If you walk upright, sitting for the majority of your day and currently have a heartbeat, I have an excellent exercise for you.
But first, let’s back up a bit.
Anatomy lesson one: Within the confines of our nervous system we have something called the autonomic nervous system which is comprised of two separate systems.
One is called the parasympathetic nervous system and the other is called the sympathetic nervous system.
These two systems influence your day-to-day metabolism, temperature, heart rate, digestion, immunity and energy to name a few.
These systems don’t solely regulate these functions, but to have a lot to do with them.
These two systems can be considered a teeter totter. When one is up the other conversely goes down.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the system that we stay in for the great majority of our day.
It can be considered our cruise control. It monitors and regulates a majority of daily functions.
The sympathetic nervous system is the one that is responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ response.
It is the one that raises our heart rate, increases blood supply to the heart and lungs, increases muscular contraction and is responsible for the release of hormones that make us stronger, faster and more explosive in short duration. This is our stressed state.
I think this system is residual from our cave man days when we were being chased by the saber-tooth tiger.
Anatomically, this sympathetic nervous system resides in your spinal cord approximately between your shoulder blades.
Have you ever noticed when you’re under a considerable amount of stress and fatigue that area between your shoulder blades is tighter and more irritable than otherwise?
It is largely due to the fact that you are stuck in what is called a ‘sympathetic storm.’
In this instance your body is staying in a low boiling state of a form of fight or flight response.
I can tell how much stress a patient of mine is under simply by palpitating their midback. In some patients, it feels like concrete.
When the mid-back, or thoracic spine, becomes rigid, this sustained fight or flight response potentiates itself further causing more rigidity, thus continuing the cycle.
It’s important to break the cycle and turn off your sympathetic nervous system before it burns out.
Here is a inexpensive, low-tech but highly effective exercise that everyone who has a spine should do.
If you have a suspicion or confirmation of osteoporosis or osteopenia, do not attempt this exercise. Consult with your practitioner prior to beginning any new exercise.
We’ve all seen them, those colorful cylindrical pool noodle. Cut one in approximately a three-foot length. Lay it on the ground.
Make sure the ground is firm and not soft like a mattress. Lying on your back, make sure the pool noodle is in contact with your shoulder blades.
Make sure that the back of your head is resting on the ground.
Now, slowly roll the pool noodle about four inches up toward your neck, while keeping the pool noodle in contact with your shoulder blades the entire time.
You’ll feel the pressure building up in your mid-back as a result of the pool noodle pushing up against your spine.
Rest there quietly for about 30 seconds and then move the pool noodle up or down another few inches, resting another 30 seconds.
I do this every night for approximately five minutes just before going to bed.
This will mobilize the thoracic spine vertebrae and allow for the joints to restore their otherwise supple nature.
What this does to your nervous system, especially your sympathetic nervous system, is that it turns it down allowing you to enter into your normal parasympathetic state.
The most amazing thing about this exercise is that if you do it immediately before going to bed, you’ll sleep like a baby.
This should be a very comfortable exercise and should never be painful.
You may hear some popping of joints which is entirely acceptable.
If you try this exercise for a week, I promise you you’ll crave it by the end of the day.