I get many questions from patients regarding holding their adjustments following treatment. I find that it is often difficult for patients to remember that daily activities and general stressors can make the body go out of alignment. It can be crucial to look at habits, work stations, repetitive motions, and auto seat positioning, to name just a few, to find out what is irritating the body, causing micro-trauma that retards the body's ability to heal. I recall a patient that I saw awhile back who had neck pain. She would feel better for a short time after treatment, and then would continue to aggravate. At some point deep into our treatment plan, she said, "I think I finally figured out what is causing my neck pain!" It turns out that she was watching tv from her computer desk while she played Farmville, which kept her craning her neck to the right to watch her shows. While this is a humorous story, it is common to find that people are very unaware of the activities that keep their body in pain. Some of the recommendations that I make to my patients are to evaluate your positioning throughout the day to see if there is an ergonomic factor that could be improved, or some repetitive motion that could be altered. I also strongly recommend that patients stretch daily and stretch multiple times. The following are all stretches that can help prolong your adjustment by keeping the musculature released around the joints to keep the muscles from pulling you back out of place.
Some of my favorite stretches are very simple. The general instructions for the stretches is to do them 3-4 times daily, 8-15 seconds each stretch, don't stretch into pain, no bouncing, and there is no need for repetition (just one of each). Stretching the chin to the chest, ear to shoulder and chin to armpit; all of these just allowing the opposite hand to gently pull into the stretch. My favorite and most powerful stretch for any lower back pain is the psoas stretch. Because the psoas attaches to the front of the vertebrae in the lumbar spine and connect in the femur, it can compress the lower back and cause significant back pain. I find this particularly with people that sit for long periods of time, or people that do a lot of hip flexor work without stretching. It is accomplished by kneeling and lunging forward while keeping the upper torso erect. The focus of the stretch should be in the groin on the side of the knee on the floor.
I consider this stretch to be almost miraculous when dealing with lower back pain! A common complaint that I see in my office is arm pain, numbness or tingling, often from long hours on the computer. Some of the best results I have gotten in treating these cases has been stretching the muscles of the lower arms, even if the symptoms are going down the entire arm. Stretching the pectoralis, or chest muscles, through the door is helpful to clear up much of the upper arm problem.
Understanding that stretching can only take you so far, the perpetuating factors also must be addressed. Find outlets for your stress such as yoga, walking, journaling, meditation, pilates, and swimming. These are all relatively low impact activities that can help reduce stress without physically stressing the body unduly. Take a look at ways to eliminate or reduce areas of stress that you are able. Stress is one of the major factors in illness and disease in our society, so managing your stress is one area that can add life to your years. Remember that diet is also a key factor in the ability to hold your adjustments. If you are regularly eating fast food and fried foods, you can bet that your body is starving for real nourishment. Your body can only perform and/or heal with what you put into it. Consider that each bite you take is an investment in your health and longevity. And more than anything, find a way to have love, laughter and some enjoyment in every day!