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I often get asked by patients what they can do keep their spine aligned. In the last article I discussed what causes your spine to go out of alignment. So if we look at the causes we can find strategies to help you keep your spine aligned. Some of the causes include: being sedentary, mental stress, poor eating habits, being overweight, flat feet, previous injuries and damage to your spine, and getting too much exercise. Let’s discuss each of these in the context of what you can do to keep your spine aligned in addition to your chiropractic adjustments.
Stand and move more at work to keep your spine aligned
Living a sedentary lifestyle causes your spine to go out of alignment. So you’re going to have to start moving more to keep your spine aligned and more mobile. Here are some strategies to start with if you are sitting for prolonged periods of time at work:
- Using a standing desk ,or better yet a treadmill desk, can get you out of the chair so you’re more upright and moving more.
- Use the stairs versus the elevator
- Park or get off the bus further away from your office and walk the rest of the way
- Run, walk, or bike to work
- Go for a walk for in-person meetings
- Do some of these stretches during your break
Get regular exercise to keep your spine aligned
If you sit a lot at work and do not exercise regularly, my recommendation would be to start off slowly and do light exercise. This means start moving and standing more at work like I just mentioned. Find an exercise you enjoy so you will be more likely to stick with it. Light exercise could include something like walking, cycling, swimming, or gardening.
Start off doing 20 minutes of light exercise three times per week. Over time extend the times, number of days, and increase the intensity. Work up to the following:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week (like jogging, yoga, or dancing); or,
- 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week (like running, Zumba, or playing sports); or,
- 30 minutes of highest-intensity exercise per week (like sprinting, jumping rope, or resistance training)
Rest and recover from exercise is important to keep your spine aligned
Too much exercise or overtraining can lead to tension in your spine, injuries, and spinal misalignments. Your body needs proper rest and recovery to heal and function properly. This means getting good quality sleep and making sure you have days where you aren’t doing high intensity exercises.
Manage mental stress to reduce tension in your nerves, muscles, and spine
Mental stress creates tension in your nerves and muscles which can cause your spine to go out of alignment. Learning how to manage stress helps calm your nervous system down and keep your spine aligned. Here are a list of some strategies to help you manage stress better:
- Learn to say no to things that drain your time and energy and say yes to things that are worth your time and energy
- Start eating real whole foods (see below) versus refined packaged foods
- Get good quality sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Stop comparing yourself to others and be grateful for what you do have
- Accept that you will have challenging times and that this is part of the human experience
- Have faith in a higher power and know that this higher power is guiding you and challenging you
- Develop stronger social support if you don’t have this and hang out with people whom you resonate with and draw positive energy from
- Reduce or stop watching mainstream news
- Reduce the amount of time you spend on social media
- Reframe your mind when going through a stressful event and try to look for the positive in that experience
For a more extensive list of strategies download How to Manage Your Stress or seek out professional help from a psychologist.
Eat healthy food to build a stronger mind and body
Eating unhealthy food leads to poor brain, nerve and muscle function. Poor spinal alignment can result. Eating healthy foods supports your brain, nerves and muscles helping to keep your spine aligned.
Here is a list of healthy foods:
- Grass-fed and wild meats
- Wild fish/seafood
- Free range poultry
- Free range eggs
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy oils (olive,walnut, flax seed, macadamia, avocado, coconut, palm)
- Healthy fats (pork lard, duck fat, beef tallow, chicken fat, butter)
A general rule of thumb is to eat healthy 80-90% of the time. Being too stringent with your diet can be stressful for most people. So indulging once in awhile can help you to keep enjoying food and life.
Lose weight to keep your spine aligned
Being overweight or obese puts a tremendous amount of stress on your spine. So figure out how to lose weight to keep your spine aligned and healthier.
Losing weight can be more complex than just eating healthy and exercising regularly. Hypothyroidism and and other hormone problems can lead to weight gain. As well, there is emerging research on how an unhealthy gut microbiome can lead to obesity. (1)
If you have truly tried eating healthy and exercising to lose weight and have been unsuccessful, I would suggest that you get a thorough health audit done by a naturopath or a functional medicine doctor. A naturopath or functional medicine doctor do a more thorough history and tests than a conventional medical doctor. These tests might include more extensive blood tests, gut testing (stool, urine, or breath tests), and hormone testing (urine and saliva testing and/or blood tests).
