By Kelsey Stern, Chiropractic Intern
Throughout the day, our bodies tend to acquire aches and pains. This is true in any profession, whether a majority of your time is sitting or moving. As a once full-time student who has spent 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 3 years in a seated position, I can also attest to the neck, upper back, and lower back pain I gained on and off during my studies. Whether seated or moving, we are altering our bodies’ biomechanics in specific patterns all the while not offering enough variety to adequately deal with everyday stress placed on the body. When we remain stationary, muscles, ligaments, and tendons weaken and become rigid, predisposing us to micro-tears and prematurely limiting our range of motion. When we are moving, we are not allowing adequate rest, resulting in overexertion injuries and sprains/strains.
We have exercises and stretches that not only target specific muscles, but postural modifications to supplement them, to help lengthen shortened muscles and contract weak, chronically lengthened ones. However, let’s add a missing piece to the puzzle and go deeper into the cause of our pain. The fancy name for the technique is called “Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization” or DNS for short. It was first created by Dr. Kolar and the principles behind this rehabilitative concept is developmental kinesiology: we’re going back to the basics by engaging underused muscles in a coordinated manner. Here’s how we can do that.
One simple, but powerful exercise is Diaphragmatic Breathing. We’re not only engaging the diaphragm, but what are known as the “deep core” muscles, which include the pelvic floor muscles, external obliques, and transverse abdominis. The ultimate goal of this exercise is to engage these muscles in a coordinated way via breathing and will act as a natural brace for your spine.
First, take a couple of deep breaths without concentrating too much on what you’re doing. Then, place a hand on your stomach, the other on your sternum. Take a deep breaths and feel your hands move. Take another deep breath, but focus only on the stomach hand moving up and down – let the sternum hand remain still. We really want to contract and relax those deep core muscles, the primary stabilizers of the spine. Keep taking deep breaths, concentrating on that hand on your stomach. With your next breath, stiffen your abdomen as if preparing for a punch and take another deep breath. Feel those muscles shakily work together. If it’s a little difficult at first, that’s ok! These muscles tend to be underutilized and will take time to strengthen.
This exercise is great for patients who have an increased curve in their lower back which makes sitting or standing for long periods at a time difficult and uncomfortable. Individuals who feel unbalanced or a little unstable will find some benefits. The beauty of this exercise is that you can do this literally anywhere at any time.