Darren Rowse of ProBlogger launched his latest Group Writing Project, and this time the topic is “Top 5.″ Here’s the Top 5 I came up with:
I first began musing about the concept of body hacks after viewing Quinn Norton’s presentation on the subject. For those not familiar with the concept and pressed for time, my take on body hacking, is that the term simply describes an action you can take upon your body to improve or change the way in which it functions.

It didn’t take me long to realize that, as a Physical Therapist, my job is really one big body-hacking experience. I take bodies in one state, and tinker and provoke them with the help of their owners, and end up with a body in a different state. One that hopefully works better.

I started thinking, what are the best body hacks I know?? I came up with a list that I think are the most useful. Some you can perform yourself, others you probably need some help, least you end up with a broken spine. I tried to focus on those that can be performed independently. My science brain required me to post some evidence supporting each.

Without further ado…

The Top 5 Physical Therapist Recommended Body Hacks:

1. Repair your posture by fixing your muscle strength and overall fitness, NOT by sitting up straight.

A very common misconception is that in order to fix your posture you need to remember to sit up straight. Wrong! Even if you can manage to remember, it will only make your muscles fatigued and sore. Fixing posture is a magical thing, in that it happens automatically when you address the right things. First, improve your overall aerobic fitness. Do some walking, running, whatever. Next, isolate those weak muscles around your shoulder blades and in your mid-back and get them stronger with specific exercise. After a few weeks time…better posture! Just like that.

2. When you experience low back pain, respond by activating your core muscles.

When our bodies feel back pain, one of the first reactions they have is a bit paradoxical and harmful to the situation. Back pain inhibits the activity of your core muscles. The health of the core muscles are important in preventing back pain. See the dilemma? You can help by doing some simple core stabilization exercises whenever your back feels sore to help stave off developing back problems. You’d be surprised at both how little pain it takes to shut these muscles down, and how helpful it can be to your back to wake them back up!

3. Lengthen your hamstrings to prevent most body pain and boost your athletic skills.

If I had to pick one muscle that I wished was more flexible in any of the bodies I treat, I would surely pick the hamstrings. These play a role in how you walk, as well as back, knee, and hip pains. Their health and ability to function has a lot to do with how athletic you are. The hamstring muscles cross two joints, making them big players in the precise control of your lower limb. Please never let them get tight, or stay that way. Stretch!

4. Slow, gentle stretching provides the biggest bang for the buck.

For most people, stretching is an exercise in futility. Muscle fibers are strong, and exist at a fixed length. When leaning hard into a muscle to stretch it, that sensation you feel is nothing more than your body fighting back. Greater gains in flexibility occur with prolonged, slow, easy stretching. Research supports techniques that focus on stimulating your muscles to relax, allowing a gentle stretch of the soft tissue that surrounds them. I like to tell patients, on a scale of 1 = no stretch, and 10 = I just snapped your muscle in half, aim for an intensity of 3-4.

5. Manipulate your thoracic spine to fix your neck.

Here’s one you need a professional for, but I included it because of how cool it is. Research that has investigated neck pain has found that sometimes, moving the bones of your thoracic spine can ease the pain in the neck. This takes into account the interesting fact that your posture below the head has a lot to do with the workload of the muscles that support the head. So, if you have neck pain, make sure the person who helps you with it doesn’t neglect your t-spine. More specifically, find an Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapist to help mobilize the joints in your spine that are problematic. Your neck will thank you for it!