Every Joint Every Day Every Way
Everyday I am an elephant, an eighth grader, and a “Hula-Hooper”. I know that by being these things, if only for a moment or two, I improve the integrity of my nervous system, the flexibility of my spine and the longevity of my body.
I have patients who disclose that every day they get up, walk to their car, sit as they drive to work, sit as they work, sit as they drive home from work, sit as they have dinner, sit as they watch TV and then lie down as they go to bed. I have asked these patients how many times a day they reach above their heads or bend over to touch their toes. The response is often a blank stare. Days pass for these patients and the joints of their spine and body may not even extend past 25% of full range of motion.
Movement of the entire body is essential for long term health. A lack of mobility can have dangerous repercussion for the whole body particularly the spinal column. Immobility on a more localized level can lead to a slow degradation of the joint space, sticky scar tissue build up, subsequent early degenerative change, and potential arthritic complications. Decreased spinal movement also results in inadequate neurologic input into the spine. That lack of input can suppress certain brain functions that can then lead to depression, fatigue and a decreased functioning of the immune system. When you simplify the complicated physiologic processes involving your spinal cord and the vertebra, spinal movement equals energy, health, and longevity.
Sitting is one of the most catastrophic events on the spine. When you sit neurologic input into the spine is reduced, blood flow is slowed and the muscles of the spine “shut off”. One expert describes the moment you sit as the moment slow decay processes begin in your spine. Imagine how many hours of decay you desk jockeys have accumulated just in the last week.
There are simple quick fun ways to accomplish proper stimulation of the spine. By performing them daily you can be assured you have put your spinal joints through all their motions and can consistently undo the damage that sitting or lack of spinal movement cause.
Elephant Swing: Stand and clasp hands together in front of your body. Lean slightly forward relaxing shoulders and neck. Allowing the weight of your arms to carry the motion, swing the arms through a large figure eight motion like the trunk of an elephant as she walks through the wild! Swing for 30 seconds.
Eighth Grade Dance: Stand with your arms loosely to your side. Step side to side with gusto planting the right foot behind your left when you go to the right and the left foot behind you when you go to the right. Repeat twenty times.
Hula Hoop: Stand with your arms loosely to your side. Raise your arms out to the sides at shoulder level while you start to swing your hips in a circle to the right. After ten rotations reverse the circle to the left and do ten more revolutions. Imagine you have an imaginary Hula Hoop on your hips and you have to work very hard to keep it up!
Ants in pants: Picture somebody opening up the back of your pants and depositing the entire contents of an ant farm down your backside. Imagine what movements you might make to get the ants out! Giggle, move, jump, shimmy, and try to move arms and legs and spine all at the same time. Perform this for 20 seconds. (This is better performed in the privacy of the lavatory or away from watchful coworkers who may be tempted to call 911 suspecting an epileptic seizure.)
Sky to soil: Imagine that you are single handedly entrusted with bringing bits of sky and planting them in the soil. Reach as high above you as you can and then bend forward (knees bent if you need to) and “plant” the bits of sky into the soil. Repeat this movement ten times.
With the above exercises you should work within your comfort zone and repeat the exercises frequently. Pick one exercise to stand and perform for each 30 minutes that you sit.
Some of these exercises might seem a little trite. Don’t be fooled. These exercises ensure that your spine undergoes full ranges of rotation, flexion, and extension. These movements stimulate good input into the nervous system to increase energy and overall health.
Below is an example of how consistent practiced movements create longevity and vibrant life. Please watch the whole video and enjoy!
(Make sure to watch the whole video for the excellent spinal movement in the last half!)