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The balancing spine: What happens when we're off kilter?

  • Category: News, Spine
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Ram Mudiyam, MD, MBA

Our 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 od inactivity.


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.