Tips for a Better Spine
The way you perform your daily activities will have a major impact on the health of your spine.
The key to decreasing stress on the spine is to have good health habits.
Here are some basic rules to live by to help reduce back and neck trouble.
Have good posture
Good balance is the primary objective, with the body relaxed when standing, sitting, lying or walking. When working change positions regularly. Take stretch breaks and ensure that your work area suits your needs.
Regular exercise and stretching is essential for flexibility and strength. Exercise 4-5 times a week for at least 30 minutes. Begin by just walking.
Use your legs to lift, keep your back straight with the weight close to your body and have your feet well apart. When carrying, keep the object close to your body. Putting an object down is the exact reverse of lifting. Keep your back straight and use your legs.
Get someone else to help carry bulky or very heavy items. Avoid lifting heavy objects higher than your waist and be careful of sudden movements. Do not twist whilst carrying heavy objects.
Work at correct heights
Learn to place things on benches and perform tasks on work areas at an appropriate height so you do not have to repeatedly bend or stretch. Kneel down and keep your back straight if you must work on the floor.
Maintain optimal body weight
Being overweight increases strain on your spine.
Sit on firm chairs
Avoid soft chairs, deep couches and backless seats. Use a cushion to support the back.
Use a footstool
When ironing or when standing long periods the use of a footstool to lift one leg at a time may ease tension in the lower back.
Sit up straight when driving
When driving support the lower back to promote its normal curve (either use a special support, or if one is built into the seat, adjust it to suit you). Ensure that your driving posture allows your shoulders to be relaxed.
Don’t thrust your head forward. Have your knees slightly bent when feet are on the pedals. Avoid driving long periods without rest and stretch breaks.
When studying and reading, keeping the book tilted up so that you are not constantly looking down as this places strain on your neck.
Use a document stand and slope board for prolonged study. This may be as simple as elevating the back legs of your study desk to an incline of about 10 degrees.
Sitting in bed to read or watch T.V. may not be good for your lower back.
Use a quality supportive mattress and pillow when sleeping
Contoured pillows are recommended as they conform to the normal shape of the neck. Do not sleep on your stomach. Sleep on your side or back.
When arising from bed, move to the side of the bed, roll onto your side and sit up, swinging your legs off the bed as you push up with your arms.
Wear correctly fitting shoes
Make sure you have low to moderate heels with good arch support, especially if you are standing or walking for lengthy periods. Do not wear thongs.
When gardening and doing housework: ensure that you do not remain in the same position for more than 5-10 minutes. Avoid repetitive bending, lifting and twisting, keep your back straight. Use implements that suit the task you want to perform.
What NOT to do if you injure your back
DON’T Ignore pain
It is in fact a warning sign. Don’t get trapped into thinking that it will go away and delay treatment. Early arthritic changes can take place rapidly in an injured and immobilised joint.
DON’T Persist in taking pain relieving medication
It may accelerate arthritic change and delay proper treatment. Current research shows that chiropractic care is by far the most effective treatment for lower back pain of mechanical origin (see back pain brochure).
DON’T Use heat during the acute stage
Although heat may temporarily ease the discomfort it may prolong recovery if applied soon after the injury. Use ice packs as they reduce swelling and speed healing. Heat may be beneficial in the latter stages of rehabilitation.
DON’T Stay in bed
Continuous bed rest can lead to slower recovery or further damage. Move about frequently to maintain mobility. Do your prescribed exercises. Get up as early as practicable.
DON’T Sit for prolonged periods
Sitting increases pressure in the disc by up to six times, compared to lying down.
DON’T Bend, lift or twist
All of these actions increase the pressure in the disc by up to 30 times as compared to lying down.
DON’T Sleep on your stomach
Turning your neck to one side and sleeping on it will cause problems in the long term.
DON’T Cough or sneeze in a bent or twisted posture
You may overstress your back. Support yourself by putting your hands in the small of your back.
- NEVER drag your child by the arm as you may cause shoulder and spinal injury (eg.throw babies in the air)
- NEVER ignore children’s complaints of pain or discomfort. Have them checked.
- NEVER encourage babies to walk before they are ready, either by holding them by the arms or with the use of baby walkers.
- Think carefully before you encourage your child into contact sports and consider chiropractic as part of their preparation for training and optimum performance.
- Childproof your home.
- Have your child’s spine checked periodically by a chiropractor.
- Always test the depth of water before allowing children to dive in.
- Ensure your child warms up and down when exercising, and do not encourage them to go beyond the capabilities of their fitness.