If you’re one of the many millions who suffer from a spine-related ailment, you will welcome the following suggestions for experiencing relief. If you’re one of the comparatively few who are free of back complaints, these tips can help you stay that way.
Posture refers to the position of your body when you sit, stand, walk, lie or kneel down. Posture appears to be implicated in almost every painful back-related problem. It affects your health because it determines how much stress is placed on body parts such as bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and the discs between spinal bones.
Consider that when you sit, you subject your spine to about twice the stress as when you stand. Why not minimize the stress of sitting by doing so properly? Here are tips:
- Sit tall, with the crown of your head uppermost.
- Sit on your “sitting bones” (one under each buttock) rather than on your tailbone (coccyx).
- Relax your shoulders.
- Sit on a chair that provides adequate back support. If this is not built in, do place a prop, such as a folded towel or a small cushion, behind your lower back. Ideally, your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your feet flat on the floor or a footrest.
- Do not cross your legs as this alters the tilt of the pelvis and affects the natural curves of the spine.
In the driver’s seat
- Adjust the seat of your vehicle so that you can reach the pedals comfortably, with your knees slightly bent rather than locked straight.
- Sit as far back in your seat as you can to reach the steering wheel comfortably and securely without clutching it.
- Be sure that your seat provides good neck and back support.
Even when you’re standing properly, the lumbar discs (cushioning the spinal bones at the small of the back) are subjected to tremendous pressure. To minimize that pressure, stand tall with your weight equally distributed between your feet. Relax your shoulders.
The way in which you use your body and its various parts during any activity is known as body mechanics. These movements determine how much stress is placed on bones, muscles, tendons, spinal discs and other structures. To help protect them from damage and consequent pain, making the right moves is of great importance to health and wellbeing.
- Begin by standing tall and distributing your body weight equally between your feet.
- Don’t jut your chin forward as you walk. Keep the crown of your head uppermost.
- Establish and maintain an easy, natural rhythm and let your arms swing naturally.
It’s best to lie on your side or back. But if, on occasion, you have to lie on your abdomen (prone), do insert a flat pillow or cushion under your abdomen and hips. This will reduce the spinal arch at the small of your back and minimize back strain.
- Don’t come straight upward from a supine (lying on your back) position. It can strain or otherwise injure your back. Instead, roll onto your side. Bend your knees. Use your hands to help push you onto your hip. Carefully pivot yourself until you are sitting on your bottom. Slowly stand up. Be attentive to all your movements and synchronize them with slow, smooth breathing.
Bending and lifting
- Stand close to the object you wish to lift. Keep your head and torso erect.
- Put one foot slightly behind the other and bend your knees to lower your body; maintain good posture.
- Bend your elbows and hold the object securely. Keep it close to the center of your body. Keeping your abdomen and chin tucked in, begin to lift, letting your legs do the work rather than your back. Synchronize your movements with slow, regular breathing as you execute a smooth, gradual lift without jerking.
When you carry objects incorrectly, you disrupt the body’s symmetry and subject its structures to unnecessary stress. To minimize these risks:
- Hold objects close to your body.
- Divide heavy loads into two or more lighter ones, if possible.
- Avoid carrying a heavy object on one side of the body; divide it and carry one part in each arm or hand if you can.
- Do ask someone to help you, if possible.
To help you prevent back-related ailments, here are useful tips to apply in a variety of situations:
- Organize your work station so you can easily reach frequently-used items with a minimum of bending and twisting.
- Don’t wedge the telephone between your ear and shoulder to free your hands. It unduly stresses the neck muscles.
- When gardening, squat or kneel down rather than stand and bend forward, as often as you can.
- Vary your tasks for a change of position, instead of spending long periods doing one specific chore.
- Take short periodic breaks to do simple stretching and breathing exercises.
The key to good posture is overall fitness. And part of being fit is regular exercise. It is, in fact, one of the most powerful adjuncts to any preventive measure taken to ease pain and the muscular weakness that is often a result of pain.
But no matter how good an exercise program may be, its benefits will be diminished by poor postural habits: how you hold and carry yourself and how you move. Over time, good posture and body mechanics will probably do more to prevent back and back-related problems than any other single measure you can take.