When was the last time you had a spinal health checkup? Good spinal health is essential to your overall health. While we usually talk about the spine as a single part of the body, it is much more than that. Your spine is involved in almost everything you do. Poor spinal function will bring pain, restricted movement and, eventually, can lead to other health problems. In contrast, proper spinal function allows you to move freely and, in most cases, without pain.
Consider for a moment everything you do in a day. Almost every movement you make, from getting out of bed in the morning until you get back into bed at night, requires your spine to work in very complex ways you've probably never thought about. Not only does your spine perform delicate mechanical functions, but it also facilitates the majority of your nerve function, another aspect of proper spinal function that most people never consider ... until there's a problem.
About Your Spine
Your spine consists of 26 bones, called vertebrae, which run from your head to your tailbone. These vertebrae essentially stack one on top of the other in your vertebral column, floating on intervertebral discs. Every other bone in your body is attached in some way to your spinal column.
When you move, your spinal column moves in some combination of four ways:
- flexion - bending forward
- extension - bending backward
- lateral bending - bending from side-to-side
- rotation - twisting
If your spine were just one solid bone, it couldn't perform any of the variety of body movements; but as a stack of 26 bones, your spinal column can twist and bend to accommodate your every activity. When your spine moves, each movement of your vertebrae is choreographed through the rest of your body via a wonderfully designed system of muscles and ligaments that work together.
Your spine also has 31 pairs of spinal nerves that exit at some point from your spinal column. These delicate spinal nerves can become irritated or inflamed when your spine fails to function properly. Irritations or inflammations are thought to impact the nerve flow to the vital organs throughout your body.
In a healthy spine, each vertebra moves just a little each time you bend or twist. Even when you use your arms and legs, your spine plays a role. The nerves inside and around your spine are protected and function comfortably when your vertebrae move within their normal range.
Should one or more of your vertebrae fail to move, other vertebrae have to move more than they should in order to compensate and still allow your body to perform the function it needs. When this happens, the muscles and ligaments connected to your spine can become fatigued and cause you pain. This abnormal movement of your vertebrae will also cause pressure and irritation to your spinal nerves. When this abnormal movement continues over an extended period of time, more chronic ailments develop. Your muscles, ligaments, vertebrae, discs and organs attached to your spinal nerves can all be adversely affected. These deviations from normal often can be easily corrected with specific spinal manipulations and some helpful guidance on proper exercise.
Listening to Your Body
If you're listening, your body usually will warn you when your spine is not functioning normally. This warning will come in the form of pain, discomfort, stiffness or a lack of function in your spine or extremities. Rather than address the problem, some people ignore their body's warnings by taking pain relievers. Others just ignore the pain until their body adapts to the discomfort and the pain goes away. The body puts the spine in a state of spasm to protect the delicate nerves and allow the inflammatory process to subside. Removing the pain often causes more problems because the body's protective mechanism has been removed. It's similar to pulling out the wire under the dashboard of your car when a warning light comes on. The light is no longer visible, but the problem remains and will continue to get worse.
Pain is your body's way of telling you there's a problem. Reducing the pain doesn't necessarily address the problem. A problem ignored is a problem that will only become worse. The time to act is when you first begin to feel pain or discomfort, before it becomes chronic and much more serious.
Natural Spinal Care
In the case of non-surgical spine ailments, the most qualified health care provider is the doctor of chiropractic or "chiropractor," as they are sometimes called. Doctors of chiropractic are trained in an eight-year program of undergraduate and professional college study that includes a clinical internship. Their clinical and educational focus is specifically oriented toward spine-related ailments. The profession has elected to remain a non-drug, non-surgical approach to dealing with spinal ailments.
Whether you are experiencing specific areas of pain or simply want to maintain good spinal health, Patrick Chiropractic in Raleigh can help. Contact our office today at 919-790-2288 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Dale Patrick. You only have one spine - we encourage you to take good care of it!