THE SPINAL TWIST PROCEDURE
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© May 2015, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
1. The procedures in this article are powerful. Always begin them very gently! As you feel more comfortable with the procedures, you can do them more forcefully.
2. Never force anything. If you are very uncomfortable with the procedure, do not do it.
3. If you have back problems, I suggest visiting a competent chiropractor or osteopath, and getting permission to do these procedures.
4. Oddly, sometimes doing the procedures below are even more powerful than therapy with a chiropractor or osteopath.
5. These procedures can be repeated several times daily, if needed.
The following procedures are a central part of all nutritional balancing programs. They fit our criteria for a type of therapy that is simple, inexpensive, harmless if done correctly, and very effective and powerful.
The purpose of these twists is to keep your joints and other structures limber, flexible, and perfectly aligned at all times. It can make a tremendous difference in the way you feel and the way your body functions.
It is important to know that body alignment is critical for health, and that it is incorrect in many people. This occurs for a number of reasons. These include:
1. Muscles can pull unevenly. This move the joints and bones just a tiny bit out of alignment. This easily puts pressure on nerves and other structures.
2. Tendons and ligaments are often weak. This can also pull the joints slightly out of alignment, causing cartilage and joint damage, and nerve restriction. This is usually a nutritional problem, although it can have other causes.
3. Accidents, injuries and especially falls. These, and all other traumas, even emotional traumas, can move joints out of alignment.
4. The facets of the spine can easily lock together. This causes what the chiropractors call subluxations of the spine that are tiny misalignments of the spine. These often cause pain, disc problems, and nerve impingement.
5. Bad posture. This almost always causes spinal and other misalignments of the joints.
6. Other. Imbalances and misalignments can occur for other reasons, such as childbirth, stress, fatigue, moving improperly, yoga, and other reasons.
For these reasons, I believe everyone should do these procedures at least once daily or even twice – morning and evening – or more, if needed. They take only a few minutes. It can do even more than keep your spine aligned, as discussed in some of the paragraphs below.
These procedures were not a part of Dr. Eck’s original nutritional program. However, Dr. Eck knew about spinal manipulation, and definitely advocated its use.
Is this like chiropractic or osteopathy? Yes, definitely. It is the same idea as what osteopaths and chiropractors do.
What about professional spinal care? It is fine to receive this care professionally, and I advocate that. However, problems with professional chiropractic or osteopathy are:
1. It can be difficult to find a great chiropractor or osteopath.
2. The twist is needed every day, and for some people, several times each day. Seeing any professional this often is very costly and inconvenient.
3. These procedures, when done right, can be more effective than seeing a chiropractor or osteopath, according to our clients. Reasons why this is so are:
a) Chiropractors or osteopaths are sometimes afraid to adjust some people, or certain areas of the spine that may be very damaged or out of place. The doctors are hesitant because the person is delicate, too old, too young, or the bones are fragile. As a result, the person’s spinal problems do not receive adequate care.
b) Even an excellent chiropractor or osteopath may not release the spine perfectly. This occurs for many reasons. The doctor may not be skilled enough, or he or she may not want to work deeply enough, or the spine may be very out of kilter, or your overall health may not be good enough, or there may be other reasons.
c) You can go at your own pace. You control the force and speed with which you do the procedure.
Having said this, I love going to a skilled chiropractor or osteopath, who are truly gifts of God. Finding the great ones, however, can be difficult.
I will divide the procedures into several parts: 1) the neck twists, 2) the arm pulls, 3) adjusting the feet and legs, and 4) twisting the spine. All the parts go together and help each other, so ideally, do not skip any part of the following procedure:
1. THE NECK TWISTS
1. Lie down on a bed, a couch or a massage table. You must be above the floor, not on the floor. Lie comfortably on your back without a pillow under your neck.
2. Your feet should be together but not crossed, and aimed straight downward.
3. Arms should be at your side, or they can be stretched outward to the sides.
4. The neck reach. With your head centered in relation to your body, gently and slowly turn your head to the right until your right cheek is on the bed sheet. Do not slide the back of your head along the bed, but instead move your entire upper body to the right as you turn your head. This means you will reach or stretch your upper spine and even the left shoulder as you turn your head to the right. If done right, you should have a good stretch or reach to the right. Do not be surprised or afraid if you hear some clicking or popping sounds as you turn your head.
Now gently and slowly move the head back to center and rest if you need to. Then move your head and upper back to the left until your left cheek is touching the bed sheet. Once again, this should stretch the upper back, neck and right shoulder as you move to the left. Then bring your head back to center position.
