Sunday, 16 March 2014

Brain and Spine part of optimal health





“If you would seek health
look first to the spine”
- Socrates


As we come to a close of Brain Awareness Week we come to the "support team" that help with the vital brain functions. 

The nervous system consists of your brain, sense organs, spinal cord and nerves. The brain relies on nerves to receive communication to and from the the rest of the body.  We perceive the world via nerves and we respond to the world via nerves.  So to say they are pretty important is a huge understatement.


The spinal cord is a long bundle of nerves that extends from the lower section of the brain through the spinal column to every cell, tissue and organ in the body, as seen in the image below.  These nerves are responsible for sending instructions to every part of our body to control all our functions.


The spinal column (or spine) consists of 24 ring shaped bones, called vertabra(e), stacked on top of each other, separated by ‘discs’ that allow movement and act as shock absorbers. The vertabrae forms a protective tube for the spinal cord to run through and a healthy spine will move well.

Nerves that come out of the spine at different levels are responsible for different muscles and organs.  




Your Spine and Healthy Mind
Spinal Nerves innervate the organs.
This chart shows which spinal level affects which organ.

A healthy brain receives good input from the nerves via the spinal column as it has a good picture of what is happening neurologically in the body to be able to regulate appropriately.
Physical, emotional, mental and chemical stresses in our lives can cause tension, misalignment or altered spinal motion. Chiropractors know these spinal alterations as spinal subluxations.  Subluxation has different meanings in different fields, so is often misunderstood especially by medical practitioners and researchers.  This leads to confusion and often negativity based on lack of understanding and resistance to accept other points of view.

These spinal subluxations are acknowledgements of potential points of interference with the flow of information to and from the brain, reducing its ability to coordinate bodily functions. 

The nerves exiting the spine at different levels are responsible for different muscles and organs.  This means that different areas are more at risk depending on where the spinal dysfunction is.

Many people are under the misconception that if they have a spinal subluxation or dysfunction they will experience pain, in fact most back problems, spine issues and spinal subluxations exist without any obvious pain or discomfort in the spine. Instead it may be expressed as tightness, tension, reduced muscle strength and coordination and so on.

Aside from the nerve mediated changes the spine creates structural framework that acts as a foundation for most movements and functions of the body. Changes to the alignment of the spine leads to changes in the way muscles work, and may affect performance of those muscles.  Most people notice this as a movement restriction or a decline in their sporting performance.
Even the mechanical nature of basic things such as breathing relies on pressure changes created by ribs and muscles that attach to the spine.  So change the shape and movement of the spine and you can change movement of the ribs and subsequently messing with the pressure system in the chest.  Thus the mechanism of breathing becomes less efficient.  Increase chest pressure logically suggests that the heart has more pressure to overcome pumping blood and so could see blood pressure rise. Increased pressure from the chest cavity can push down on the abdominal contents, leading to potential changes to how the abdominal organs work possibly leading to reflux, irritable bowel, to name a few.

For these reasons it is recommended that you have your spine checked regularly to ensure that your whole body is working better, it is not just about back pain..



Tips to Care for Your Spine

  •  Avoid overloading while bending your spine: 
    • Squat or kneel when working close to the ground. 
    • Bend from your knees when lifting objects. Hold the object close to your body.
    • Use your core - tense your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles 
      with all lifting and bending.
  •  Avoid staying in one position for long periods of time: 
    • Move and stretch frequently. 
    • Every 20 minutes is optimal if you are doing computer or desk work, it only needs to take a few seconds.
  • Sleep in a good position, avoid sleeping on your front.
  • Have your spine checked and maintained by a spinal health professional regularly at the first sign of symptoms, BEFORE pain FORCES you to do something about it.
     


Seeing one of our Chiropractors, Osteopaths or Physiotherapists may help to ensure that information can flow freely through the nervous system allowing the body’s functions to be better coordinated and allow it to adapt to stress more efficiently. Call us on 8346 3495 to book an appointment

 While Brain Awareness Week finishes it is important to remember that we need to always look for ways to challenge our brain so it can be in its best shape for years to come.




Image credit - Wellness practices

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