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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Happy Back, Happy Body - Five Ways to a Healthy

Sep 28, 2009 05:02PM
by Dr. Peter F. Ullrich, Jr.

The spine’s many nerves, muscles and ligaments serve as connections to areas throughout the body, so keeping your spine in top condition is one of the best things you can do for both your back and overall health.

Let the spine really rest while sleeping. While you’re sleeping, the structures in your spinal column that have worked hard all day finally have an opportunity to relax and rejuvenate. Using the right mattress and pillow will support the spine, allowing the muscles and ligaments to become stress-free and refreshed.

Choose your shoes carefully. Whether walking for exercise or just to get where you’re going, the shoes on your feet have a big effect on your back. Shoes should be well-balanced, flexible and comfortable. Providing not only protection for the feet, but a supportive base that helps the spine and body remain in alignment, the right shoes, plus inserts for added balance, if needed, can help avoid muscle strain and possible injury.

Enjoy the benefits of a massage chair. A massage feels good because it relaxes your muscles and relieves stress, but therapeutic massage does more than improve flexibility and decrease tension. Massage chairs also can improve blood flow and increase the level of endorphins, natural chemicals in the body that make you feel good, in your bloodstream. While it’s not the same as experiencing treatment by a massage therapist, using a massage chair at home can be a practical, easy way to feel some of the benefits of a Shiatsu or Swedish massage.

Sit up straight, with support. Loading on the discs in the lower spine is three times greater while sitting than standing, so it follows that long periods of sitting can create or aggravate a painful back condition. Problems can also occur from sitting incorrectly or in an uncomfortable chair. For example, while sitting in an office chair, many people slouch and lean forward; this poor posture typically leads to muscle tension and pain in the lower back and legs. That is why having the right office chair is key to promoting good posture and supporting the back’s natural curves. Because a prolonged static posture is stressful for the structures in the spine, most experts recommend that you get up to stretch and walk around every 20 to 30 minutes.

Specifically exercise abs and back. One of the most important components of good spine health is exercise. If back and abdominal muscles are not in good shape, it puts additional pressure on the spine, already under the stress of supporting the entire body. Performing abdominal and back exercises (which don’t get much exercise from daily activities) as part of a daily routine will go far in maintaining a healthy spine. When abdominal and back muscles are well-maintained, they help support the spine and minimize the chance of injury.

Dr. Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., is a practicing physician and the co-founder and medical director of Spine-Health, a leading educational online resource for people with neck and back pain.

Source: © 1999-2009, all rights reserved. Always seek the advice of your physician.

Guidelines for Buying Walking Shoes

by Dr. Ted Forcum and Dr. Thomas Hyde

Three essential factors should be taken into consideration before purchasing a new pair of walking shoes. These are: *  Stability ~ Test for a balanced and secure feel throughout a normal range of motion. * Flexibility ~ Allow for a good degree of give at the base of the toes, allowing smooth motion. * Comfort ~ The best walking shoes comprise contours and padding conformed closely to the foot, providing a snug fit at the heel and mid-foot, with ample room in the forefoot.

Examine these following four specific areas of any walking shoe: * Heel counter ~ This area of the shoe holds the back of the heel, just under- neath the Achilles tendon. Look for it to be snug, but not tight, comfortably cupping the back of the heel. A good heel counter will help prevent the feet from over pronation or supination (rolling to the inside or outside edge of the foot). * Midsole ~ Between the tread and cloth or leather upper of the shoe, the midsole is the most important component of footwear. Made of a variety of materials, it gives a shoe a greater or lesser degree of cushioning, support and flexibility. * Insole ~ Located inside the shoe, on the bottom, where the sole of the foot contacts the shoe, the insole should contour comfortably to the foot. A good design reduces shear forces between the foot and the shoe and provides some shock absorption. * Toe box ~ Be sure the area surrounding the toes provides adequate room for toes to move freely; wiggling and bending the toes at the joints should be unrestricted. Conversely, too much space will cause shifting and discom- fort. There should be approximately one-half to a full thumb’s width between the end of the longest toe and the end of the toe box.

Here are general guidelines to consider when getting fitted for a new pair of walking shoes: * Have the salesperson take dimensions of both feet, as there may be differences. Take measurements while standing, because feet expand when bearing weight. Base the current shoe size on these measurements, not on a previous shoe size. * Measure feet at the end of the day. They tend to swell throughout the course of the day. * Try on and lace up both left and right shoes while wearing regular socks. Stand up and walk around to make sure the fit is correct. * Never buy walking shoes that immediately feel too tight. Although they will go through a break-in period, if walking shoes initially feel tight, they are too small. * Finally, keep in mind that arch supports, or orthotics, can supplement the original shoe to help attain the best fit.

Ted Forcum, a doctor of chiropractic in Beaverton, OR, is a contributing author for Thomas Hyde, a doctor of chiropractic in Aventura, FL, is a member of the medical advisory board for

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