Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Balance your spine - Stretch

Learn how to sit, stand, move and exercise in a balanced manner to reduce the neck and lower back pain to a great extent
STRETCHING regularly and correctly is one of the three ways to protect the spine and keep the body in baance. Its relaxing effects contribute significantly to your ability to recuperate and tone up. Who hasn't suffered from low back pain or stiffness at one time or the other? Even children are not immune to it.
The spine has three natural curves and a change in one curve affects the other two. The thoracic or middle back area is less mobile because of the ribs attached to it. This results in the neck and lower back being very closely related and an injury to one can often harm the other.
For example, if you suffer from whiplash injury and the neck muscles are not repaired immediately, the lower back tries to compensate it by balancing the body and thereby over-stressing itself. This can decrease the pressure on the nerves of the neck and decrease the pain. But, unfortunately, now the lower back is prone to injuries due to the increased stress on it.
A similar situation often occurs if the lower back is injured. The neck compensates the injury by providing the balance needed ot the body. This can lead to chronic problems later unless the muscle damage is repaired fast. Prevention, therefore is very important.
The pain in the neck and lower back is usually caused by stress or damaged muscles putting the spinal vertebrae and other related bones out of their normal positions.
The solution is three-fold. The first step is to learn how to sit, stand, move and exercise in a balanced manner to minimise muscle stress. Here are few tips for proper sitting:

...Sit with your feet flat on the floor. Knee should level with or slightly above your buttocks. Sit as straight as you can and then relax about 10 to 15 minutes after that. This is a good sitting posture. When writing, use a flat surface and look downward instead of flexing your neck forward. When reading, keep your book in such a way that your head remains straight. Muscles in front of your necm, if kept tight, will restrict the blood flow to the thyroid gland which would slow down the metabolism. This would make the bodya gain weight.

...The second important factor is to stretch the muscles that contract while sitting. The muscles involved are the hamstring muscles (back of the thigh), the muscles in front of the neck, the hip flexures and pectoris minor muscles (in the chest). The hamstring muscles can be stretched by standing with the legs straight and bending forward while maintaining your normal lower-back curve. Stretching can be done a few times a day for 30 to 40 seconds or more. The most effective time for stretching is when the muscles are warm from exercise. Stretching is extremely powerful in reducing stress and tension and in preventing lower back and neck pain.

...The third important part is the musculoskeletal structure of the body. The exercise programme should be balanced as to give exercise to all the muscles. For example, many give exercise to the chest muscles ignoring the back. This can lead to an imbalance in the shoulder joints, neck and upper-back. Properly balanced training techniques can prevent the back and neck pains to a great extent.

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