Sponsored By: AlignLife of Summerville  

If you’re feeling depressed, overweight, tired and just suffering from the aches and pains of aging, you might be wondering where things went wrong.

“One of the best ways to maintain your youth and your health is to maintain your spine,” says Dr. Thomas Mercante, a chiropractor and nutritionist at AlignLife of Summerville. Over the past 25 years, Dr. Mercante has studied how the interaction between the spine and spinal cord can affect every system in the body.

“The bones in your spine move in many directions to give us flexibility,” Dr. Mercante says. “Nerves that are attached to your spinal cord exit through the bones in your spine and go to every cell, tissue and organ in your body. When your spine gets misaligned, pressure on these nerves diminishes the signal from the brain and can cause all sorts of problems such as acid reflux, digestive issues, high blood pressure, headaches, sciatica, neck pain, headaches and much more,” he says. “That is why it is imperative to maintain this most important system in your body.”

“Do you ever wonder why can some people in their 80’s run marathons, while others are in wheelchairs or just going through life in pain and over-medicated?” Dr. Mercante says. “We can’t control every aspect of our health, but we can control how we treat our spines and what type of food we put in our bodies to give us a better chance to age gracefully and healthy.”

Dr. Mercante shared these 4 things that those suffering from back and body pain can do to improve their health:

1. Check your posture

Your posture – how straight you hold your spine while walking or sitting – is directly related to your health and plays a bigger role than you might think. “The spine protects your spinal cord, which is the information super highway that carries the signals from your brain to every cell, tissue and organ in your body,” Dr. Mercante says. “That means that your spine plays an important role in a fully functional nervous system.”

“Poor posture can put pressure on your spinal column, which in turn can impair nerve function,” Dr. Mercante says. “Impaired nerves can lead to body systems not working correctly, which will eventually lead to pain and then unnecessary medications.”

To combat this, Dr. Mercante suggests paying attention to your shoulders and chin. “While walking, pull your shoulders back and pull in your chin. Imagine you’re cracking an egg between the shoulder blades,” he says. “While sitting, it’s important to have lumbar support to prevent lower back fatigue.”

2. Exercise, if only a little bit

A sedentary lifestyle is bad for your spine and bad for your health. If your lifestyle involves long stretches of sitting every day, you’re going to feel worse overall.

“You don’t need to go the gym,” Dr. Mercante says. “You can get a therapy ball, resistance bands or dumbbells and exercise at the house. Just walking 30 minutes several times a week is a great way to stay fit. Yoga and Pilates are also wonderful ways to stay fit and limber.” Check with a professional, like those at AlignLife of Summerville, to find out what kind of exercise best fits your health and lifestyle and if you are ready and able to start and exercise program.

3. Using your phone? Don’t look down

Let’s face it – people spend a lot more time on their phones and iPads these days than they used to. While smartphones make keeping in touch easier than ever, they can also create spinal problems if used incorrectly.

“We have a 15-pound bowling ball sitting on our shoulders – our head – that hangs down while we’re texting, sitting at the computer, driving, and the list goes on,” Dr. Mercante says.

Instead of keeping your head down while texting, he suggests bring your arms up higher and look forward while typing. Or, if it won’t disturb those around you, consider using your phone’s speech-to-text features to dictate your text messages.

This same advice applies to other smartphone uses. Whether you’re checking Facebook or browsing the internet, remember to give your neck and shoulders a break.

4. For better back comfort, sleep on it

Poor sleeping position is as potentially harmful as the rest of our activities of daily living. “Sleeping on your back is preferable, with your head supported with a proper pillow,” Dr. Mercante says. “If you sleep on your side, put a pillow between your knees to keep your hips in alignment.”

“You have thousands of traumas throughout your life,” he says. “And as we age we start to feel older than we really are because our spines, if not maintained, start to break down and become arthritic. We stiffen up, and organs and tissues don’t function optimally. Treat your spine like you treat your car or your teeth. We do regular maintenance on them but leave our spines to chance as we age. By following a few simple health tips, your spine – and your health – will thank you!”