Author Topic: Exercises that realign your spine: Postural Restoration Physical Therapy  (Read 49920 times)

Offline hi_itsgwen

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I was speaking with a physical therapist recently, and he described a technique that he's training in called Postural Restoration.  (say 'posture'-as in not slouching and 'ul')  It's a process of realigning the spine via physical therapy/muscular exercises.  It's a relatively new field in physical therapy which recognizes that the connections from the muscles in the torso affect spinal alignment...and spinal alignment affects the nerves which control our bodies, signal pain, healing/repair, etc.  If muscles can strain against the vertebrae/spine and pull it out...why can't we counterstrain the opposing muscles to pull the spine back in? 

PR is a relatively 'new' direction in physical therapy.  The man who pioneered this approach was originally a dental student who became 'sidetracked' by the fact that he so often saw teeth that were worn only on one side of the mouth.  This fascination with the imbalance or asymmetry of the human body led him to med school, and finally to this whole new approach to re-balancing the muscles/breathing/spine through physical therapy

This really caught my attention, as I had recently been to the chiropractor due to recurring hip pain.  I was told that I needed to come 3 times a week for a month and then once a week for the next 5 months to heal up the alignment issues that were causing my problems.  I asked why I needed to come so frequently, and his reply was that the muscles were used to the vertebrae being 'out', and that we would need to train them by frequent realignments for the first month.  OK...makes sense.  But at $40 a visit x 32 visits...yikes!  (Insert my husband's joke "How many chiropractors do you need to change a lightbulb? One...but it will take 3 visits a week for 4 months...") ;D

My friend offered to show me some exercises that would help reposition my muscles and diaphragm and they in turn would pull the spine back into alignment.  He said that the main problem that they see is the left side is out of alignment...almost everyone is.  One reason is just daily repeated actions that utilize only the right side of the body.  Asymmetry examples illustrate how this posture affects the body: http://posturalrestoration.com/about/recognizing-asymmetry/

For instance, most people stand with all of their weight on their right foot, and stick their left foot out to the side.  Of course, this is exactly what I do because it's the cool way to stand (hello!  I grew up in the 80's :) )  He said that after attending the training sessions for PR, he had to retrain himself to switch legs.  He now shifts his weight to the left leg mostly, puts his right foot onto his left knee when sitting, and even pulls his left hip back slightly when driving his stick shift.  He said that he has to constantly remind himself to do this, but it's really helping to even out his alignment issues.  A lot of other great and simple recommendations are here:http://posturalrestoration.com/resources/pri-living/

A lot of the alignment emphasis is on balancing the diaphragm/lungs when breathing.  Most of us breathe from our chest (our upper ribs swell out when we take a deep breath) instead of the diaphragm (your tummy swells out when you take a deep breath).  My friend said that musicians are trained to breathe from their diaphragms, so they have fewer back problems. 

Balanced diaphragm breathing keeps your spine in much better alignment, as it fires off all of the muscles that connect to the spine.  He also told me that you can 'fire off' other muscles to encourage re-balancing the left side of your body.  He specifically mentioned the back molars (right side-bite down on a popsicle stick), the muscles on the back of the left thigh, the arches of the feet, and the gluteus muscles. 

The exercises that he showed me utilize positioning that stretches one segment of the body or spine on an inhale, and compresses an area of the rib cage on the exhale...hold the exhale for 5 seconds, hold the stretched positioning, and then do 2-4 more sets increasing the stretch with each exhale.

He did say that he does use a chiropractor when he feels a vertebrae move, or when he has rib pain in his back.  But he believes that PR is a great alternative to chiropractic care on a day in/day out basis when dealing with imbalanced muscle movements that cause the spine to pull out of alignment.  He has seen incredible things in his practice using these simple techniques. 

Since PR is often offered in Physical Therapy offices, it is often covered by insurance with a physician's referral.  There is a 'find a therapist' link on the website below.

