My Spinal Hygiene Routine
My Spinal Hygiene Routine
Desk jobs are everywhere and unavoidable in our modern working culture. Even my job as a chiropractor requires a lot more sitting and typing than I would like it to. Extended sitting over a career can lead to many conditions such as weight gain and musculoskeletal pain syndromes like headaches, neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, and hip tightness just to name a few. These conditions often persist because of inadequate self care at home. To best illustrate this, let’s take a look at another common complaint that I can’t really do anything about - dental cavities.
The idea of regular dental hygiene was not always as common as it is today. Dentists used to be seen more or less as emergency tooth doctors who would fill cavities, drill root canals, and repair broken or lost teeth, and other fun things. Most people would only go if they had a pressing issue. All that began to change in the 1950s when the dentistry profession banded together to promote a novel idea - dental hygiene. Now it’s commonplace to brush twice a day, floss daily (okay, once in a while), and to visit your dentist’s office every 6 months for a checkup and cleaning. This has proven to help prevent cavities in teeth. What can regular chiropractic checkups and a home spinal hygiene program do for your health? Has any doctor in the past helped you develop a spinal hygiene routine, or did they just give you a temporary treatment and send you out the door?
Why have a spinal hygiene program?
Most of us don’t really move too much. Even my GrossFit Games patients have times where they feel like they don’t get as much movement in as they’d like to. If you exercise regularly (and you should!), most of what we do in the gym takes place in what is referred to as the sagittal plane which divides you into left and right halves. See the image below for an illustration. Any exercise that takes place in an up/down or front/back pattern typically is a sagittal plane movement. Think about a deadlift, running, jumping, biceps curls, or swimming. Those movements all involve either you moving an object or your body through space in a straight line up and down or front to back. Sitting is also a sagittal plane activity. It’s no surprise that many of us experience nagging musculoskeletal complaints when we live our life only in one plane of motion when we are built to move in all three planes! Unless you’re a field athlete (soccer, rugby, etc.) you probably don’t pay much attention to anything moving in the frontal plane. A great example of a frontal plane movement is that “grapevine” drill from middle school gym class. Most of us entirely neglect the transverse plane, which is where rotation lives.
What can I do?
Easy, just move in all three planes daily! Wait, you don’t know any transverse plane movements? That’s fine, most of the movements outlined below are transverse plane dominant.
Here is my own personal spinal hygiene routine that I perform daily, often multiple times per day. This is best done in the morning and/or as part of your warm-up for a workout. It only takes about 5 minutes to perform, but the benefits can last all day! Be sure that you watch the embedded videos for full explanations for each movement. Although these movements are generally pretty well-tolerated by most of my patients, never force yourself into positions that are painful or where you can’t breathe easily. Feel free to modify them to fit your skills and ability level. Just because I can touch my toes doesn’t mean you have to. If you find that one side is more restricted than the other, feel free to do a few extra reps. Need some extra help? Click below to schedule a consultation!
10 reps per side of:
Side lying thread the needle