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What's Your Spinal IQ?

When you think of the term IQ, you probably think of the intelligence tests that are given in schools.   Those IQ tests attempt to measure a person's problem solving ability - a form of mental gymnastics, if you will. Your spinal IQ also has to do with problem solving, but these are "problems" of the physical kind.

How far to bend over to lift those grocery bags out of your car's trunk, and which muscles must be engaged to bend and lift safely? How much muscle force is necessary to pick up and carry your young child? What specific muscles are needed to maintain your "downward dog" position for 30 seconds during your yoga class? How far can your back muscles stretch when you do a back bend at the ballet barre? These are the problems your spinal IQ tries to solve.

Spinal IQ is an inborn ability. Our bodies were designed for the rigors of physical work - they are very smart and very adaptable. One of our built-in control systems is the specialized set of nerve endings known as proprioceptors.

Proprioception is our internal awareness of position in three-dimensional space.1,2 This three-dimensional positioning allows us to track where our body is in space, and to keep our balance when we walk or run. Proprioception tells our muscles and joints how to work together to throw a baseball from third to first, to drive to the basketball hoop and sink a lay-up, or to hit a tennis ball to the corner of the opponent's service box and win the point.

Proprioception is very important in spinal IQ. The spine is a complex system of bones, joints, muscles, and ligaments.  A smart proprioception system helps all the parts work together smoothly and seamlessly.

We need to take an active role in order to keep all the parts functioning in an ideal manner. In modern society, if we're not proactive, it's easy for our bodies to break down. The most important strategies for maintaining high levels of spinal IQ are regular strenuous exercise and regular chiropractic check-ups.

Exercise helps our bodies stay smart.3 When we exercise, our joints are mechanically stressed and challenged throughout their complete ranges of motion. This activity stimulates proprioceptors - training them to do their job well and building new and stronger connections between nerve cells. Exercise also builds muscle strength and flexibility, and in the process the muscles are getting smarter, too.  It also helps to reset the "fight or flight" response to stress that becomes "locked in" when we are stressed but fail to exercise.

Chiropractic care enhances the benefits of your exercise program by helping ensure optimal functioning of your spine and nerve system. With regular chiropractic care, your proprioceptive system is optimized and your body's ability to adapt to physical challenges is restored.

Your Millar chiropractor will be happy to assist you in designing an exercise program that will work for you - helping you to improve both your spinal IQ and your health.

1Armstrong B, et al: Head and neck position sense. Sports Med 38(2):101-117, 2008
2Chow DH, et al: Changes in spinal curvature and proprioception of schoolboys carrying different weights of backpack. Ergonomics 50(12):2148-2156, 2007
3Akuthota V, et al: Core stability exercise principles. Curr Sports Med Rep 7(1):39-44, 2008

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Core Strengthening and Your Spinal IQ

In the old days, football players, ballet dancers, and gymnasts went to practice and class and did what they did, but no one talked about core strengthening. We now understand that much of what these highly trained athletes were doing worked to strengthen their core musculature.

Your core muscles include your deep abdominal muscles and your deep spinal, pelvic, and hip muscles. Core muscles are trained by large, compound movements that use your body's own weight as a gravitational load. Lunges, squats, push-ups, pull-ups, and jumping jacks are all excellent core exercises.

Again, decades ago athletic coaches never talked about core exercises. They just knew these basic, fundamental exercises were critically important for their students' success.

Other important core exercises include abdominal crunches, elbow planks, and pelvis press-ups. Your Millar chiropractor understands the importance of exercise and core strength for a healthy spine, and will be able to help select a group of exercises that will work for you.

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