- Rounded shoulders and/or back.
- Forward head posture.
- Tilted pelvis.
- Resting on one leg or the other while standing.
- High shoulder.
- Twisting pelvis or ribcage.
- Belly sticking out due to forward pelvic position.
- Head tilts.
- Ribcage shifting to the side.
Paying attention to your body will help you avoid spending prolonged time in these positions and disrupting your spinal alignment. The following rules can help you practice having better posture in your day-to-day activities:
- Stand tall, but don’t exaggerate.
- If you notice forward head posture, try to pull your head back 25%. Pulling it back 50-100% may be overcorrection and can cause pain if held.
- Gently align your shoulders back without pushing your chest out.
- While standing, align your hips over the center of your ankles. Your weight should be in the middle to the back of your arch and never in the balls of your feet
- While sitting, keep your knees even with your hips (bent at a right angle) and your feet flat on the floor.
- Keep your back straight but not tense. Your ears should be over the middle of your shoulders, your shoulders should be over your hips, and your hips should be over your ankles.
- If you are not sure what your poor postures are, have a friend take a picture while you are at what you feel is neutral.
2. Strengthen Core and Back Muscles
Stretching and strengthening your back and core muscles can provide the additional help you need to maintain good spinal alignment. Specifically combining targeted strengthening exercises for your core and back with compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups will increase your muscle strength and balance and allow you to maintain your spinal health. Remember, most core exercises are balanced, meaning you train everything, but poor posture by definition is an imbalance. If you train in balance, you will become stronger and maintain your current posture, but the poor posture will likely remain. To correct a poor posture, you will need to overtrain the opposite of the poor posture.
Similarly, when weight lifting, proper form is very important. Each workout will tend to reinforce the poor posture, especially when your body starts to fatigue at the end of your sets. Watching yourself in a mirror, video recording yourself, or having someone watch your posture as you exercise are great techniques to work on proper posture and work out safely.
3. Use the Proper Lifting Technique
Bending incorrectly to lift objects places a huge strain on your spine and contributes to lower back pain. The proper lifting technique involves keeping your lower back arched and your mid-back straight, bending your knees with a widened stance, and using your leg power to help lift the object. It’s important to avoid bending from the waist with your knees straight. When lifting, you should also tighten your core muscles to further avoid stress on your spine.
4. Support Your Spine While Sleeping
It’s also important to maintain a good sleeping posture, as your sleeping position should support your spine and allow it to rest. Depending on how you sleep, the following practices can allow for optimal spinal support:
- When sleeping on your back, place a small pillow under your knees to reduce stress and support the natural curve in your spine.
- When sleeping on your side, place a firm pillow between your legs with your knees slightly bent to maintain your spinal alignment.
- Your pillow should be chosen dependent on the type of sleep position you prefer. The mattress you choose should also be based on what you prefer, although mattresses that are of medium firmness have been shown to give the best support for the spine.
5. Avoid Smoking
Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor. It restricts blood flow, which reduces oxygen and nutrition to the spine. This process can cause inflammation and degradation in the spine and throughout the body. In the long-term, smoking can eventually cause spinal disc degeneration, bulging, and/or rupture.
6. Wear Supportive Footwear
In addition to supporting your body weight and absorbing shock during walking and running, your feet play a crucial role in helping your spine maintain its proper alignment. Wearing shoes that don’t provide adequate support or that place too much pressure on one part of your foot can cause spinal misalignment over time. A good pair of shoes will help keep the spine and body aligned by providing a supportive base and preventing your feet from rolling outward or inward too often. Even a basic orthotic such as superfeet or mojo feet are great options to help make any shoe a good shoe.
Note: Do not put orthotics in shoes that already have significant arch support; instead, find a neutral or flat shoe.
7. Visit a Chiropractor
Perhaps the most important spine alignment tip is to visit a chiropractor. Chiropractic care focuses on restoring and maintaining the spine in its proper spinal motion to promote optimal body function. An examination can pinpoint exactly what is causing your spinal misalignment so that it can be treated accordingly. In addition, chiropractors can help you improve your posture and maintain a healthy spinal alignment.
At PostureWorks, we focus on the individual. We go beyond maintaining spinal motion and assess your current spinal alignment and posture and use Chiropractic BioPhysics® to target the best alignment for you to help you achieve your spinal health goals. After determining your unique and optimal spinal alignment, we provide a comprehensive plan for fixing any current misalignment issues and keeping your spine in a healthy position long-term to not only alleviate any chronic pain associated with misalignment but also improve your physical performance and quality of life.
Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health and optimal function while eliminating the source of pain and circulatory and nervous dysfunction. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive. For more spine alignment tips, contact us today to schedule a consultation and be one step closer to a pain-free life.