Protect Your Spine at Thanksgiving Dinner

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Dr. Kenneth K. Hansraj, a spinal and orthopedic surgeon specializing in cervical, thoracic and lumbar procedures, offers some great advice on spine health on Thanksgiving this year.

1. Maintain Good Posture the Entire Time

Proper digestion only occurs when we are sitting up straight. Good posture is defined as ears aligned with the shoulders and the “angel wings,” or the shoulder blades, retracted. In proper alignment, spinal stress is diminished. Recent studies show that gastric emptying is significantly delayed in the supine position when compared to a sitting position.  

Furthermore, “If you’re slouched over your plate, food cannot travel to the stomach in time for your body to tell your brain it’s getting full; it can take twice as long; thus, causing you to eat twice as much leaving you full and tired.

2. Set Aside a Brief Family Meditation for Peace and Happiness 

Coming back together as a family means leaving many personal worlds of happiness, sadness and development behind. Take time out to honor and recognize this transition. Sit quietly together, hold hands and briefly recognize the personal worlds. Then state an intention to have a great family get together.

Dr. Ken says: Meditation is the process of calming the body and mind while allowing a connection with the universe. We are all so busy with our day-to-day activities and thoughts that we lose track of our goals, our vision, and our life plan. This non-stop grind prevents us from being thoughtful and performing the tasks necessary for our well-being and body maintenance.

3. Perform Deep Belly Breathing

Deep belly breathing helps with digestion of food by enhancing motion of the belly and its food contents. Deeper yet though it serves to improve the motion of the spinal segments, spinal cord and nerve roots, and it increases the cerebrospinal fluid motion and distribution. Deep breathing might also decrease the swelling of the deranged spine joints and the nerve roots causing less pain. Deep belly breathing in itself will help you to feel better.

Dr. Ken Says” A deep breath of clean fresh air is as soothing to the body as a large glass of cool water on a hot summer day” so place your hands on your belly and breathe deeply to feel your belly move. Repeat this all day.

4. Take Small Bites and Small Breaks 

This will allow you to enjoy a steady-paced meal without needing to slow down or stop eating entirely. Take small bites of the highly caloric sides like mashed potatoes, stuffing and cheesy casseroles, but load up your fork with Turkey and string beans. Take a 5-minute break between each helping to allow your stomach to catch up with your eyes.

 5. Chat

“Take time out to engage in and enjoy the conversations around the table. When you are actively engaged and fully involved in a fulfilling conversation then you spend less time eating and more time feeling externally better. The craving for food and internal satisfaction diminishes” Ask each person how they are doing. Find out about their little inner workings in life. Your family will manifest happiness, and then you become happier leaving you with less of a desire to binge. 

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6. Savor Your Desserts

Use a demitasse spoon to eat. This spoon is diminutive, smaller than a teaspoon. Allow the dessert to sit on your tongue for a minute. Allow the two to 8 thousand taste buds on your tongue to delight in the vanilla or chocolate, cinnamon, and other contents. Feel the texture and temperature of each bite. Train your taste buds to enjoy and delight in the taste and textures. Otherwise, you become involved in volume consumption. This is where you eat so much to feel that your belly is full.

Dr. Ken says, “Evening out the trajectory of a meal that can last 3-4 hours takes some purposeful technique. On average, it takes between 12-14 minutes for our bodies to recognize we’re full. Keeping this in mind, begin your dinner with small thoughtful fork-full and pay attention to your body’s signals. It will tell you when to take a break, so you can save room for dessert!

 7. Do Some Mini Chair Exercises (Bends and Twists) 

This helps you keep your blood pumping and metabolism working. Bending to the right or left (as if you were picking up a fork you dropped) and sideways twists (like you’re greeting a guest behind you) are two small, but effective ways to help your body digest.

Dr. Ken says, “Small range-of-motion exercises help ensure your body’s digestive functions keep up with your food in-take and your blood pressure remains stable. This will help ward off headaches, cramps and gas at the dinner table.

8. Take An After Dinner Walk 

Schedule a family walk after dinner. Walking helps digestion of food and builds a togetherness of the tribe. It is a great family routine to build. People start to feel better because the spine joints and the spinal nerves start moving with walking. One of the fastest ways to develop back or neck pain is to remain stagnant. When the spine joints and the spinal nerves do not move, then they can cause pain.

About Dr. Kenneth K. Hansraj

On the forefront of spinal surgery American surgeon Dr. Kenneth K. Hansrajis a spinal and orthopedic surgeon specializing in cervical, thoracic and lumbar procedures for example laminectomies and spinal fusions. Dr. Hansraj believes in tailoring the operation to the patient using the latest spine technologies. Dr. Ken is a spinal surgeon at Nuvance Health based at The Vassar Brothers Medical Center in the Hudson Valley, NY

Dr. Ken is the author of the internationally bestselling book, Keys to an Amazing Life: Secrets of the Cervical Spine, (January, 2013), which he was inspired to write based on this concept. Dr. Hansraj is also the author of Bloodless Spine Surgery: Pictures and Explanations. His goal with each of his books is to bring years of accumulated expert medical knowledge to the public at-large in an easy-to digest format and to help countless individuals with ongoing spinal and health issues.

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