HOW TO HELP ADJUST YOUR SPINE AT HOME
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© April 2014, The Center For Development, Inc.
The following exercises or maneuvers are a central part of a nutritional balancing program. They fit our criteria for a type of therapy that is simple, inexpensive, harmless if done correctly, and very effective and powerful.
Their purpose is to keep your spine limber, flexible, and perfectly aligned at all times. They can make a tremendous difference in the way you feel and the way your body functions. I believe everyone should do these maneuvers at least once daily or even twice – morning and evening – or more, if needed. They have helped keep my spine aligned for years. In fact, they can do even more than this, as discussed in some of the paragraphs below.
These exercises were not a part of Dr. Eck’s original nutritional programs. However, Dr. Eck learned manual therapies and spinal manipulation, and definitely advocated its use.
Is this like chiropractic or osteopathy? Yes, many of the exercises are similar to what osteopaths and chiropractors do. It is excellent to receive this care professionally. However, at times it is hard to find a great chiropractor or osteopath, and actually, these practices done at home are sometimes more effective than seeing a chiropractor or osteopath, according to our clients. Reasons for this are:
1. Some clients report that chiropractors or osteopaths are afraid to adjust certain areas of the spine. 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.
2. At times, even an excellent chiropractor or osteopath cannot 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.
3. Doing the exercises below yourself at home is less costly, and you can go at your own pace. You control the force and speed with which you do the exercises.
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.
The basic position for all these maneuvers. Lie down, preferably on a bed, although it could be on a carpeted floor or soft mat. Lie comfortably on your back without a pillow under your neck. Your feet should be together but not crossed, and pointing straight downward. If you wish, extend your arms straight out to your left and right sides.
1. Turning the head from side to side. There are actually two exercise to do with turning your head – the reach and the twist.
A. The 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.
B. The 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!
Bending the legs. With your head straight (eyes looking up to the ceiling), bend your left leg so that your left ankle and foot are close to your behind and your left knee is pressed close to your chest. Now slowly and gently move your left leg, especially the left knee, to the right, over the other leg, so it twists your spine to the right. As you do this, keep your head straight, and try to keep your shoulders on the bed or mat.
If possible, move the left knee all the way down to the bed or mat. This is the basic twist. Now return the left leg to the resting position, extended straight down and parallel with the other leg.
Only if you feel comfortable, you can get more twist by doing the exercise again with two modifications:
1. Instead of bending the left knee, lift the left leg so that the toes point up in the air. Point the toes like in a ballet position. Then twist the left toes and foot to the right, over the right leg, until the left foot touches the bed or mat on the right side. This is a more powerful twist, so be very careful and gentle at all times. When done, return the left leg to the resting position parallel with the right leg, straight out on the bed or mat.
2. Only if you wish, and if it does not hurt, an even more powerful twist will occur if you make one other modification. Lift the left leg straight up in the air again and point the toes, ballet style. Now, instead of having your head straight with the eyes pointing to the ceiling, turn your head to the left, with your left cheek touching the bed or close to it. Now swing the left foot and leg to the right, over the right leg, until the left foot gently touches the bed or mat. Always do this gently and slowly, and never force anything. Return the left leg to the resting position parallel with the other leg, and turn your head back so the eyes face the ceiling.
The other leg. Now repeat the exercise with the right leg. First bend the right leg so the heel is close to your behind and the knee is close to your chest. Then gently and slowly move the right knee and leg to the left until it comes to touch the bed or mat. Then return the right leg to the resting position parallel with the left leg.
Then, only if you wish, you may do the more powerful twists:
1. Instead of bending the right knee, lift the right leg so that the toes point up in the air. Point the toes like in a ballet position. Then twist the right toes and foot to the left, over the left leg, until the right foot touches the bed or mat. This is a more powerful twist, so be very careful and gentle at all times. When done, return the right leg to the resting position parallel with the left leg, straight out on the bed or mat.
2. Only if you wish, and if it does not hurt, an even more powerful twist will occur if you make one other modification. Lift the right leg straight up in the air again and point the toes, ballet style. Now, instead of having your head straight with the eyes pointing to the ceiling, turn your head to the right, with your right cheek touching the bed or close to it. Now swing the right foot and leg to the left, over the left leg, until the right foot gently touches the bed or mat. Always do this gently and slowly, and never force anything. Then return the right leg to the resting position parallel with the other leg, and turn your head back so the eyes face the ceiling.
What will happen. You will usually 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, as I believe this twist is quite safe if done as described above.
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 do it automatically 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.