Back pain is the number one issue that affects millions of people around the world today. Why? We have the best information and treatment available, so, why is the back not healthy? The problem is being addressed but the answer is being missed.
Modern life makes us a slave to its conveniences. We sit in front of computers for work and for leisure; and on the couch watching TV for hours everyday. We sit and use our smart phones hunched over mindlessly affecting our body’s position. The primary reason the spine loses alignment is because the hips lose their alignment from sitting. The cause is not primary the spine. Hold that thought. When the spine loses alignment, this is when imbalance and tension starts, producing strain, ache and pain. And furthermore, the spine misalignment produces a poor foundation for your neck, arms and shoulders to move.
Why Does Sitting Affect the Spine?
When you sit in a chair and sit back, the hips tilt back. When the hips tilt back, the spine rounds forward. When the hips tilt forward the spine hyperextends. When you move the hips forward in the seated position, you will feel the spine become more upright. The hips are the gyroscope for the spine.
Whatever position you hold yourself in when sitting becomes just that. The key to spinal alignment is the hips alignment; and the key to optimal mobility for the neck, shoulders and arms is the spines alignment. So yes, your shoulder and neck issues can be coming from your hips, ramifying misalignment through your body, likewise to your knees and ankles. Misalignment disrupts mobility and movement. The more force we place on misalignment through daily movement tasks, running, fitness and strength programs, the more we exacerbate the issue leading to pain and injury. Misalignment cannot withstand and distribute movement forces properly because your joints and muscles shift into a poor imbalanced stuck position. Over time it becomes worse. What is dysfunctional today malfunctions through time developing strain, pain, injury, disease or musculoskeletal disorder.
Become mindful of your breathing and body alignment especially when sitting. Try to sit with the hips forward on the sit bones. This will balance your hips to balance the center of gravity. You can see by moving the hips forward in comparison to the other photos that it straightens the spine. Sitting with the hips in this position prevents the spine from rounding forward.
Exercises that will help restore balance and alignment to the hips.
Lunge- Hip Bridge- Side Leg Raise - Face Down Leg Scissor- Lying Down Knee Bend Straight Leg Raise
The lunge is a great movement to restore alignment because the glutes contraction pushes the hips into an aligned and balanced position, reversing the hip from tilting forward. If you can’t contract your glutes then the hip flexors are too tight and imbalanced. You probably have what they call gluteal amnesia. This happens from sitting too much and long throughout the day because the gluteal muscles become weak from sitting. It happens to everyone. So, make the glutes remember and practice.
From the lunge position contract the glute and then focus on lowering the hip down to the floor, not lean the spine forward. You will feel a huge difference in your lunge by leaning the spine back, like in photo two, or maintaining an aligned position rather than moving the spine forward. In photo two, if you lean back, you will the effects through to your feet. The most important thing to do is to contract the glute first and stretch the hip flexor second. Hold the contractions for 5 seconds and relax and repeat. In order to increase the lunge the glutes need to contract, not just stretching the hip flexor/quads.
Hip bridges are great for the same reasons stated above, except here you have more involvement from the abdominals and lower back. Push your hips up into the air keeping your knees about a fist width apart. Contract the glutes. It is essential you breathe in and produce isometric contraction to the abdominals while contracting the glutes to feel the effects to the lower back. Hold for 5 seconds and relax and repeat.
The side leg raise strengthens the glute medius on the side of the hip. This muscle provides stability and balance to the knee and lower back. Laying on your side lift your leg into the air contracting the glute medius on the side of the hip. Slightly pull the toes toward the knee and contract the quads and glute. Breathe in and produce isometric abdominal contraction. You will feel the oblique and lower back stabilize. Hold all the contractions for 5 seconds and relax and repeat.
Face down leg scissors strengthen the buttock, glute medius' on the side of the hips and lower back at the same time. Laying face down on your elbows, straighten your legs by contracting the glutes and quads. You will feel the lumbar stabilize. Hold the contractions for 5 seconds and relax and repeat.
The knee bend straight leg raise contracts the quads and stretches the hamstrings as well as strengthens a small muscle on the front side of the hip in the 1 o’clock position that affects the lower back too. If you can’t straighten your leg the hamstrings are too tight preventing the quads from contracting or the quads are weak. This happens from sitting as well because of the knees in a bent position. Laying on your back lift your knee toward your chest contracting the hip flexor muscles. Slowly extend the leg contracting the quads, slightly pulling the toes down toward the knee. You will feel the quads and abdominals contact and the hamstring stretch. Hold for 5 seconds and relax by bending the knee and repeat by straightening the leg.
