Healthy postural alignment is an easy feeling throughout your musculoskeletal system
. But if you do most of your activities of daily living with poor body mechanics, or are injured or stressed in any way, this ease may well be replaced with muscle spasm and spinal misalignment. Fortunately, there are ways to address the alignment of bones and their effect on joints, muscles, and/or nerves.
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Good posture comes from being upright against the force of gravity so that your bones fit properly with one another at their respective joints (place where bones connect). The way the bones fit in relationship to one another and to the whole body form is referred to as alignment. Posture experts have described ideal alignment in terms of the location of body parts used as landmarks, relative to a vertical plumb line
that runs down through your center. Clinically or otherwise, ideal postural alignment occurs at the joints with the two bones meeting at their centers. Ideal postural alignment causes the least amount of musculoskeletal pain and strain.
Chronic back and neck pain can often be helped with yoga, as long as you approach in the right frame of mind. It is an ancient holistic system based on poses and the achievement of peace of mind. If you come to yoga armed with information about your condition and the type of yoga you are doing, you will likely do wonders for your back. For injury healing and pain management, bring an attitude of non-competition. Select a class that is conducted on a level which allows you to be in the poses without pain or a feeling of destabilization. Interviewing your instructor to see if he has experience working with people who have back pain is also a good idea. Novice yoga teachers may potentially be harmful to the back or neck pain sufferer.
Michael J. Summerville
Chiropractic is an alternative medicine discipline that views human health as a result of the alignment of spinal joints. If a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) evaluates you and finds subluxation
, or misalignment of one or more spinal joints, she or he will adjust
you. Adjusting the vertebrae
restores natural spinal alignment, and results in an unimpeded flow of signals through the nervous system
. This often results in a reduction of pain and muscle tension, and an increase of freedom of motion. Chiropractic adjustments are usually done with the hands, although some techniques utilize tools, such as the activator method.
If you routinely perform activities of daily living
with poor body mechanics, live with a lot of stress and tension, or have had an injury, your muscles may be so tight they take one or more vertebrae
out of line. Muscles are very powerful and can play a big role in the degree of ease through your musculoskeletal system.
Many people deal with this type of back pain by getting a massage. Massage is an alternative health treatment
, and as such you should scrutinize your therapist for credentials, experience, education level and techniques used in their practice. Once you find a qualified therapist with whom you feel comfortable, you may find that relaxing muscles with massage goes a long way toward restoring your postural alignment.
Pilates is an exercise system that works the whole body in alignment, with an emphasis on using abdominals. Introduced to the United States in the 1920s, it was a well-kept secret for several decades, used mainly by people with physically demanding jobs such as dancers. Later, the fitness explosion, along with scientific research on posture, and endorsement by famous stars quickly ushered Pilates into the limelight. But when done properly under the guidance of a qualified, experienced instructor, Pilates is an excellent way to reduce pain related to postural problems. It may also help heal back injuries. With each exercise, Pilates develops strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance. It uses a mind-body approach.
Feldenkrais is a system of movement that helps your brain release habits of movement that create tension and pain, and replace them with ones that align with the natural design of the body. Unlike most varieties of yoga, Pilates or therapeutic back exercises, all which require a concerted effort, Feldenkrais is about micro-movements. The emphasis is on the way your brain interprets the instructions to perform a specific movement, rather than on getting into a pose or doing a movement "correctly." An important component of the Feldenkrais Method is your awareness of what you are doing. To get the benefits of the lesson, you must pay attention to how the movement feels, as this is what causes a shift into aligned movement habits.
The Franklin Method addresses the relationship between thinking and your body. It uses imagery that is coordinated with the design of the moving body to effect changes in alignment and activities of daily living. The Franklin Method places a lot of attention on becoming an expert at what you do most of the time: sitting, standing, lying, or walking. In the Franklin Method, you learn how the bones move during everyday actions such as bending or walking, and then apply imagery to help improve ease of motion.
The Franklin Method sees imaging as creative, that is, the effects of any one image will vary from person to person. So the process can be open-ended -- you find images to which you respond, by noticing the changes they make.
Manual medicine is the use of hands to mobilize (and stabilize) the spine. You may recognize it as a chiropractic adjustment, although that is only one form. Manual medicine has a long history, and in less medical parlance is sometimes known as the "laying on of hands". In October 2007, the Academy for Chiropractic Education released guidelines for practitioners of manual medicine. Reading about the guidelines can help you understand what to expect when you see a chiropractor, osteopath, physical therapist, massage therapist or other alternative health practitioner for your postural alignment issues.
Tai chi combines aligned movement with meditation to help calm and slow you down, and to limber your joints. Tai chi challenges balance and teaches you how to move from your pelvis. It also helps develop concentration. Although to some, it may seem like tai chi is just some easy, free dancing, there is a form that must be learned in order to realize the health benefits for your back and joints.
Even the British Medical Journal
acknowledges that Alexander technique gets good results when used to control back pain. If you haven't heard of Alexander, it's a holistic therapy that's rather like a lesson on how to decompress your spine. The format of the lesson is a lot like a coaching session, and is aimed at changing the direction your head and neck go when you are not thinking about it. In an Alexander lesson, participants relearn (by doing) ways of moving from sitting to standing. But the focus remains on the neck the whole time. The Alexander teacher is there to guide and remind you to lengthen your neck in a "forward and up" direction, which results in a subtle movement meant to affect your entire spine in a positive way.