We all have heard the saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is no more applicable than when dealing with your health . We understand that by taking a proactive approach to health we may reduce injury, disease, and sickness. A popular example practiced by most is dental care. We brush, rinse, floss (yes, we need to floss) and have our periodic check-ups with the dentist. We understand that if we don’t care for our teeth, we will lose them, a simple concept indeed.
We can apply this behavior and use it as a model for other health decisions. Adequate exercise, proper nutrition, and the need for rest all can be categorized as preventive practices for good health and well-being. Few could argue that statement. Until recently, this proactive approach has not been applied to the care and maintenance of the spine, the bony framework that houses our nervous system. Why? Before we answer that question, let us understand the structure and function of this marvel of engineering that we call the spine. The human spine consists of twenty-four moveable bones, called vertebrae, and nine non-moveable bones (sacrum and coccyx). The primary purpose of the spine is to support the body to resist gravity and act as a conduit between the upper and lower extremities and trunk. More importantly, the spine houses and protects our most precious organ system, the nervous system. Specifically, the spine surrounds the spinal cord which connects the brain to all tissues and organs of the body. Thus, the spinal cord is the “communication superhighway” that sends, receives, and processes instructions for nearly every single bodily function that exists. The structure, function, and overall health of the spinal column are directly related to the operation of the nervous system, including the spinal cord and brain. The spine is literally the “brain-body” connection.
Many people seek the help of a chiropractor when they have back or neck pain, maybe even for other conditions like headaches, numbness, and sciatica. But if we take the information just discussed and apply it to chiropractic, we would have to conclude that this is a reactive approach toward health . Similar to dental health , spinal health requires proactive behavior. Let us look at the importance of the spine during an aerobic activity such as running. The most efficient runners will utilize the least amount of muscular effort of the spine, head, and trunk necessary to accomplish the run. This simply leaves more energy for the legs and arms to work. A runner’s posture and spinal structure are important factors in determining how much muscular effort is exerted. The more distorted or misaligned the runner is, the more energy needed to perform.
Remember, the spine is intimately connected to the function of the nervous system. The runner’s brain and spinal cord are relaying messages through the spinal column to and from the heart, lungs, muscles, joints, blood vessels, sweat glands, and a multitude number of other areas. The result is a regulation and dents and falls, or minor ongoing traumas such as strenuous exercise, repetitive motions, working on a computer, driving, and poor sleeping habits. The most common children’s stressors include carrying heavy backpacks, reading, sports, and video game playing. Have you ever seen an elderly person slumped over hunchback style? Did they just wake up like that one day,or was the decay of their posture due to an accumulation of minor traumas and stresses over the course of life? Does it make sense to wait until your cholesterol is off the charts to begin eating healthy? Does it make sense to wait for a heart attack before starting to exercise? Does it make sense to wait for cavities before starting to brush, floss, and visit the dentist? Does it make sense to wait for spinal decay, pain, numbness, and a hunchback before taking a proactive approach towards your spine?
The wellness movement is here. People living to 100 years old are one of the fastest growing segments of our population. A healthy spine is a necessary component to living and performing at your potential at work or at play. Think proactively rather than reactively. If you are one of the new centenarians, the health choices you make today, will certainly effect the quality of your life when you reach 100!