From doing theses exercises in this order you will eliminate the misalignment causing strain, pain and imbalance, restoring the hips alignment into a better position energetically and for the spines alignment to function optimally and safely move. You will develop more motion in the exercise and other joints will move better and feel better as well. Moving and exercising on misalignment adds more force to imbalance leading to affliction.
We influence the structure from habits and the work we do. That influences function and function dictates how we move. The better the body functions the better our health, well-being and energy will be. The better we move the safer we are to augment strength, fitness and exercise. Function first, move well and move frequently.
I prefer to blend rather than juice because, I don't like to throw out the pulp of the fruits and vegetables. From juicing over the years I felt it was a great way to get a number of powerful minerals and nutrients. But I also saw that, I was missing, a lot of important nutrients like fiber from the pulp. The extract of the liquid from the fruit and vegetable can increase the blood sugar quickly, where as the presence of fiber helps to raise the blood sugar slower with control. That's why I like blending over juicing, to get all the important nutrients as well as the fiber. And when you blend, you don't lose value of the vegetable like when cooking.
We should be consuming both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber has more influence on blood sugar, allowing control and regulation rather than a rapid surge, keeping it in balance. Insoluble fibers main job is to eliminate the bowels. In the May 2010 issue of the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity reports the finding of researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana, that, soluble fiber reduces inflammation and strengthens immune function. Soluble fiber increases the production of anti inflammatory proteins. It helps the immune cells recover faster to avoid infections and promote anti-inflammatory activity. When the immune system responds well, it protects from infection and provides good recovery from exercise. Good immune function is related to aging slower. Soluble fiber is responsible for duration of energy through the day rather than a quantity of simple sugars spiking the levels and crashing you into fatigue and tiredness.
Soluble vs. Insoluble FiberSoluble (From Webmd.com)
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Insoluble fiber does not. To some degree these differences determine how each fiber functions in the body and benefits your health.
Soluble fibers attract water and forms a gel, which slows down digestion. Soluble fiber delays the emptying of your stomach and makes you feel full, which helps control weight. Slower stomach emptying may also affect blood sugar levels and have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity, which may help control diabetes. Soluble fibers can also help lower LDL (“bad”) blood cholesterol by interfering with the absorption of dietary cholesterol.
Sources of soluble fiber: oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, beans, dried peas, blueberries, psyllium, cucumbers, celery, and carrots.
(Also grapes, pineapples, bananas, peaches, plums)
Insoluble fibers are considered gut-healthy fiber because they have a laxative effect and add bulk to the diet, helping prevent constipation. These fibers do not dissolve in water, so they pass through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact, and speed up the passage of food and waste through your gut. Insoluble fibers are mainly found in whole grains and vegetables.
Sources of insoluble fiber: whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, fruit, and root vegetable skins.
(Most of your insoluble sources have many minerals and nutrients).
Use pineapple or orange juice as the base. I prefer pineapple juice. The juice is about 5 to 6 grams of fiber per liter. Use half to all of the 1 liter.
1 Carrot= 2 to 2.5 grams of fiber
Carrots are an excellent source of Vitamin A , Vitamin C and a highly powerful antioxidant beta-carotene. The brighter the color of the carrot, the more beta-carotene it contains. Carrots provide the most nutritional value when consumed raw. The antioxidants in carrots help with regulating blood sugar, decreasing the markers to aging and boost immune system functioning.
A Handful of Kale= 1/2 of cup = 2.6 grams of fiber
This green is full of minerals that remains atop of the leader board making it the world's healthiest vegetable. Kale contains Vitamin A, C , K, copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. It helps fight and prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease. You can be very generous with the kale because you will not taste it in the blend, unlike adding beet root.
1/4 of Beetroot= 1.8 grams fiber
Beetroot improves fitness, exercise and performance because it helps to lower blood pressure and increase blood flow. Beetroot contains an abundance of folate and manganese. It contains thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, choline, betaine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and selenium. Be careful how much you add beet root has a strong earthy taste.