Here is a link to the PR Institute (it's a bit technical in places):
http://posturalrestoration.com

Here are links in the Resources section to some different techniques if you'd like to see more.
Some daily simple things to improve your posture balancing:
http://posturalrestoration.com/media/pdfs/Position_Poster.pdf
different techniques:
http://posturalrestoration.com/resources/technique-of-the-week/
« Last Edit: February 06, 2009, 09:52:27 AM by hi_itsgwen »
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Offline hi_itsgwen

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Re: Postural Restoration as an alternative to Spinal Manipulation/Chiropractor
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2008, 04:55:50 PM »
Bump!  Should I rename this thread something else?  It's about how to do simple exercises that cause your muscles to realign your spine.

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Offline Jade

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Re: Postural Restoration as an alternative to Spinal Manipulation/Chiropractor
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2008, 07:35:55 PM »
This sounds similar to some of the exercises that I've done with T-Tapp. I readily confess to not enjoying T-Tapping (which is why I don't do it very often!), but back when I buckled down and did a serious bootcamp, I noticed that the back pain I had experienced since my first pregnancy went away. One move that I think helped was the Primary Back Stretch. I should mention that the results were semi-permanent, in that even after I quit T-Tapping, my back was fine and stayed in alignment... until my next pregnancy.  ::)

Thanks for starting this thread! You always come up with the most fascinating stuff!  :)
« Last Edit: January 04, 2009, 05:12:53 PM by Jade »
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Offline hi_itsgwen

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Re: Postural Restoration as an alternative to Spinal Manipulation/Chiropractor
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2008, 04:25:00 PM »
Oh yeah...I asked him about how long you have to do the exercises.  He said that you do them until you have good results, and then maintain just through shifting your pattern of activities to balance out your muscle usage.  If you have problems again, then you can start doing some of the targeted activities.

I had never really realized how much I use the right half of my body...no wonder my spine was out. I am trying to switch over, and I LOVE the sleeping position that they recommend on the site.
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Offline Jade

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I LOVE the sleeping position that they recommend on the site.

hi_itsgwen, where did you find the sleeping position? I tried to look for it myself, but got a little lost.  ::) You weren't kidding when you said the site was a bit technical in places!  :)
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Offline hi_itsgwen

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Um...yeah :)  it's a little over the top technical.  But if it works  ;D

Here is a link:
http://posturalrestoration.com/media/pdfs/Position_Poster.pdf

The sleeping positions are at the bottom of the poster.
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Offline its_me518

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Re: Exercises that realign your spine: Postural Restoration Physical Therapy
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2009, 12:07:42 PM »
I gotta say.. this seems to be what Ttapp is all about!! I have noticed that within the last month of starting/doing Ttapp.. my back is realigned & it does NOT come back out of place. When I first started, I was already planning when I was gonna go see a chiro.. now, a month later... no need!! All for just the price of the Ttapp DVDS!!  ;D
« Last Edit: February 06, 2009, 12:09:25 PM by its_me518 »
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Offline amy

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I feel compelled to share my experience which relates to this thread.  After the birth of our 4th baby, I had horrible lower back pain.  After several accupuncture treatments and 60 visits to the physical therapist, I could move again, but was still in pain.  Convinced I had given "their" way sufficient time to work, I began my own therapy.  I found a book that taught much about skeletal alignment and acheiving it through specific exercises.  Within just a few weeks of doing the recommended exercises, my pain was gone...just in time for my next pregnancy!  And some people say God doesn't have a sense of humor  :)

After my research, I'd have to say the bottom line is that chiropractors are trying to retrain your muscles by repeatedly adjusting your bones.  Postural therapies use your muscles to realign your bones.  Since muscles control bones, doing exercises makes much more sense to me.  Even if you opt to use a chiropractor to temporarily relieve pain (ie. treat the symptom), following up with proper exercises is still necessary to really cure the problem. 

