So how do you align your spine using your muscles? I’ll show you what has worked for me, and kept me pain free, and going strong for over 3 years now. In Part 1 of Align Your Spine, I shared my story of a debilitating hip pain, and how my cousin was willing to help me with physical therapy exercises using Postural Restoration techniques. The idea behind it is that you trigger the opposing back muscles to pull the spine back into alignment. Here are a couple of things that he had me do…
First, lets check see if you’re out of alignment: lay on a flat surface, and poke your elbows straight out to the sides and lift your hands toward the ceiling.
Totally relax your arm and let your left hand drop toward the floor (toward your feet). You should be able to touch the floor with your fingers. Now repeat with your right hand.
If you are out of alignment, it will not be able to go all the way to the floor. See how my daughter’s left hand is touching down to her middle knuckles, but the right the fingertips just barely graze the floor? Her right side has a lot more tension…she’s out of alignment.
Realign Your Spine: Simple Floor Exercise
This is an easy exercise that triggers the back muscles on the left side, causing them to pull against those overly tight right side muscles. Put your foot up on a surface so that your knees are at a 90* angle. You can use your couch, a footstool, or anything that’s the right height. We’re using a little stepstool. You can leave your right leg on the floor, or prop both legs up on the surface, but we’re only really going to be using the left heel.
Push straight down with your left heel, as if you are trying to push your foot to the floor. Focus on really contracting the muscles on the back of your left thigh. Now, take a DEEP breath, way down into your tummy…this activates the diaphragm (the sheet of muscle that lays just below your lungs, separating your upper chest cavity from the intestinal area). Properly activating the diaphragm through deep breathing further activates the back muscles to realign; when you breathe in deeply to your diaphragm, your tummy should pooch out instead of your rib cage. Hold that deep breath for a count of 5, and then relax your leg and exhale. Repeat this 5 times.
This is such a simple exercise, but it can really help pull things back into place. I can usually recheck my alignment afterwards, and my hands will touch evenly.
More Resources & Exercises
My cousin did some further stretches to my spine, but these are the main exercises that he had me do. He also had me look up the Postural Restoration Institute website, so that I could see other suggestions for movements and positions that would help ‘balance’ my body, so that I wasn’t constantly over-using the right side.
This PRI Position Poster was a very helpful tool for me
I found the sleeping position, and sitting with your left hip pulled back to be very helpful, as well as consciously switching my weight to my left leg whenever I remembered to do so. He also shared with me that you can bite down on a wooden popsicle stick on your back left molars to get a similar effect on the neck muscles. I have done this a few times when I’ve had a stiff neck. Once I woke with a stiff neck, and had done this…a couple of hours later, I was just walking through the house and I suddenly felt my neck spontaneously pop back into place. The muscles did their job gently, but persistently, and it fixed my stiff neck!
In addition to using these PRI exercises, I’ve also found that T-Tapp exercises have been great to strengthen my back and improve my posture and alignment. I think that they are great complements to one another, covering both prevention and restoration of back issues caused by posture and muscle tension.
My Happy Ending!
Within a few days of starting these exercises, I saw major improvements, and by the end of a few months, I was having NO hip pain at all! In fact, I never had another debilitating ‘fall to the floor’ incident since the night that he showed me the exercises! I’m also much more aware of how my back should feel, and can usually tell right away when I’m ‘out’…and these exercises are what I turn to to align my spine!
Find a PRI Provider
Another great thing about PRI techniques, is that often physical therapy is covered under insurance, whereas chiropractic care may not be. After this experience, I highly recommend Postural Restoration physical therapy techniques. It’s what I would turn to if I ever was in an accident or had more significant back injury. Every back pain case is different, and I don’t recommend attempting to fix your own back injuries without professional help, but I’ve found these simple exercises very beneficial for nerve type pain in the hip and knee especially.
If you’re interested in finding a physical therapy group that uses PRI techniques, check the Postural Restoration website for practitioners in your area.