Chiropractic care is often sought for an ache or a pain that people may be experiencing. Pain is an excellent reason for pursuing chiropractic care, but there is a more important reason to be assessed and under the care of a chiropractor – to prevent such issues. Over time, physical stresses can add up and wear your body down, which eventually surface as a symptom such as pain or inability to do certain activities (dysfunction). Often people ask me in my clinic, “Where did this pain come from? I wasn’t in an accident, and I didn’t strain anything I’m aware of, but one day, I just realized…I was hurting!” This is the most common presentation I deal with. It actually has a fancy medical name: insidious onset pain.
Let’s use an analogy we’re all familiar with – our cars. People have different approaches when taking care of their car, just like people have different approaches for caring for themselves. Some people just take their car into their mechanic when it’s making weird noises, or becomes barely drivable. Others tend to be more on top of things and follow their mechanic’s recommendations for oil changes, new brake pads, etc. (you get the idea) rather than waiting for the car to completely break down before taking it in. Our bodies are much the same…except, you can’t trade your body in for a new one at the end of the lease! With taking care of our bodies (and our cars), prevention is much better in the long-run, both for our health and overall cost. When it comes to taking care of your teeth, blood pressure, keeping a healthy weight, joints, and muscles, and of course, your spine, prevention is paramount!
Often, our lifestyles result in too little motion of our joints, such as working a desk job, schoolwork, or a sedentary lifestyle. On the other hand, some people use and abuse their bodies which results in “wear and tear” of the joints and soft tissues, and scar tissue forms to protect the joints which also results in reduced motion of our joints. This is true in many joints such as the shoulders, hips, and especially the spine. All the physical and postural stress (and other stresses in your life) can add up. Enter – preventative care.
Some people are unsure what preventative care entails at a chiropractor’s office. My main goal is to ensure that people are thoroughly assessed in regards to:
- Posture: how much extra pressure is the spine dealing with on a daily basis?
- Movement of the spinal joints: are there certain areas that are not doing their fair share (“hypomobility”), while other areas of the spine do the majority of the work (“hypermobility”)?
- The function and stabilization of the pelvis: the pelvis is the base of support for the spine. Are all the muscles and nerves doing their job to keep the pelvis stable, or does the spine have a weak base of support? Does one leg appear longer than the other due to a malposition of the pelvis?
- Balance: Are there muscular and joint imbalances present that could cause issues over time?
Using the above points as a starting point, we can take some objective measurements and make sure we see improvement at a re-examination down the road. Who doesn’t like to see progress? Of course, there is some homework involved that includes individualized rehabilitative exercises and some spinal awareness and stretches, but they are generally quick and it’s worth it!
Here are a few ideas that can get you started taking care of your spine at home, even before seeing a chiropractor:
- Foam rolling: using a foam roller on your mid-back is a great start to help reverse the overflexion we’re all accustomed to sitting at desks and looking down at phones. Pick a smooth foam roller, and focus on your mid-back (don’t use it on your neck or low back). You can also use it on your hips, glutes, and legs.
- Neck retractions: if you take your neck and go straight back, holding for 10 seconds at a time to form a double chin, this can help strengthen the “deep neck flexors” which are responsible for your neck posture. Most of us carry our heads forward, which is a lot of extra work for our neck joints and all the sensitive nerves in our necks don’t like that!
- Yoga, or mobility work: our bodies don’t often get the chance to use its full range of motion on a daily basis. Utilizing mobility work or yoga (I use yoga on an app called FitOn most days of the week) keeps our bodies moving. Give it a try!
Hopefully a few of these take-home points provide you with some direction, and if you decide you’d like a further investigation into the health of your spine, visiting a chiropractor is a great place to start!
Dr. Ben Tucker is a chiropractor, health enthusiast, and blessed to be a father of 4 beautiful girls. More info about his chiropractic clinic based in London Ontario can be found at www.riversidechiropractic.ca