For even more effect, pull or move your head and neck upward toward the head of the bed as you do this reach or stretch. Do not let your head leave the bed, however. Keep your head on the bed, at all times.
You may repeat this exercise several times, if you wish. It is often excellent to help adjust the vertebra in the neck.
5. The neck twist. Begin with the basic position, with your head centered over your body and legs straight down and together. Now, while looking at the ceiling, move your head about one or two inches to the left. Then slowly twist your neck and head to the right, as far as you can comfortably go. Do not move the left shoulder at all, and if needed, slide your head so that you simply twist your neck all the way to the right.
It helps to look all the way to the right with your eyes, and let your head follow your eyes around. Ideally, you should be able to twist your neck slowly and gently 180 degrees so that your mouth and nose are facing directly into the bed. However, never force it, and do not worry if you cannot turn your head this far. Do what is comfortable, and nothing more, or you can hurt yourself. Again, do not be surprised if you hear a click or a pop as you turn your head gently.
Now gently twist your head back to center position and rest for a moment. Now repeat the exercise on the other side. First move your head about one to two inches to the right. Then look all the way to the left. Now gently and slowly twist just the neck to the left as far as you can comfortably go, sort of following your eyes. You can stay in the twisted position for a moment and then slowly and gently return your head to the centered position.
For even more effect, as you twist your neck to the right or to the left, move your head up toward the head of the bed, as though you are unscrewing it from your body. Do everything gently!
2. THE ARM PULLS
1. Arm pull in the air. Lift both arms into the air above your head. Lock the hands together. Then pull both arms to the right, all the way to the bed, if you can. Then move back to center with the arms directly above your head and pull both arms to the left. If you do this correctly, often the shoulders will “pop” or crackle. That is good, as it is a release of tension.
2. Arm pull behind your head. The second arm pull is to move both arms behind your head. The arms will rest a little on the bed by your ears. Now join the hands together. Now move both arms to the right as far as you can. Then move both arms, locked together, to the left as far as you can. Keep your neck centered and look straight up at the ceiling while doing both exercises.
3. Arm pull with hands clasped behind your neck. Lie down comfortably on your back on a bed or couch. Do not use a pillow for your head. Have your legs extended downward and straight, and not crossed.
Lift up your arms, bend them at the elbows, and couple your hands together behind your neck. Now move the elbows together in front of your face. Often the upper back and shoulders will pop or click or snap. This is normal and good.
Turn your head, and your elbows to the right, as far as you can comfortably go. Then bring them back to center position. Now turn your head and your elbows to the left, as far as you can comfortably go. Often this will cause some popping in the upper back and shoulders. This is perfectly normal.
3. ADJUSTING THE FEET AND LEGS
These adjustments include:
1. Toes down. Lie on your bed or couch or massage table on your back. Grab the left foot. You can wear socks, if you wish. Push the toes downwards, somewhat forcefully. Often they will pop as you do this. This is excellent to relieve tension and move energy through the meridians that run through the toes.
2. Toes back and forth. Remain in the same position, and move all the toes together back and forth, left to right and back again a few times, forcefully. Also, move them up and down together, forcefully. This also can relieve tension in the meridians and channels that flow through the toes.
3. Foot rub. You can do a short or a longer foot rub in this same position. For example, if you have pain in the liver area, rub or push hard in the liver reflex areas of the foot.
If you want to relax your spine to help a spinal twist, then rub the entire spinal reflex area. This is the inside of the foot, from the tip of the big toe, along the arch, all the way to the inside of the heel area.
4. Folding the foot. This is harder to describe, although it is not complex. While lying on a bed or couch, grab a foot with one hand on the outside and one hand on the inside. Try to “fold up” the foot. It may pop or crackle. Then do the other foot.
5. Twisting the ankle. This can often be done just be flexing the ankle. Move it up and down, right and left. For a more forceful adjustment, grab the ankle with two hands, and twist it right, and then twist it left. Be careful and always do it gently.
You can also move it up or flex it, and then move it down or extend it. Again, always do it gently and carefully. Never force any movement.
6. The knee pull. This is helpful for some knee problems. Always do it gently!
a) Lie on your back on a bed or couch, or on the floor. Extend both legs straight downward and together.
b) Bend the left knee and swing it outward to the side.
c) Grab the left ankle with both hands firmly. The ankle should now be over your belly, with your hands also over the belly area.
d) Pull the ankle toward you as far as you can comfortably go. Then stop there. Make sure the leg and knee feel totally relaxed. You can push and pull them a little to make sure.
e) Now give a quick pull on the ankle directly toward your head. Often, when you do this, the knee will pop or click. This is perfectly normal, and it is the intent of this procedure.
f) Repeat with the other leg. First bend the right knee, and move the knee outward to the side. Grab the right ankle with both hands firmly. Gently pull on the ankle as far as you can comfortably go. Then stop and make sure the leg, the ankle and the knee are totally relaxed. Then give a short, hard tug or pull on the ankle, which may cause the knee to pop or click.
