spine which consists of the neck, upper, mid and lower back is a very unique
structure made up of bony vertebrae, discs, spinal cord and nerves. There
are several muscles attached to the vertebrae and the joints are supported
by ligaments. Together, this vast composite of complex structures helps
support your body in the upright posture literally from the time you can
stand up and walk.
Normal spinal balance occurs when the head is centered over the neck and
the torso is centered over the hips. This helps protects the discs which
serve as the body’s primary shock absorbers. It is critical to maintain
proper posture throughout our lives to keep our balance, reduce the chance
of injuries and hopefully slow down the aging process which inevitably
happens to all of us.
There are several reasons why we develop poor posture. Some of it is related
to specific occupations such as hair stylists, dentists, checkers at grocery
stores, sedentary jobs involving prolonged sitting and working with computers.
A lot, however, has to do with lack of awareness and poor habits. Slouching,
carrying a heavy backpack or constantly leaning over your desk are activities
that result in your upper body shifting forward and putting a lot of strain
on your neck and lower back. This can accelerate the wear and tear of your
discs and cause bulging or pinched nerves resulting in neck and
lower back pain, shooting arm pain or
sciatica in the legs.
As we age, our body naturally changes its shape causing us to be pitched
forward. You can however delay this process with proper attention to posture
and body mechanics, weight control and improving core strength. There
are many forms of exercises to improve core strength. Pilates and Yoga
are two of the more popular ones that have been scientifically validated
to work. However, there are exercises available for all ages depending
on your flexibility and fitness level. Some exercise every day is better
than no exercise or heavy exercise in spurts followed by long intervals
Dr. Ram Mudiyam is an orthopedic spine surgeon with Hoag Orthopedic Institute and shares
his knowledge by participating in news articles such as "Everyday Back Hazards" with
Energy Times Magazine.