Here is some more information on how losing weight can help your spine.
Get good quality sleep to help keep your spine aligned
Poor quality of sleep messes up the ability of your body and mind to work optimally. For example, poor sleep can lead to excess inflammation, excess eating and weight gain, and suppresses your immune system to heal well. As well, it causes your brain and nerves to be in a stressed state.
Here are some suggestions to get a good sleep:
- Make sleep a priority and go to bed at the same time every night
- Keep your bedroom cool during the night (about 18 degrees celsius)
- Have a hot shower before going to bed
- Exercise regularly but not vigorous in the evening
- Avoid or reduce the amount of screen time at the computer or your devices 2-3 hours before bed
- Start eating healthy to stabilize your blood sugar levels
- Try a weighted blanket
- Learn to manage your stress
- Try taking a natural sleep aid before bed like with a combination of melatonin, L-theanine, and 5-HTP. Magnesium can also help.
- Get outside to expose yourself to natural light
Here is some more in depth information on sleep tips.
Get custom foot orthotics to keep your spine aligned
Unstable arches in the feet, like flat feet, affect the majority of the population in the modern world. Flat feet can cause your spine to go out of alignment more quickly. So if you’re getting chiropractic adjustments on a regular basis, wearing custom foot orthotics can help keep your spine aligned.
Read more on how custom foot orthotics could help you.
Reduce or eliminate chronic inflammation
Chronic inflammation puts your brain and nervous system into a stressed state. Poor eating habits, being overweight, and poor sleep are causes of chronic inflammation. Here are some other causes of chronic inflammation:
- underlying gut problems (eg. irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, Crohn’s)
- problems with stress hormones
- mold toxicity
- heavy metal toxicity
- chronic conditions like Lyme disease
Finding the underlying source(s) of your inflammation can be quite a long process. I would recommend you work with a doctor of naturopathy or a functional medicine practitioner to get a thorough consult and examination done.
Regular chiropractic care (adjustments) helps keep your spine aligned
It’s hard to avoid getting stress and tension in your nervous system, muscles and spine. This is due to the significant number of stressors that your mind and body is put through on a daily basis. So this stress keeps building up in your spine creating spinal misalignments (subluxations).
Getting regular chiropractic adjustments corrects spinal misalignments to help keep your spine aligned. Chiropractic adjustments reduce the tension in your nervous system to allow your mind and body to function and heal optimally. It’s kind of like rebooting your computer every now and then if it’s running slow.
How often you need chiropractic adjustments to keep your spine aligned varies based on your age and whether or not you partake in a healthy lifestyle. Regular spinal check-ups and chiropractic adjustments vary from once a week to every 2 months.
To understand the benefits of regular chiropractic care please read: Why Regular Chiropractic Check-ups are Important for You and Your Family
Keeping your spine aligned extends beyond regular chiropractic care. If you start implementing a few healthier lifestyle strategies, your spine and nervous system will become stronger and more stable. In turn, you will feel stronger, have better posture, and likely have more energy.
This reminds me of my patient Brent (named changed for privacy reasons). Brent struggled with chronic recurrent low back pain. He would manage it with regular chiropractic care every 1-2 weeks. Finally Brent took control of his life. He started to eat a healthier diet, make sleep a priority, and manage his mental stress. He later got custom foot orthotics because he was standing on concrete all day. As a consequence of his health lifestyle changes, Brent got less low back pain. As well, we found he was thriving on getting chiropractic adjustments every 3-4 weeks versus every 1-2 weeks. In a couple of years, Brent took his life to another level. He quit his job he didn’t like, took a risk, and followed his passion where his job now feels like play.
Brent reached a point in his life where he was ready to make some changes for the better. And if you aren’t ready, maybe some day you will be ready to make some changes like Brent. Even if you implement one or two of the strategies I discussed, the health of your spine and general health will be better. And that will keep your spine aligned for longer periods of time.
To learn more about how chiropractic care could help you and your family click on Edmonton chiropractor Dr. Dean Collins’ complete guide to chiropractic care.