4. SPINAL TWISTS
There are five variants or ways to do this. They are each somewhat different. One method may work better than the others for you. So try them all, especially if you have back problems. The variants are:
1. Spinal twist with one leg straight up in the air.
2. Spinal twist with one leg bent at the knee.
3. Spinal twist with both legs bent at the knees.
4. Spinal twist lying on one’s stomach.
5. Spinal twist in the special position.
Here are the details:
Variant #1. Spinal twist with one leg straight up in the air. To do this, you must be in the basic position of lying on a bed, couch or massage table above the ground, with feet straight down and together, but not crossed. Your arms should out to the sides. This is so that when you twist your spine, your shoulders will stay on the bed or couch. Keep your head straight, looking up at the ceiling. Do not use a pillow under your head. Here is the procedure:
a) Lift the left leg, so that the foot is high in the air.
b) Do the ballet (point your toes). (Your foot will be like that of a ballet dancer with the toes pointed.)
c) Ring the door bell (pretend you are extending your big toe to ring a doorbell up in the air above you). This extends energy through the leg into the big toe. Another visualization for this step is to imagine you have a thick copper wire running through your leg and foot to the big toe. Energize the wire by sending mental energy through the wire into the big toe. Now you are in the correct position for the spinal twist.
d) Swing right. Move the left foot to the right, swinging it over the right leg. Go as far as you can comfortably. Ideally, your left foot should touch the bed or couch. Do this gently at first, as it is a twist. However, with a little practice, you can do it more forcefully, which may be needed to adjust your spine.
Do not be surprised if your spine pops or crackles during this procedure. That is totally normal.
e) The extra twist. For an extra push, lie close to the right side of your bed or couch or massage table (not so close that you could fall off, however). When you move your left leg over the right leg that is on the bed or couch, keep moving it until your left leg touches the floor.
This is a more powerful twist, so do it gently and slowly. As you get more familiar with it, you can do it more forcefully. Occasionally, this is necessary to adjust certain vertebra, especially in the lower back and hips.
f) The extra, extra twist. For an even more powerful twist, before starting this twist, turn your head to the left, with your left cheek touching the bed or close to it. Now lift the leg, point the toe ballet-style, ring the doorbell, sending energy down the leg and into the big toe. Now swing the left foot and leg over the right leg, until the left foot gently touches the bed or even the floor.
Always do this gently and slowly, and never force anything. It is a very powerful twist, and many people do not need to do this. It is useful for some whose spine is out of alignment in certain ways, especially the upper back.
g) Pulling it in. This is another variant or aspect of the twist. To do it, once you have swung the left leg over the right one to the bed or floor, either swing the left leg toward your body, or if you cannot do this easily, grab the left leg near the thigh, and pull it a little toward your chest and head.
This is also a more powerful and extreme type of twist. So always begin very gently, and never force anything. As with the other extra twists, however, this may be needed to adjust certain vertebrae, especially in the lower spine.
h) The return. Now bend the left leg at the knee to release the twist. Now return the left leg to the resting position parallel with the other leg, and make sure your head is back to the center position with the eyes directly facing the ceiling.
i) The other leg. Now repeat the exercise with the right leg. First make sure you are comfortable on the bed or couch or table. Lift the right leg up to the ceiling. Do the ballet, pointing the toes. Ring the doorbell, sending energy out through the big toe and extending the right leg. Now move the right leg to the left, twisting it over the left leg until it touches the bed or couch, and maybe until it touches the floor if you want an extra twist. For even more twist, you can first turn your head to the right, and for even more twist, once you have moved the right leg over the left one, you can pull the right leg in toward your head, a little.
End by bending the right knee to release the twist, and bring the right leg back to the straight position next to the left leg. Rest here a moment.
Variant #2. Spinal twist with one leg bent. This can be an even more powerful twist in some ways than variant #1, depending on your posture and structure.
a) Assume the basic position. Your body is lying straight on a bed or couch with both legs extended down, but not crossed, and both arms extended out to the side to stabilize your shoulders.
b) Bend the left leg. Bend it at the knee, bringing the left heel up near your groin.
c) Lift the foot. Now move the left foot over the right thigh and plant the left foot firmly on the bed next to the right thigh. Your back should now be somewhat twisted.
d) Twist time. Gently and slowly move the left knee and leg to the right as far as you can, until it comes to touch the bed or mat.
e) The return. Now bring the left leg back to the upright or neutral position and extend the left leg next to the right one. Then return the right leg to the resting position parallel with the left leg.