1/4 Pineapple= 3 grams of fiber (Optional)
Pinapples contain B6, potassium, magnisum, maganese, antioxidents, riboflavin, thamine. Helps fight cancer, asthma, lower blood pressure, diabetes, digestion, inflammation.
2 Bannans = 6 grams of fiber
Bannas are high in B6, Vitamin C, Potassium and Magnisium. The benefits of bananas lower the risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, lower blood pressure. They improve heart functioning.
1 Apple = 4.4 grams fiber
Apples are very high in antioxidants, flavanoids, and fiber. The antioxidants and nutrients in apples help reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.
1 Lime= 1.6 grams
They are excellent sources of B6, potassium, Vitamin C, flavanoids and phytochemicals. Limes prevent diabetes, constipation, heart disease, arthritis, ulcers, heart disease and improves digestion.
1/2 Avocado= 4.6 grams
Avocados contain the good unsaturated fat. Fat is a great source of energy. It last longer than carbohydrate sources. It is not harmful like saturated fat that stores itself around and in your organs; heart, liver, etc. They help prevent heart disease, stroke, cancer and helps lower cholesterol, where saturated fat does the complete opposite. Avocados contain protein, B9, B6, B5, Vitamin C and Vitamin E and are low in sugar,
Thumb of Ginger
Ginger is an herb. Ginger is great to reduce inflammation and muscular pain induced by exercise, nausea, headaches, couch, respiratory infection, arthritis.
This whole concoction produces about 30 grams of fiber. If you can drink two 8oz. glasses a day you are half way there in meeting the requirement of fiber intake at 30%. The other 15% you can receive through food sources. That's the power of blending, it is still food, not just juice. Over time you will see the results in your blood work, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and immune system function. You will feel the energetic effects sooner. When I say energetic effects, don't think about a surge of energy like a drug produces, think about and feel the overall effect. Feel how you can go through your day without being tired sustaining energy rather than the energy crashing. This is the door to incorporating a fitness and health program, having energy. Don't think about overloading each day, try to ingest it each day. You will see and feel a difference.
References used for this blog:
Movement is the essence of prevention and the expectation for progression. This is the importance of breathing well and proper alignment; for the system to remain functional each day. The more functional you are, the better you can move, feeling the results and benefits. But when one does not function well or understand function, it gets replaced by a poor qualitative, substandard and inefficient functioning system to power movement, ineffective to produce quantity. The biggest problem is, if you are not effective at the functional level, you will NOT be functional to climb and progress to an advanced level. As you load more and more strength and force on compensation, weakness and dysfunction, its just a matter of time till one movement does you wrong, due to imbalance. Imagine a seesaw, where you add 20 lbs. to one side and not the other. Then you add 40 lbs. to one side and not to the other. This is joint misalignment, poor posture and joint instability happening. As you strength train, your strength gets stronger that can move more force. But this is detrimental on a body with imbalance. Alignment provides balanced strength to form on all levels allowing the mechanical advantage to produce range of motion optimally. Misalignment and poor posture restricts motion and limits range of movement, losing the mechanical advantages efficentcy to be effective. Also the lack of stability in joints makes muscles develop more tension, producing imbalance and isolated strength in muscles. The lack of being mindful allows poor quality to exist and stay stuck, losing the ability to adapt, adjust and change. Being functional, strong and powerful is all dependent on the quality of breathing, alignment, stability and being mindful. It is foundation that guides movement.
Misalignment, poor posture, shallow breathing and poor stability all contribute to entropy. These effects are responsible for pain, injury, disorders and disease. Entropy and gravity will always exist, but we can control and slow down the forces they exert on our youth, energy, vitality and health, trying to make us sedentary, shorting our longevity. Entropy sneaks through the cracks when we breathe shallow, have poor posture, misalignment, eat poorly and move less. Leading a more conscious and mindful life is the first step in controlling and preventing entropy. How we move, eat and live presents us the control panel to maintain, adjust or change. Like Dr. Katz says in his book, Disease Proof, we need to make ourself disease proof through change, adapting better tools and skills to affect our health. At the same time, we need to develop better skills to make ourself pain and injury proof. Movement and exercise are necessities that contribute to becoming disease, pain and injury proof. Preserving the functional operating system is how we produce effective movement results and prevent the risk to affliction. If you can maintain movement then youth and agelessness are simple. This is my goal for you. It is the mindfulness in the things we do that produces an ageless mind and body.