Did you know that the optimal sleep posture results in fewer wrinkles? Were you aware that losing as much as four inches of height as you age may be preventable? Or that adding hot spices to your meal can raise your metabolism by as much as 20 percent and help you shed weight? These may seem like random facts, but they all have something in common: spinal health.
After you read the new book by Dr. Jay M. Lipoff, CFT, a nationally recognized expert in spinal injury prevention, you will have a newfound awareness of and appreciation for your spine and what you can do to protect it. In the process, you may improve other aspects of your health as well.
In Back at Your Best: Balancing the Demands of Life with the Needs of Your Body, Dr. Lipoff presents dozens of science-based tips and techniques for avoiding back and neck pain. Many of his suggestions and ideas were brand-new to me. For example, I learned how to adjust my driver’s seat, mirror, and steering wheel to be in their optimum ergonomic position for long road trips without stiffness or pain. I discovered why I should use ice for inflammation, but heat for muscle spasms. (He even throws in a recipe for a DYI nonfreezing ice pack — a 1:2 ratio of rubbing alcohol and water in a Ziploc.) I found out why stress always aggravates that same darned place in my trapezius, and which vitamins and supplements ward off joint and muscle aches.
Anatomy wonks will love the first part of the book. A private practice chiropractor for more than two decades, Dr. Lipoff educates readers on the framework of the body — neck, back, arms, hips, legs, knees, and feet — and explains all the ways these parts work together or get out of alignment, and what happens when we don’t pay attention to how we use them. Self-care of the body’s musculoskeletal system is about much more than posture, he reminds us. We learn that it includes nutritional support, stress management, weight management, positive thinking, and avoidance of habits and toxins, among other strategies. He gives us a thorough, holistic lesson on how to live healthfully.
Part II of Back at Your Best gets into the nitty-gritty practices you can do to maintain excellent spinal health. These include an extensive section on weight loss. Dr. Lipoff has a no-nonsense, fad-free approach that helps his patients lose weight slowly and steadily. In addition to his medical background, Dr. Lipoff is a Certified Fitness Trainer, and he draws on this expertise to present a number of simple workout routines for optimal spinal health, explained in clear prose and accompanied by black and white photos of each technique. You’ll learn proper ways to use gym equipment (How many times have I gone into a hotel fitness center and had no idea what to do on unfamiliar machines?), and you’ll discover ways to work out at home with minimal gear and equipment. I particularly loved his “office workout” and “car workout” for busy people.
The best part of the book for me, though, was Part III, where Dr. Lipoff includes many of the everyday activities we all do — sleeping, waking up, traveling, work and household chores, play, sports — and how to do these the right way. It’s these routine activities that are most often responsible for minor injuries. For example, the next time you go on a trip and have a large rolling suitcase, load it up with your other bags and push rather than pull it. Sure, you’ll look dorky but you’ll arrive at your destination limber and pain-free. He shows us everything from the proper way to position your pillows in bed, to how to pull a golf cart or even play the cello. You’ll discover the best way to carry a toddler, read a book, and have a long phone conversation. There’s even a great section on how to protect your child’s spine by making adjustments to his or her car seat, school backpack, and play equipment.
Although the emphasis in Back at Your Best is on prevention, Dr. Lipoff also details treatment options for those who suffer from headaches (yes, these can be caused by improper head and neck positions), sore backs, stiff necks, spasms, pinched nerves, and many more painful conditions related to the spine.