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Movements for a Healthy Spine

Even for those of us who have a daily fitness routine, the remainder of the day is mainly spent sitting or still on our feet, with our spines in slight flexion – curved forward.  While our lives now are considerably “easier” (read: sedentary) today than in the past, our bodies are designed for movement.  The lack of using our muscles and joints to their full potential can wreak havoc on our musculoskeletal and fascial patterns, leading to painful restrictions and poor alignment.  Back pain is one of the most common complaints in our culture, and one of its causes is lack of movement through the spine (look back on a previous blog post to see how hip immobility also plays a role!)

Our spines move in six basic directions: flexion (forward), extension (back), right/left side bending, and right/left twisting.  If you have a desk job, or any number of relatively stationary jobs, your spine remains pretty fixed for the majority of your day, whether in one, or a combination, of these postures.  Depending on your age, health, and activity level, you may not have a lot of movement through your spine- but you can always start to invite more movement, and here is a basic chair sequence you can incorporate intermittently to wake up those areas of your back that may have become stiff and achy with inattention!

Please listen to your body and only go as far as you feel comfortable doing so- small movements make a big difference over time.  These examples are shown seated at a chair; however, you can do them sitting up in bed first thing in the morning, or standing.

Forward Fold

  1. Place your feet flat on the floor, palms rest on your thighs or knees.
  2. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, press downward evenly through your palms to gently round through your spine.
  3. Keep breathing in your forward fold for as long as it feels good, or come into the backbend on your next inhale.

               

Back bend

  1. From being in your forward fold, take an inhale as you lift your chest up and out, creating length through your front body, and lightly engaging your spine.
  2. Notice if you are “crunching” through your low back or neck, and if so, back off the bend, and see if you can find more “lift” through your chest to distribute the movement evenly through each vertebra, from the base of your spine up through your neck.
  3. Flow through these movements, starting slowly, with the goal to ‘wake up’ each vertebra (Inhale, lift the chest into a backbend, exhale, round forward into a forward fold.)

               

Side Bend

  1. In a neutral position, feet flat on the floor, take a deep breath in, lifting your right arm up along your head.
  2. Exhale, bending over to your left, either letting your left arm hang, or have it support you while resting on an armrest, desk, or the seat of the chair.
  3. Keep it gentle, allowing the weight of your right arm to ease your body into the bend.
  4. Inhale up to neutral, lowering your right arm down, raising your left arm up, and exhale to repeat on the left side.
  5. Flow through the side bends, inhaling to sit up, and alternate side bending on each exhale.

               

Twisting

  1. In a neutral position, feet flat on the floor, take a deep breath in, lifting your right arm up along your head.
  2. On your exhale, gently initiate the twist from your core, taking your right arm back behind you and resting your left arm on your right side or arm rest.
  3. Option to gaze over your right shoulder or as far as your neck comfortably turns.
  4. Inhale back to neutral, lifting your left arm, and repeating the twist to the left side.
  5. Flow through the twists once you get the hang of it, inhaling in neutral, exhaling to twist.

Haley Sullivan, NCLMT #12309

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