The way we choose to move our bodies daily has a lot to do with self-expression. Whether you dance, practice yoga, play hockey, or revel in morning walks with your dog, these movements often become a ritual. And while exercise has many fantastic mental health benefits—including reduced stress—what our bodies often crave from these rituals is the positive effect it has on our spine.
“Most people don’t realize how important movement is when it comes to spine health,” explains Dr. Emma Whelpton, chiropractor at Align Health Centre. “Movement is life” is a motto that has helped shape Dr. Whelpton’s practice, where she blends the spirituality of yoga with the physicality of chiropractic.
As Dr. Whelpton explains, the discs in your spine rely on movement to receive the nutrients they need in order to stay healthy—more specifically compression and decompression. As we compress through the spine we squeeze out toxins and inflammation from the discs. Then, as we decompress, we create a vacuum-like effect that suctions nutrients back into the disc. “Without movement in the spine, the discs start to degenerate. So, from a spinal disc’s perspective, movement really is life,” says Dr. Whelpton.
We can also see how movement improves our quality of life when we look at the lymphatic system. Lymph is pushed through the body with the contraction and movement of muscles. Movement helps push lymphatic fluid throughout the body, which improves our immune system and keeps our bodies healthy, especially important heading into cold and flu season. In other words, something as simple as stretching once a day can help ward off unwanted viruses.
All of these benefits come from simply moving—you don’t have to push yourself at CrossFit, sweat it out at power yoga, or run a marathon to see the benefits. All you have to do is move your body. “I always tell my patients, it can be as simple as a walk around the block, cleaning the house or playing with your kids—just get up and move.”
With a combination of daily movement and targeted stretches to help keep our spines healthy, it is possible to slow down the degenerative process and keep your discs healthy. Here are a few suggestions for some stretches that will inspire you to move:
Cat-Cow Pose: In a tabletop position, with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips, inhale as you drop your belly towards the floor. Lift your chin and chest, and gaze up toward the ceiling. Next, exhale and draw your belly to your spine, rounding your back toward the ceiling.
Bridge Pose: Lay on the floor and bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Your heels should be as close to your bottom as possible, without any pain in your knees. Press your feet and arms actively into the floor, pushing your tailbone upward and lift your bottom off the floor. Make sure to tuck your chin to protect your neck.
Child’s Pose: With your knees separated hip width, kneel on the floor with your big toes touching. Lay your torso down between your thighs and lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis. Your arms can stretch out in front of you, or lay alongside of your body.
If you’re interested in furthering your spine health, or learning more about Dr. Whelpton’s treatment philosophy, contact the clinic to schedule an appointment today.