Spine Health: Have You Brushed and Flossed Your Spine Today?
By: Dr. Jason Meagrow, PT, DPT
I have to admit, I am not always great at brushing my teeth twice a day and I’m definitely not good at flossing every day. I am honest with my dentist about it and I appreciate that they don’t shame me about it. Maybe it’s because I’m blessed with good teeth and don’t generally have dental problems. Despite being lucky with my dental genetics, I still brush, floss (sometimes), and see my dentist every 6 months.
So why don’t we think of the rest of the body the same way we think about our teeth? Our spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. Both bones and teeth get their strength from calcium. Our muscles around our spine are made up of connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels just like our teeth are. Our teeth are important to us for eating, speaking, facial expressions, and give structure to our face. Our spine and spinal muscles are responsible for our whole body structure, posture, and every function that involves movement including arms and our legs. Both the vertebrae, spinal muscles, and teeth are subject to degeneration, overuse, or traumatic injury.
In some ways, you can still function without your teeth. In contrast, functioning without your spine causes major limitations in the body. Without a working spine, bending, twisting, turning our head to see objects, lifting, sleeping, walking, and even remaining still can become difficult. So why would we not give regular care to our spine? I love to see the light bulbs go off in my patient’s heads when I present the question this way.
There are many reasons why we don’t give regular care to our spines. Some reasons include; insurance coverage or cost, knowledge and education of how to care for our spine, or sometimes it’s just fear of doing the wrong thing or making things worse. Some of us just have a hard time being proactive about our health. Many of us have thought to ourselves “if it doesn’t hurt or if it isn’t causing a problem, then why should I spend time on my health?”. Well, do you wait until you need to have a cavity filled or a root canal done until you start brushing and flossing your teeth? Without regular care for our spine, we are just waiting for an injury, or maybe even an operation to motivate attention to our spine.
Unfortunately, most of the time when I am having this discussion, it’s with a patient who has already encountered a spine injury. There are many conditions physical therapists treat related to spine health; degenerative disk disease, arthritis, disk herniations, disk bulges, sprains, strains, fractures, scoliosis, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, sciatica, nerve impingement, and many more. All these things can have successful outcomes with physical therapy treatment. I speak for most of my patients when I say, they wished someone would have told them to start brushing and flossing their spine before they got injured. Once I teach them the signs and signals the spine needs attention, good daily spine habits, helpful movements, and spinal exercises, they then learn it’s not much harder than daily brushing and flossing.
As physical therapists at Robinet PT, we are trained to assess the spine with almost all conditions we see. It’s that important to the functions of the body and is often the cause behind injuries other than in the spine. We are capable of listening to our patient’s concerns, watching someone move, testing the body and spine, treating the spinal limitations, then re-testing to look for the expected improvement. By doing this we can identify both the root cause of your spinal limitation, even before it manifests itself as an injury. We can teach you how to take care of your spine to recover from your injuries, decrease chances of re-injury, and learn how to prevent injury in the first place. After learning how to “brush and floss” your spine, we can set up check-up appointments to make sure your spine stays healthy and identify areas of concern. We can be your dentists for your spine health.