Variant #3. Spinal twist with both knees bent. This twist is the gentlest. It is a wonderful way to start these procedures if you are apprehensive at all about doing these twists.
a) Assume the position. This means lie comfortably on a bed or couch or massage table with both legs extended straight downward, but not crossed. Extend your arms out to the sides to keep your shoulders from moving when you do the twist.
b) Bend the knees. Bend both legs at the knees. This means your knees will be somewhat up in the air, and both heels will now be touching or close to your buttocks.
c) Swing right. Gently swing both knees to the right until they touch the bed or couch. Don’t be surprised if your back pops or crackles. This is perfectly normal and the reason you are doing the procedure.
d) The return. Now bring both knees back to the upright neutral position where they were.
e) Swing left. Now gently swing both knees to the left until they touch the bed or couch. Don’t be surprised if your back pops or crackles. This is perfectly normal and the reason you are doing the procedure.
Variant #4. On your stomach. This position is less comfortable. However, for some people it works better for adjusting the spine.
a) Assume the stomach position. Lie comfortably on your stomach, on a bed, couch or massage table, or on the floor. You can use a pillow for your head.
b) Turn your head. Turn your head to the left.
c) Left leg lift. Lift your left leg, keeping it straight. The heel should be up in the air, at about a 30 to 45 degree angle from your body.
d) Do the ballet. Point the left toe, ballet style.
e) Ring the doorbell. Extend your left leg, as though you are ringing a doorbell with the big toe that is just out of reach behind you.
f) The swing. Now swing the left leg to the right, moving it over the right leg as far as you can comfortably go. Your spine may pop or crackle. That is normal.
g) The return. Move the left leg back to where it was, and then drop it down on to the bed.
h) Other side. Now do the same with the right leg. Lift it, with the heel in the air at about a 30 to 45 degree angle from the bed. Do the ballet, pointing the right toes. Ring the doorbell, extending the leg and extending energy through the right big toe. Now swing the right leg to the left, over the left leg as far as you can comfortably go. Your back may pop or crackle. Then return the right leg to its previous central position, and drop it back down onto the bed or couch.
Variant #5. Spinal twist in the special position. This is not a difficult twist, but it is difficult to get into the right position. I will try to describe it:
a) Assume the stomach position. Lie comfortably on your stomach, on a bed, couch or massage table, or on the floor. You can use a pillow for your head.
b) Turn your head and shift position. Turn your head to the right and move the body so you are lying somewhat on your left side.
c) Left knee up. Bend your left leg, bringing your left knee about half way up to your chest.
d) Extend the arm. Extend your right arm directly over your head and grasp the edge of the bed, couch or massage table. You may have to move your body up or back so that your right hand just reaches the edge of the bed, couch or table.
e) Extend and turn the right leg. Keeping your right leg straight, move the right leg backwards, away from your left leg, as far as you comfortably go.
f) Turn the foot. Turn the right foot outward as far as you can comfortably go. Now you are in position for the twist.
g) The twist. This is somewhat unusual. To do the twist, contract your right arm a little, pulling the right shoulder toward the corner of the bed. At the same time, move the left leg forward toward your chest a little. This torques or twists the spine in an interesting way.
h) The other side. Repeat the entire procedure on the other side of your body.
When doing any of these procedures, you may hear some clicks and pops in your spine as your back adjusts. Often you will feel more relaxed, afterwards. If your back has been out of alignment for some time, you may feel odd or strange. Do not worry about this. These twists are quite safe if done as described above – always gently and comfortably.
This exercise stretches the spine, aligns the spine and helps energy flow through the spine. It is excellent to do at bedtime when you get into bed before putting your legs under the covers, as it will help you relax and sleep better. It is also excellent to do if you wake up at night and are having trouble going back to sleep. I always do it if I awaken at night. It can also be done during the day to align the spine.
WHY THIS TWIST AND NOT THE MANY OTHERS TAUGHT IN YOGA CLASSES AND ELSEWHERE?
Advantages of this twist are:
1. It is quite benign and safe.
2. Lying down works better than standing or sitting when twisting. The spine is more relaxed.
3. You can easily adjust the intensity of the exercise.
4. You are not as tempted to “bounce” with this twist, as with some others such as the yoga ‘triangle pose’. Bouncing while twisting is not a good idea as you can easily injure yourself.