It is estimated that about 27 million Americans visit a doctors of chiropractic each year, and millions more receive chiropractic care throughout the rest of the world. Chiropractic is the third largest primary health care field (after medicine and dentistry).
Chiropractic is a branch of the healing arts which is based upon the understanding that good health depends, in part, upon a normally functioning nervous system (especially the spine, and the nerves extending from the spine to all parts of the body).
"Chiropractic" comes from the Greek word Chiropraktikos, meaning "effective treatment by hand." Chiropractic stresses the idea that the cause of many disease processes begins with the body's inability to adapt to its environment.
It looks to address these diseases not by the use of drugs and chemicals, but by locating and adjusting a musculoskeletal area of the body which is functioning improperly.
The conditions which doctors of chiropractic address are as varied and as vast as the nervous system itself.
We use a standard procedure of examination to diagnose a patient's condition and arrive at a course of treatment. Chiropractors use the same time-honored methods of consultation, case history, physical examination, laboratory analysis and x-ray examination as any other doctor. In addition, they provide a careful chiropractic structural examination, paying particular attention to the spine.
The examination of the spine to evaluate structure and function is what makes chiropractic different from other health care procedures. Your spinal column is a series of movable bones which begin at the base of your skull and end in the center of your hips. Thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves extend down the spine from the brain and exit through a series of openings. The nerves leave the spine and form a complicated network which influences every living tissue in your body.
Accidents, falls, stress, tension, overexertion, and countless other factors can result in a displacements or derangements of the spinal column, causing irritation to spinal nerve roots. These irritations are often what cause malfunctions in the human body. Chiropractic teaches that reducing or eliminating this irritation to spinal nerves can cause your body to operate more efficiently and more comfortably.
We also places an emphasis on nutritional and exercise programs, wellness and lifestyle modifications for promoting physical and mental health. While chiropractors make no use of drugs or surgery, Doctors of chiropractic do refer patients for medical care when those interventions are indicated. In fact, chiropractors, medical doctors, physical therapists and other health care professionals now work as partners in occupational health, sports medicine, and a wide variety of other rehabilitation
Try this simple posture "reality check" the next time you are standing in front of a full-length mirror:
- Are your knees and ankles straight (i.e., not angled inward or outward)?
- Are your shoulders and hips level?
- As you stand sideways, does your lower back have a natural curve in it?
- Do the spaces between your arms and sides seem equal?
- Is your chin level or parallel to the floor?
- Is your head straight?
Proper posture is one of the best preventive measures you can take to ensure a healthy spine. Good posture means maintaining your spine in a neutral position. This means standing or sitting so that your spine keeps its three natural curves—the small hollow at the base of the neck, a small roundness at the middle back, and a small hollow in the lower back.
Proper posture is the result of good musculoskeletal balance, which helps protect the joints in your spine from undue stress and guards against injury and deformity. It requires diligence and awareness on your part. Most of us need to gently prod ourselves mentally to ensure we are walking and sitting correctly.
Poor posture can result from regularly carrying excessive weights, or hunching over when working at a computer or watching television. It also has been linked to chronic headaches, shoulder pain, and TMJ dysfunction. It also can lead to such problems as: fatigue (from over-taxed muscles supporting a misaligned spine); muscle aches in your neck, back, arms, and legs; and stiff, painful joints (which may eventually lead to conditions such as degenerative osteoarthritis.)
Sometimes, poor posture is something that cannot be helped. For example, people with degenerative nerve or skeletal problems find it difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a healthy posture.
Here are some posture tips for various positions and activities throughout the day.
- Straight body
- Your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles align in one straight line. (If you hung a string with a ball bearing at the end from your ear lobe, the string would dissect the middle of your anklebone.)
- Chin level but slightly tucked, shoulders slightly back and level, pelvis shifted forward (this allows your hips to align with your ankles)
- Feet are shoulder width apart
- Knees unlocked
- Breastbone lifted (this requires moving your shoulder blades down and in toward each other).
- Jaw and neck muscles relaxed
- Hips touching the back of the chair
- Breastbone lifted
- Shoulder blades in toward each other. This helps push out your breastbone and keeps your rib cage a safe distance from your hips. It also improves your breathing while sitting.
- Level chin.
Stand up, walk around, and take frequent breaks from prolonged periods of sitting.
- Allow your head to make contact with the headrest. This keeps your chin level and your neck properly aligned.
- Don't shrug your shoulders
- Ensure that your knees are slightly higher than your hips.
- Ensure that you car seat allows you to keep your back in a vertical, not angled, position.
Consider investing in a cervical roll or similar pillow specially designed to keep your neck supported and in natural alignment with your head and upper back.
One of the best positions is on your side, with knees slightly bent and a pillow between your knees. Place a pillow under your knees if you are a back sleeper; this helps maintain the curve in your lower back. If you are a stomach sleeper and sleep with your head on an oversized pillow, it sometimes forces your lower back to curve excessively, putting pressure on your diaphragm and lungs.
Exercises to help posture
- Chin tuck – Sit or stand erect while gently pulling your chin back to a comfortable position. Do reps of 10 several times a day.
- Shoulder squeeze – Bring your elbows behind you while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Do reps of 10 or 20 while holding the squeeze for a five count.
- Avoid hyperextending your neck to peer over an obstacle for long periods of time.
- Don't carry excess body baggage.
- Maintain a healthy weight. "Beer bellies" or‚Ã„Ã¹ spare tires," for example, act like bag of cement, making it difficult for you to stand or walk erect; even trying to walk correctly can place undue strain on your spine and muscles.
- Exercise regularly to keep your muscles flexible and toned properly.
- Have routine eye exams to ensure poor eyesight isn't keeping you off balance when you sit or walk.
- Invest soundly in a good quality box spring and mattress.
- Practice good ergonomics when sitting in front of a computer, watching television, or driving.
- Practice sound lifting techniques.