There are 2 books I've found that teach this concept and have self diagnosis and very specific exercise programs.  Here are links to both of them:

http://www.amazon.com/Pain-Free-Program-Proven-Relieve-Shoulder/dp/0471687200/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243078052&sr=1-11

http://www.amazon.com/Egoscue-Method-Health-Through-Motion/dp/0060924306/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243077976&sr=8-4

I hope this helps further encourage others to take responsibility for their own health and treatment.

Blessings,
Amy

Offline hi_itsgwen

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I just wanted to update.  Since I first posted on this at the end of December '08, I have had a remarkable recovery. 

After my friend did some therapy stretches on my right arm, and showed me the basic exercise, I have not had another debilitating episode.  When I would feel a little 'twinge' in my hip, I would check for alignment, and I was always out on the right side.  After doing some of the exercises, I was able to bring my spine back into alignment and had no more problems.  I had maybe 3-4 times of feeling my hip in the 3 months following the original post, but no real pain.  And I can't remember the last time I noticed my hip at all.

Yay!

My friend showed me how I could check to see if I was out of alignment. Just lay down flat on your back with your arms straight out to your sides. Now, bending at your elbows, raise your hands toward the ceiling, keeping the upper arm on the floor, and at a 90 degree angle to your body. Relax your shoulders completely. One side at a time, totally relax your arm so that your hand falls forward, toward the floor (toward your feet). If both hands can touch the floor, you're in alignment. If one hand can't go all the way down, you're 'out' on that side.
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Offline healthyinOhio

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My husband has a damaged disc from working construction.  Sometimes moving heavy things puts it out of alignment.  He did have relief with a chiropractic adjustment years ago.  But something that he has found that keeps it at bay is the ttap back stretch.  If you get the Basic workout, it has the ttap back stretch.  He tries to do it whenever he can remember and he doesn't have the normal back pain.  If he moves something extremely heavy, and can feel the pain coming on, he immediately does the ttap move and it goes away.  Yeah for t-tapp!

Offline floydian

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My husband has a damaged disc from working construction.  Sometimes moving heavy things puts it out of alignment.  He did have relief with a chiropractic adjustment years ago.  But something that he has found that keeps it at bay is the ttap back stretch.  If you get the Basic workout, it has the ttap back stretch.  He tries to do it whenever he can remember and he doesn't have the normal back pain.  If he moves something extremely heavy, and can feel the pain coming on, he immediately does the ttap move and it goes away.  Yeah for t-tapp!

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Offline smileyface

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Re: Exercises that realign your spine: Postural Restoration Physical Therapy
« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2009, 05:18:43 PM »
My friend showed me how I could check to see if I was out of alignment. Just lay down flat on your back with your arms straight out to your sides. Now, bending at your elbows, raise your hands toward the ceiling, keeping the upper arm on the floor, and at a 90 degree angle to your body. Relax your shoulders completely. One side at a time, totally relax your arm so that your hand falls forward, toward the floor (toward your feet). If both hands can touch the floor, you're in alignment. If one hand can't go all the way down, you're 'out' on that side.
Okay, what if both hands don't go all the way down?  ;D My right side goes slightly farther down than my left, though. Unless I did it wrong.  ???
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Offline hi_itsgwen

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Re: Exercises that realign your spine: Postural Restoration Physical Therapy
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2009, 06:38:35 PM »
Okay, what if both hands don't go all the way down?  ;D My right side goes slightly farther down than my left, though. Unless I did it wrong.  ???
Well, honestly, I don't know.  My friend said that if you're in alignment, both hands should touch.  Now, mine don't touch flat palmed, but my fingers touch with my wrists just slightly bent. 

The website is so very technical, that you may want to look into the books mentioned above in Amy's post.

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Offline hi_itsgwen

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Re: Exercises that realign your spine: Postural Restoration Physical Therapy
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2009, 04:17:21 PM »
Specific Exercises that you can do to re-align the spine.  
These directions are for those who are 'out' on the right hand side, which would be a majority of people.  Overuse of the right side causes the spine to compress on that side.  If you do the alignment check in post #14, and you're out on the left side, then just reverse sides on these instructions.

