When it comes to back pain, the small things can snowball into larger problems: a forward head position at the computer, slouching whilst standing, sleeping on a saggy mattress.
An easy approach to proper spine alignment is to think about preserving your natural spinal curves whilst carrying out any task or sedentary position. If your spine is aligned, you won’t need much muscle strength to maintain it. In contrast, when you are sitting in a position with poor posture, the muscles supporting you are continuously contracting. This exhausts your body and can produce muscle spasms.
We’re going to consider three key concepts:
- Posture: How you hold yourself in static positions such as sitting or standing
- Body mechanics: The alignment of your body when you move
- Ergonomics: Modifying an environment to align with your body
All three allow even distribute your weight, which keeps your spine correctly aligned.
Every job has its own physical challenges. They range from those which involve prolonged sitting to those which require heavy lifting. Luckily, there are some simple solutions. Obviously, life and jobs don’t perfectly fall into the following categories, but we think you’ll gain a good viewpoint on how best to move your body for the variety of positions that your job may require.
Computer and Desk Jobs
Both posture and ergonomics come into play here. If you’re continuously leaning toward the monitor because you can’t see well, both your neck and back will be unhappy. The illustration below shows exactly how to make your work area more helpful for your back’s health. It seems that every decade, a new type of chair appears, designed to miraculously solve your back pain. In the 1980s, the fad was those kneeling chairs; in the 1990s, exercise balls were big. Now the mesh support chairs are popular. None of these will completely solve your back pain, but they can help. Sitting on the exercise ball is the best for overall core strengthening. Still, you won’t be able to, nor should you try, to sit on the ball all day long, that would probably be fatiguing. Instead, alternate between the ball and a normal chair.
Cab drivers, truckers, and airline pilots all sit down for long periods of time; this wreaks havoc on the back. If your seat doesn’t provide lower back support, lumbar support cushions are very useful (you can use them on office chairs, too).
Auto collisions can cause whiplash. To prevent this, make sure that your headrest is only a couple of inches behind your head when you’re seated in your normal driving position. The height of the rest should match the top of your head. Other ways to lower the risk of back strain whilst driving includes sitting in an upright position, keeping both hands on the wheel, and taking anything out of the back pockets before driving. Sitting on a wallet will misalign your hip position. Not a happy place to be! Moving your weight and using the cruise control option are also good ways to reduce excess pressure on the spine. If you have tilt options on your seat, ensure that you angle the seat to spread the weight evenly over your hips and legs. Adjust the distance to your pedals so that you easily press them while your knees are slightly bent when you extend your leg.
Jobs That Require Lifting
To lower the risk of injury whilst lifting, you should bend your knees (not your back), keep the object close to your body, and avoid lifting any higher than shoulder level. This is true when at work and when at home. You should lift a child or a bag of groceries the same way.
Teachers, restaurant staff, factory workers, and many health-care professionals are expected to be on their feet pretty much all day. Many of them (a surgeon, for instance) also have to remain bent forward looking down. When we stand, we want to keep the spine aligned as well as possible.
Don’t allow the shoulders to slope forward, but also don’t do the opposite, thrusting the chest forward can hyperextend the lower back and strain it. Give a foot stool a go, alternate your feet to shift weight between the hips. Women with large breasts should wear a supportive brassiere. Some women undergo breast reduction surgical procedures; these may be covered by insurance if it is believed to be a component of their back pain.
The era of swinging from the monkey bars may (or may not) have passed for you, but it’s still likely that you participate in at least one form of leisure activity. Whether you just watch sports or actually play it, keep the following tips in mind.
Sports, similarly to jobs, all have their unique demands. We’ve mentioned the importance of training your muscles to support your back during your favourite activities. You should also pay attention to your posture and biomechanics during these activities, too.
Tips from pros are always useful. A few lessons with a golf or tennis pro, for example, will help you get your game on and correct common posture problems, too.
Believe it or not, among the most popular activities in the United States is power walking, and it’s a great, back-friendly exercise choice. But again, it’s one of those innocent-looking activities in which back pain may be lurking. Here are a few walking tips to keep in mind:
- Keep your body straight (don’t lean forward).
- Align your head atop of your shoulders, eyes looking forward (not down). Keep your neck relaxed.
- Maintain bent elbows (no more than 90 degrees) and hands relaxed. Don’t disproportionately swing your arms; instead, allow a natural swing to occur.
Your heels should touch the ground first and your foot should simply roll through the stride.
In the Bleachers
Just relaxing, watching a sporting event can cause damage to your back, lying around at home on sagging cushions or at the even in person on the stadium seats with no back rests. We recommend purchasing a new couch or repair the cushions (believe us, cheaper and less painful than trying to fix your back). And the next time you’re at a sporting event, bring a chair with a built-in back rest along with you. They’re cheap, portable, and available online.
Every day you wake up, wash your face, brush your teeth, have breakfast, and begin your day. When the evening comes, it’s time to relax, for most people this means sitting on a sofa or in front of a computer. When it’s time to turn the lights off, falling asleep may be very difficult if you’re suffering from back pain. And you’ll want to ensure that your sleep position won’t aggravate your back pain when you wake up.
Stress can produce and worsen back pain, preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. Worrying about finances, anxiety over important meetings or presentations, or anger at your spouse or kids generates tension in the body. Sooth your emotional responses using meditation or breathing techniques (find out more here) as a result you will find that you’ll fall asleep more easily.
Sleeping and Waking
We’ve all seen those mattress adverts which guarantee you a good night’s sleep. We’re not going to suggest any specific brands, but we are going to agree that a mattress which supports your spine’s natural curves is beneficial for your back.
If you’re struggling to fall asleep at night, reduce or eliminate the intake of caffeine and alcohol. Your room should be dark and silent. In regards to sleeping positions which are best for your back, here are some basic tips. If you like sleeping on your side, position a pillow in-between your knees to keep your hips in a neutral position. If you prefer sleeping on you back, putting a pillow underneath your knees will relieve pressure on your lower back by gently flexing your hips. It is advised that you do not sleep on your front, as it can hyperextend your back and neck.
When you wake up, roll over to the side of your bed; bring yourself up with your arm as you release your legs over the edge. It is not advised to jump straight out of bed. If you’ve ever watched a cat or dog, they leisurely stretch a little, and then get up. It’s a good idea to do the same.
If your back pain has you worried about your love life, you’re not alone. But relationship doesn’t have to suffer. However, you might have to put it off for a little while, and when you do make the return to physical love, you may have to take it slow and try some different positions.
This doesn’t have to be all bad, why not make the return a justification to playfully try out new positions? Sounds good, right? We recommend speaking to your doctor before returning, particularly if you’re recovering from a back injury or surgery. You can find out more information here.
Slumping is very bad for your back, so check yourself when you’re at the sink. When washing your face, stop yourself from bending your back, instead, bend your knees. When you shave or apply makeup, move the mirror closer to you instead of leaning into it. Wall-mounted magnifying mirrors which rotate are great for this. If you do have to bend over the sink, support part of your weight with one outstretched arm. Remain close to the sink too, so you don’t have to lean into it. Lots of kitchen and bathroom cabinets have a kickboard cut-out which is designed to let you stand closer. Use it!