Back of the thigh exercise: The muscle on the back of the thigh are a trigger for the muscles that run along the left side of the spine, and help the left side to tense and pull back against the overly-tightened right side muscles.  This one is so very easy, and good for re-aligning the whole spine.
Lay down flat on your back with your feet propped up on something so that your knees are at a 90 degree angle.  A couch, chair or higher foot-rest would be good. 
Relax your right leg and foot.  Push down hard toward the floor with your left foot only.  Your goal is to tense the back of the left leg and hold.  Take a DEEP breath down in your diaphragm...your tummy should poke out (not your chest!)  Hold this for 5 seconds.  Relax your leg and exhale.  Repeat about 5 times.  You can do this as often as you'd like.  I got to where I could target tense the back of my thigh while standing, and would do this while washing dishes, etc. if I noticed my hip bothering me.

Neck Muscle ExerciseThis is more of a targeted exercise if you're 'out' in your neck.  The back molars trigger the muscles that flank the neck vertabrae, which causes the muscles to pull your neck back into alignment.
Take a popsicle stick and put it between the last two molars on the left side of your mouth.  Bite down and hold.  Take a deep breath into your diaphragm (tummy poking out, not chest).  Hold for 5 seconds.  Relax, exhale.  Repeat 5 times.

**For both of these exercises, you will not necessarily feel an immediate 'pop' of vertabrae going back into place.  I found that sometimes it was hours later that I'd feel my vertabrae pop back into place.**

For a more intense stretch of the right side of the spine:
Lay flat on your back on your bed crosswise, with the top of your head even with the edge of the bed.  Have your hubby or someone else strong and that you're comfortable with stand behind your head.  Stretch your right arm over your head, and have them grasp it firmly with their right arm.  Have them put their left palm on the left side of your ribcage (below the breast). 
You: You are going to take DEEP diaphragm breaths (tummy pokes out, NOT chest), holding for 3 seconds, and then exhaling and immediately taking another deep breath.  You'll do this 5 times. 
Your helper: With each breath, your helper will *gently* but firmly pull your right arm straight back, while *gently* but firmly pressing on the left side of your rib-cage. The pulling of the arm stretches the right side of the spine, and the press restricts the left side from stretching, focusing the stretch to the right side.  The helper should not release the arm/ribcage when you exhale, but should pause, and gently pull a little further back/depress ribs a tiny bit further with each breath.  This should not hurt!  Be sure your helper understands that the goal is gentle stretching...not rib cracking/arm disjointing pressure. ;D
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Offline GarlicMomma

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Re: Exercises that realign your spine: Postural Restoration Physical Therapy
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2010, 01:54:17 AM »
Thanks for the information. Thought I would give a quick experience that I had just yesterday.

Prior to yesterday, the right side of my back has been hurting for days. I thought about pain medicine yesterday. Decided to search welltellme and came across this info.

I implemented putting my left side forward all day yesterday and especially while driving. The rest of the day, my back did not hurt.

The days before were spent trying to relieve the pain by "cracking", stretching, and heating pads. Nothing worked.

I am going to work on putting my left side for today too.

Offline hi_itsgwen

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Re: Exercises that realign your spine: Postural Restoration Physical Therapy
« Reply #15 on: January 22, 2010, 05:32:38 AM »
GarlicMama,
Try the back of the thigh exercise in the post right above yours.  Tightening the muscle on the back of the left thigh, and taking deep diaphragm breaths trigger the muscles that flank the left side of the spine to tense, pulling back against the overly used right side muscles.  It feels good, and it VERY simple to do! 
It's an effective and gentle stretch...sometimes I'd feel my back or neck pop back into place hours later as a result. ;)
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Offline GarlicMomma

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Re: Exercises that realign your spine: Postural Restoration Physical Therapy
« Reply #16 on: January 22, 2010, 08:51:02 AM »
I had did all the exercises you listed here and on the website too. What seemed to help the most was to purposely "push" my left hip and leg more forward. This helped especially when I was driving. Now I am practicing it while working at the desk.